Charles Stross has a nice description and discussion of the Book Publishing Contract of Doom! over at his blog today.
It struck a chord with me at this paragraph:
The fourth chunk [of the contract] is about publication dates ….The publisher is required to publish the book within 24 months of the date of acceptance of each book. There are a handful of loopholes (for lawsuits, labor disputes, or government intervention), but if they don’t publish within 24 months I can yell at them in writing: they then have six months to publish, and if they can’t manage that, I get to terminate the agreement, take my rights back, and keep the advance.
I’ve read some novels in the last decade that were written and set in a post 9-11 world. Re-reading them, they seem so quaint with their “I was written in January 2002″ attitude. Things have changed a lot since that time; things have been, charitably, in flux. Basing novels on contemporaneous events1 can make them seem a bit dated when rereading them at a later time, and based upon the paragraph above, your novel might not even see the light of bookshelves before 2 years after acceptance, much less first draft.
1: Tom Clancy’s stuff is notorious for this