Books: Advance Guard

Publishing was once the last refuge of politesse. Take the matter of advances, for example—those cash payments against future royalties. Seldom was a tardy writer pressed to repay; the image of a company bearing down on a lonely writer was too distasteful for bookmen to contemplate.

But they are rapidly acquiring the taste. As publishing houses get consumed by conglomerates, as advances grow ever larger—Simon & Schuster has just guaranteed Joseph Heller as much as $1.7 million for his next novel—more and more authors are being forced to put up or pay up. The most spectacular example of this new punctiliousness is...

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