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A Bonus Clause

bonusI came across something very interesting yesterday, and I wanted to share. In Neil Gaiman’s blog, under a lengthy but important several paragraphs about stem cell research, Neil mentioned a bonus clause in his contract for The Graveyard Book. Specifically, in a response about the obligations of a writer under contract, Neil refers to “a $50,000 delivery bonus, if I handed it in by the end of December 2007, which I definitely didn’t collect even a penny of, what with finishing it in March 2008.”

Now, I’ve been in the publishing business going on 13 years now, and I think this is the first time I’ve heard of such a clause. Sure, I’ve seen lots of bonus clauses — usually if a book hits a major bestseller list, or wins an important prize, or sometimes, even if it receives a starred review. And I’ve often seen payment due to an author on delivery — in fact, that’s one of the major payment due dates for most advances. A very common advance structure calls for one-third of the advance due on signature of the contract, one-third due on delivery and acceptance of the manuscript, and the final third on the book’s initial publication.

But a bonus on (what seems to be) early delivery? This is new to me! And kind of genius, if you’re dealing with an author, like Gaiman, whose books are eagerly anticipated and might be expected to do very well for his publisher. If you’re an author who may also have a tendency to be a little late with delivery, this is a nice carrot to inspire you to treat your deadline as something to be hit.

As Neil writes, however, there’s a down side. For many creative types, inspiration doesn’t always come on a schedule. Real life intervenes, and sometimes, deadlines must fall by the wayside. Is this something I should be admitting to authors? Probably not, but it’s worth knowing.

If your deadline is looming, and you know that turning something in just to fulfill a deadline would make a weaker book, then I advise you to talk to your agent, talk to your editor, and see if you can’t come up with a new deadline that allows for more time. Even if it means missing out on a nice bonus, as with Neil and The Graveyard Book. Try not to let due dates fly by without acknowledgment, but if you must miss one, let people know BEFORE it happens, not after. Afterwards, it’s pretty obvious.

If any of my fellow agents are reading — have you ever negotiated a bonus on early delivery? Or do you know of any other “unusual” bonus clauses?

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