Yesterday was a doozie of a day: I’d scheduled meetings nearly back to back, allowing what I optimistically believed was just enough time to dash from one to another, pausing briefly at the office between my uptown morning and my downtown afternoon to attend to some administrative details. Alas, it was not to be. My train was late, which made me late for my first appointment, and each subsequent meeting ran later and longer and put me further in arrears. In any event, Thursday is my day to post to the blog, a date shared with the always punctual Mike (sigh) and clearly, I missed my deadline. Worse yet, I’m now repurposing my dog-ate-my-homework tale as some sort of object lesson. Shameless. Because much as it may not seem that way, trade publishing is, in fact, a deadline driven business.
Although books have a long incubation period, it’s a carefully mapped one. Delivery dates in contracts are taken seriously, and managing editors, the formidable people charged with keeping the trains running on time, are a zealous lot. Understandably so, and for a glimpse of what they do, have a look at this. http://youngtopublishing.com/2011/04/pub-perspectives-managing-ed/
Publication dates are planned, sometimes to the hour, and a finished book is built upon a vast array of deadlines, including but not limited to: the delivery date—the contractually agreed-upon day that the author must send a full manuscript to her editor; the “transmittal” date, when a revised manuscript is handed over to the production department; plus deadlines for tip sheets (one page cheat sheets created for all upcoming titles for in-house use); author questionnaires; excerpts for the“ reading notebooks” sent to sales reps; galley copy; catalog copy; cover blurbs, etc. etc, Few of the dates are soft targets, and meeting them is important. I exhort my clients to be punctual not only to appease managing editors, but because once a book is scheduled, it’s in the author’s best interests not to have it “fall of the list.”
This can be hard. Writing is not building widgets. Output is erratic. For every author who is brilliant with a deadline (here journalists really shine) there are authors for who find handing off their manuscript, proclaiming the book “Done,” is nearly impossible. I have literally had to pry a flash drive from an author’s reluctant hands lest he give it “just one additional polish.” Can anyone identify with this? Indeed, I wonder where you fall. Good with deadlines? Loath to let your baby go? Don’t worry, your answers will not be held against you.