Saturday, 26 July 2014

Things that no-one tells you about publishing: deadlines - Cavan Scott


That's the noise I'm making today. Why? Because this blog post is an hour or so late going up online. Quick, hit me with a stick ancient deadline-gods.

Douglas Adams famously said: "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by!"

I'm the other way. I have a pathological fear of missing deadlines. It comes from my magazine background. My first ever job in publishing wasn't in editorial but in print production, sending the files - long before digital - to the printers. Most of the time, this meant I was in the hands of the editorial teams. If they were late, I was late and would have to field increasingly angry calls from my contact at the printers, worried about the yawning gap appearing their print slots.

Now, as a work-for-hire writer, I'm forever juggling deadlines. But one thing no-one ever, ever mentions when you start out is that deadlines can shift when you least expect it, which can have a house of cards effect. It could be as simple as having to rely on materials sent by a publisher to write your book. If the materials are late, it knocks everything back. Usually the publisher will try and give you a new deadline, but it's not always possible. And if they do, that can impact on another project.

I've had another case recently when a big deadline suddenly came forward as the the publication date came forward six months. Cue much frantic rescheduling and biscuits. (Biscuits always help)

Usually, despite the stress, such goalpost-moving is manageable, even if it means burning the midnight oil from time to time and, in one extreme case last year, cancelling a holiday. And, by and large, publishers are understanding, especially when they've made the change. It's just another of those things you're never really told when you start out in this crazy business. Hmmmm, perhaps we should start a list of things you should expect but no-one ever talks about...

Anyone got any others?


Stroppy Author said...

Didn't read this earlier as I spent all day yesterday (and will spend all day today) working frantically towards a deadline at the end of this week. I share your deadline obsession and will do almost anything to avoid missing a deadline.

And authors are always the ones expected to pick up the pieces when everyone else is late. How many times do you get layouts back for checking with a note from the editor saying they are really urgent and could they have your comments back on Monday - sent at 5pm on Friday?

Other things? That the fee/advance never goes up (sometimes goes down) no matter how long you work for a publisher because 'there's no money in the budget'. So, if you can't afford to publish a book, don't approach a writer....

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes, also came to this late. But agree Stroppy Author how often do we get asked to get right back immediately when we have been kicking our heels (or in desperation starting something new) and waiting, waiting and WAITING... then suddenly we need this NOW!
On the other hand what is the longest contract ever to be brought to fruition. Mine is so far a contract signed and paid for in full in 2008 and am still waiting for the illustrator to bring forth her work! Now hoping for publication in 2015. Seven years from signing!