Blogger: Mary Keeley
Count yourself blessed if you have an editorial deadline looming. It means you have a new book contract. Your agent should have negotiated a realistic manuscript due date during the contract negotiation, based on your other writing deadlines or personal matters. This is only the first of a variety of deadlines throughout the book production process. A peek at the schedule inside the publishing house through the lens of missed deadlines shows why it’s important to approach them as if they’re set in stone.
Your book’s release date could be as much as eighteen months away, meaning your manuscript isn’t due for many months. It’s tempting to think Ah, I have plenty of time and then turn your attention to other things you want to get out of the way first before you get down to business of finishing your book. The problem with putting your writing off is that the unexpected arises in any number of forms.
Publication Process: an Intertwined Set of Steps
In-house approval of your manuscript triggers the creation of your book’s production schedule. First, your editor disseminates your approved manuscript to your in-house team: the designer, typesetter, PR and marketing team, print buyer, and project manager. The project manager is charged with the responsibility of creating your book’s production schedule. He or she then manages its progression throughout the production process to final proofs from the printer.
Ripple Effect of Missed Deadlines
Say, for example, something happens that takes you away from your writing and then you have to spend all-nighters the last weeks to finish the book. But you still can’t turn your manuscript in on time. Because you rushed to finish, your work isn’t your best and your editor wants revisions before it can be approved. These delays cause a ripple effect on the rest of the production process.
The delay disrupts your designer’s schedule. When this happens, the typesetter is delayed because he or she can’t begin to lay out the print pages in galleys without the designer’s directions for the interior design. This causes a further delay in editorial review of galleys and also sending them to you for review.
The missed deadline also means the designer gets a late start working on your book’s cover. The sales department is waiting for the final cover to insert in the publisher’s seasonal catalog that the sales reps take to their accounts. When this happens, they often use a preliminary cover proof. Later on when the accounts place their orders, they may not recognize your book by the final cover.
The project manager had to adjust–compress–the production schedule when your manuscript missed the deadline to the designer. As a result you might have only a week or ten days to review the galleys word-for-word, enter corrections and requests, and return them to your editor. Imagine the multiplied ripple effect of another missed deadline at this point.
In the meantime the typesetter’s production of final page proofs from the revised galleys is delayed. In turn, the print buyer, who has been waiting for the final page count from the page proofs, has missed a good price on paper. The effect is a higher cost of goods to print the books and a lower profit margin for the publisher. The publisher and your team are not happy to be working with you.
Your Best Practice: A Writing Schedule Set in Stone
Here is a simple remedy to prevent a nightmarish scenario from happening:
- Determine how many days between contract signing and the manuscript due date specified in your contract. Subtract a month’s time for unexpected circumstances, family events, or weekends when you plan not to write, and a week to edit your finished manuscript.
- Divide your target word count by the remaining number of writing days to get your word count per each day of writing. This is the best way to stay on course to make your deadlines. If you don’t make a daily goal, you know right away how much you have to make up on the next day. Don’t let it go more than a day.
What did you learn that you didn’t already know about the book production process? About the involved production schedule? Do you see why you must view your deadlines as set in stone?
Writers, see why you need to view your publishing deadlines as if they’re set in stone. Click to Tweet.