In my writing world, where most of my books are published in Southern Africa, I mostly do not get advances. Instead, I write a book, submit it to a publisher (without an agent), the publisher likes it, publishes it and I wait for the book to sell so that I can earn royalties. I'm happy with this set up, I'm doing okay. The pressure of an advance for writing a book not yet on the page might very well ensure that the words just never come. But that may be just me.
Now I see how advances could ruin you, both your finances and your reputation. According to this article at Smoking Gun some big name authors are being sued for their advances by their publisher (now it is revealed the publisher is Penguin) for not producing the books they were contractually hired to produce. And not only do they want the advance, Penguin want interest. (kind of shocking since publishers keep royalties accrued throughout the year, sometimes paid annually, sometimes twice a year and never pay interest to writers)
Literary agent Robert Gottlieb has reacted to Penguin's lawsuit. He explains that books are rejected by publishers for many reasons. It may not be that these authors shrugged their responsibilities. It could be the other reasons beyond the author's control. He appears to think this does not bode well for authors without very strong representation.
What do you think?