Publishers' accountants revisited

A while ago I moaned about the way publishers' accounting systems seem stuck in the Victorian era with their incredibly slow responses. I'm afraid I am back on the moan again.

If proof were required that publishers' systems need an overhaul, a week or so ago my agent yet again received an electronic payment from a publisher with no accompanying remittance advice. Many publishers have now got the idea of electronic payments (though a few still insist on cheques, usually made out to the wrong entity), but they're the only type of company I know that seems unable to grasp that you can't just bung money through the ether without explaining it. More than one publisher does this as a matter of course - it's bizarre.

And just in case you were feeling sorry for their accounting personnel, I received an interesting email from the accounts department of a large publisher the other day, when I complained that they always paid much later than everyone else. ' It has long been our policy to send on or the day before the 30th which is in accordance with our contract... I’m afraid that I am not aware of other publishers procedures,' it read.

What this was saying is 'We send out the money on the very last day before we go into breach of contract. So clearly we aren't doing this because it takes that long to process things - it's because we want to hang onto the interest from your money as long as we can.' Charming.