Blogger: Mary Keeley
Time Is of the Essence
Several commenters on my May 4, 2012 blog, “How Your Manuscript Is Transformed into a Book,” requested an in-depth view of various stages in the book production process. So let’s take a trip through the editorial stages and see how, if there’s one ripple in production waters, the whole process could be affected…because “time is of the essence,” a phrase used in many publishing contracts to indicate that, if the production stalls at any point, revenue might well be lost.
If you are a multi-published novelist or nonfiction author, editors are already familiar with your voice, your brand, and your audience. By comparison, editors have to acquaint themselves with a newly-contracted author’s voice—the unique rhythm and beat, descriptive choices in similes and metaphors, even word choices. Part of the editor’s job is to preserve this individual quality because, frankly, it may have been the tipping point in favor of contracting your project over another. This phase takes extra time and is one reason most publishers require a complete manuscript with a proposal from an unpublished novelist or the first three chapters and a detailed chapter description for every chapter of a nonfiction manuscript.
At the same time, the editor must maintain editorial quality. Initially, he or she may request several phone conversations to gain your understanding about her efforts to strike a balance. Your job as the author is to make yourself available promptly. Recognize the editor is the expert who is striving for a publisher-author partnership success. He or she is the liaison between you and the publisher’s editorial standard. Your attitude of cooperation and willingness to learn will endear you to your editor.
That said, a situation might arise in which you strongly disagree with your editor’s judgment. Don’t waste precious time vacillating about whether you should let your agent know. Alert her to problems right away. She may help you to understand the editor’s perspective, or she may see the need to intervene. Let your agent take care of this negotiation. Not only will it safeguard your editor relationship, but your agent will also expedite an agreement or compromise, thus saving time to maintain the editorial schedule. We agents are well aware of the ripple effect of a missed deadline.
Time is of the essence because a missed due date for the edited manuscript to the design department will affect the designer’s schedule. A designer has cover and interior designs to create simultaneously for multiple books. Just imagine how a delay in one project can have a ripple effect in his schedule. The loss of time in the beginning of the design process will have to be made up somehow. Of course, the designer wants to create a killer cover design for every book assigned to him; his reputation is on the line. But he doesn’t have much cushion in his schedule, and he can’t allow a delay in your project to affect the other books he’s designing. The result will be he’ll have less creative time to come up with that perfect cover for your book.
The same scenario is true for the other stages in the production process. Here is the ripple effect:
- The designer misses his deadline to get his interior design direction back to editorial because much of its design is determined by the cover design.
- The editor now has to incorporate the designer’s interior design coding into the manuscript document. There are no shortcuts to be taken here. A delay at this stage will cause the editor to miss the deadline to get the manuscript document with inserted coding to typesetting for galleys, then first pages.
- Final margins for your book’s interior are set and appear on first pages. If your book will be published in print, the print buyer has been waiting for these first pages to know the final page count. A delay at this stage could mean the buyer misses the opportunity to include the paper for your book in a bulk price discount, resulting in an increased cost of goods over the original estimate, thereby negatively affecting its potential profitability.
You don’t want these things to happen. You want to be professional and present yourself as a cooperative business partner with the publisher. Good tip: be organized . . . very organized. Wendy’s May 29, blog post, “The Organized Writer,” may suggest ways you can adapt her time-saving tips to help you with time availability and responsiveness.
This information relates to the business side of getting your book to the market. These realities sometimes aren’t upfront to a writer’s creative brain. What hadn’t you thought about before? Did you have an aha moment as you think back to a previous publishing experience?