WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
A few days ago, a writer bragged to me that she was always late on delivering her manuscripts. She blew that off, as if it were no big deal. That left me shaking my head. Not just at the lack of professionalism and personal integrity of the matter, but at the arrogance in it.
Well, yes. What would you call it when one person not doing their job negatively impacts (read that: screws up) the schedules of everyone else in the production line?
Now there are times when authors are late and it just can’t be helped. One, a good friend, in fact, had a medical issue recently and her doctor banned her from the computer. She notified the editor, her agent, and kept them updated. As soon as she could do the work, she did, and got it in. In all, the book was a few weeks late. The difference was in the professional manner in which she handled it.
As soon as she discovered there was a problem, she informed the other parties. She didn’t wait until the due date and tell them. That early notification allowed time to schedule shift. Time wasn’t lost, no one was scrambling to get “the hole” in their schedule filled, so that when the book did come in it’d cause a time-crunch or (depending on what else was coming in) an avalanche.
Stuff happens. That’s one thing. Unavoidable at times and everyone knows it because everyone experiences it. But to consistently miss deadlines puts a lot of unnecessary (and unfair) pressure on others, and to brag about doing that is, simply put, arrogant. It’s saying that your time is more valuable than everyone else’s. And while your interest in your time might be more valuable to you, you can bet every other single person involved in the process considers their time more valuable to them.
Many authors don’t realize the challenges they create. The editor schedules reading/editing time. the copyeditor does, too. So does the line editor and the art department and marketing folks. Publicity and printers and shipping–everyone works on a schedule.
Can they shift it? Typically, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s painless or easy or that it doesn’t create conflicts for them. Enduring those conflicts as a result of necessity is one thing. Enduring them as a result of arrogance is quite another.
Just step out of your shoes and put yourself in theirs–just for a moment. You expect a manuscript. It doesn’t come–and you have to contact the author to find out why not, and when it will come. If the author has a good excuse, you might be miffed that you weren’t notified, but you’re apt to be more understanding than if the author lacks a good excuse.
Between you and me, were I in those shoes, there wouldn’t be many good excuses. I can’t speak for editors, but if I were wearing those shoes, I’d expect compliance with the dates the author set. If something came up, as does, I’d expect to be notified immediately and be given a new projection date. That way, I could shift my schedule most effectively–and give everyone else down the production line maximum notice so that they could shift theirs.
You know, having a cavalier attitude isn’t just unprofessional, it speaks to the character of the person. When an editor buys a book, s/he isn’t just thinking one book, s/he is thinking career. And that being the case, if you were the editor and you were presented with two authors, both of which produced books that were equally good, which author would you select to work with?
Yeah, me, too.
Something to bear in mind…
And before the deluge hits–and it will–I’ll agree that editors miss deadlines now and then, too, and sometimes when they do, it puts authors in a wicked crunch. They’re human; stuff happens to them, too.
But we aren’t responsible for what others do. We are responsible–and accountable–for what we do. That’s the bottom line.
So if you’re working on deadline and you reach a point where you know you just can’t make it, give as much notice as is humanly possible–and a very good reason for the delay. Have an alternate date in mind and discuss it with your editor.
We can’t stop stuff from happening. We can do all we can to minimize the impact on others of that stuff–and we should. It’s professional. It’s giving the same courtesy we’d like to be given. It’s being accountable and responsible. We owe that to them, and to ourselves.