I read a story yesterday that gives me even more motivation to meet deadlines when I get a publishing contract. (Click the link to find out why Penguin is suing several of their authors for their advance... plus interest!)
I don't know how big this story is, and I have no idea what the outcome will be. But as someone who works for a contract company (we are contracted by clients, they pay us and we do work), I'm actually offended by the lack of productivity from these writers.
I understand that writers, especially writers who have full time jobs alongside their writing careers, may miss deadlines. But some of the authors named in the lawsuit are 9 years late on their books. 9 YEARS!
From what I remember (and I could be WAY off base, here), it's not uncommon for established authors to miss deadlines. I don't know how the money situation works out for the authors (whether they forfeit some cash or not), but I do know it makes a lot of work for the authors, editors, and marketing department. And they're not four or more years late! I don't have a lot of conclusive evidence, but a story that stands out to me is Jim Butcher's Ghost Story. They had a release date, a cover, and even a first-draft approval. But something bothered Butcher and/or the editors. As a result, Butcher (who said he didn't want to release a crappy book) delayed the release of Ghost Story. And I'm sure it sucked for everyone, including the fans. (I know I hated having to wait.)
Personally, I hate being late. I ALWAYS want to be on time. Or early. And as a writer, I can't imagine getting paid to write a book that I won't write. I'm not saying these authors intended to take money without producing a manuscript. But at what point do you admit to the publisher that you're not going to be able to produce the book they paid for? When do you renegotiate for, perhaps, a different book? Or when do you just return the money with a sincere apology?
As an outsider, I clearly don't have any answers to those questions. I don't know how it works when you have a contract and a paycheck. I'd love to hear from those of you with more insider information, and I'm interested to see how this unfolds.