Q. - I have a book contract that was issued for a book that was completed at the time the contract was signed. That was over a year ago and I received a $2,000 advance at that time. Now, they have informed me that the publishing company is changing directions and my book no longer fits that new direction. For that reason they are not publishing it and want their advance back. An advance that was spent long ago. Do I have to refund their advance under these circumstances?
A. The quick answer is No. There are certain circumstances under which you would be obligated to return the advance. For example, if the contract had been offered on a book that wasn't completed, chances are your contract would have indicated that the contract was valid only if you submitted an “acceptable” manuscript—and they were not happy with the finished product. In that case you would have to return any part of the advance you had already received. However, since your contract had been issued for a completed manuscript, it could be assumed that it was acceptable at the time the manuscript was received and the advance was paid. For that reason you are not obligated to return the advance if it was their choice not to publish it. Keep in mind, though, that the publisher may still ask for such a refund in hopes that you will not question it and do as they ask. (Always check the contract to see under what terms you have to return the advance.)