Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Digit Difference

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been working to complete an assignment for Writer’s Digest magazine. It’s an article about Seven Ways Writers Can Profit From Blogging.  My original title may not stick (always the magazine’s right) before the article is published. I poured a lot of effort into the article and interviewed a couple of well-known people who I included their quotations in the article.

I have a contract and a due date for my assignment. It was due June 17th. 

Friday morning I re-read my article and polished a few more sentences then wrote a cover letter to the editor, attached my article and sent it.  Within a matter of minutes, I received an automatic response from the editor. They were at a writer’s conference and wouldn’t return to their office until June 27th.

At first I was fuming. I had raced to complete this article by June 17th and yet the editor wasn’t going to receive it for ten days. Then I thought maybe the editor was leaving tomorrow—and she turned on her automatic message early.  I’ve received such messages in the past—when actually the editor is in their office. The automatic message wasn’t turned off or was turned on early because I get a real message from the editor later in the day. It didn’t happen here.

I dug out my contract and re-read it. My mind had latched on to the wrong date.  My article was due June 27th (the day of her return) not June 17th.  I experienced the digit difference. Laughing at my error, I pressed on to some other editorial responsibilities.

In general, it isn’t a problem if you send in the article early. Most editors appreciate the early manuscript and it helps their own production schedules. Or they acknowledge it and set it aside until the time scheduled to read and edit the article.

Editors face a completely different story when you are going to be late with your manuscript. Whether it is a book manuscript or a short magazine article, the editor has scheduled your material and expects it to arrive at a certain time.  A number of authors are notoriously late with their book manuscripts and it sets off all types of problems for the publisher. When you sign your book contract with a certain due date for the manuscript, behind the scenes the publisher generates a detailed production schedule. The author never sees this production schedule but it tells everyone internally when certain aspects are supposed to take place (cover design, catalog copy on the book, press releases, book goes to press, and many other steps). Editors spend hours in schedule meetings discussing each book and whether it is on schedule or off schedule. If you are late with your book manuscript, your late action could have been why your book didn’t get the proper publicity push. The manuscript wasn’t in the publishing house to send to the trade publications (typically four to six months ahead of the release date). And if no one tells this author, then they never understand the importance of their due date for the manuscript.  It’s one of those “joyful” duties of an editor (not).

I’m glad my magazine article arrived early rather than late. I learned about the difference a digit makes.

1 Comment:

At 5:49 AM, Blogger C.J. Darlington Left a note...

Sometimes you've gotta just laugh at these things, right? At least it wasn't the other way around where you thought the deadline was later than it was.

Thanks again for sharing, Terry.


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