Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Deadlines Drive the Publishing Business

This week I sent several book contracts to authors after our publication board met and made decisions. It is exciting work to send these contracts to authors via email. Then I called them and congratulate them. My phone call is also to make sure they see the news of the Morgan James contract in their email.

The Morgan James contract isn't complicated and only four pages but it does include a deadline for the author to send their manuscript. Some authors are still in the process of writing their book and they get worried about meeting the deadline. If they express concern, we can lengthen the timeframe. The key reason for including the deadline is that many authors will never turn into their manuscript without a specific date.

Whether the area of the publishing business is magazine or book, deadlines drive many of our actions. This weekend I had a couple of magazine articles due for publications. I write for these publications on a regular basis. For each deadline, I set a “task” on my computer to remind me about the upcoming deadline. The reminder will get me to focus on the publication and what I've written for them in the past and to begin to spin some ideas about what I will write for this particular issue. 

The bulk of my work during the day is focused on acquiring books for Morgan James. I'm emailing and talking with authors about their book projects. My writing assignments for these publications isn't something that I'm even thinking about—until the little reminder pops up on my screen to begin to work on it. The looming deadline drives me to write and produce the material.

If you meet your deadlines (even if self-imposed), then you will stand out as a writer. In general, many writers are notoriously late and miss their deadlines. As an acquisitions editor, I've frequently had writers call and ask for an extension on their deadline. Each time they have something that has interrupted their writing process. In fact, most publishers build some “fudge” room into their schedule to be able to give writers a few extra weeks—because it happens so often.

While I tell you that fudge room is there, you don't want to be one of those writers who is always extending their deadline and not meeting the editor's expectations. Whether you realize it or not, with those extensions, you are sending the wrong signal to the editor. Editors are looking for writers who meet the deadlines with excellent writing. If you can meet their expectations, then you will be a writer that editor will want to give you additional contracts or assignments and work with over and over. 

My deadline experience is rooted in my start in the newspaper business. For morning newspapers, we would write our stories, turn them in during the late afternoon or early evening and they would appear the next morning. For afternoon newspapers, we would have morning deadlines and the stories would be out in the late afternoon. There is no time for writer's block or stalling, you simply sit at the keyboard and pound out your story. The deadline is looming so you write.

Magazine journalism is slower than newspaper work and books are even slower and more methodical. As a writer, you have to set your own deadlines and then meet them successfully and repeatedly.

How do you handle deadlines and do you meet them successfully? Even if self-imposed and not from a publisher or editor, they can move you forward to accomplish your writing goals.

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