Sunday, June 5, 2016

#17: Deadlines Schmedlines! Part I

If you've got your sights set on a book deal, you've come to the right place. I've been through the process twice - with Simon & Schuster and St. Martin's Press - and I made so many mistakes, I started this blog to help other writers be prepared for their first book deal. Because it's a lot more grueling than you'd think.

Next on the agenda: the truth about publishing deadlines.

"Deadline" is a pretty intimidating term, isn't it? Check out the second definition of 'deadline' below:

  1. 1
    the latest time or date by which something should be completed.
    "the deadline for submissions is February 5th"
    synonyms:time limitlimit, finishing date, target date, cutoff point
    "the deadline for manuscript submissions is February 14"
  2. 2
    a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot.

You've probably heard a lot about deadlines in the publishing world, too.
Because they seem to be taken very seriously. They're outlined specifically in your contract. When your first manuscript is due. When the final draft ("approved manuscript") is due. When the publishing date will be, etc.

But here's something I learned about deadlines at big publishing houses that may surprise you: DON'T WORRY ABOUT THEM!

When I say 'deadlines schmedlines,' I'm not kidding. You won't look like a real writer if you do. Because real writers are usually too drunk, bored, lazy, insane, cool, stoned, depressed or drunk (oh, I mentioned that) to take deadlines very seriously.

And if you do meet every deadline you're given, you're going to look like a wannabe, wet-behind-the-ears, goody-two-shoes hack.
And nobody in the publishing world wants that from you.

They want to work with REAL writers. I made every single one of my deadlines on both of my book deals. My editors waxed poetic about how "easy I was to work with" that way. I was just so eager to please that I nearly killed myself (literally because suicide was definitely on my mind!) meeting my deadlines.

I even loved telling everyone that. The way you're going to love telling people that:

"Sorry, I can't go to your barbecue (or birthday or bar mitzvah). I'm on deadline!"

I don't know why it took me so long to learn that editors would rather you act like a real writer and be a little late on your deadlines than actually make them. I could almost see the love evaporating in my editors' eyes when I turned my manuscripts in on time.

"Oh. Thanks. That's ... er ... great?" Yawn. Cue the crickets.

As a result, I don't think I gained everyone's respect at either of my publishing houses. Because, as I now know, real writers don't give a shit about deadlines.

Books - like babies - come out when they're ready to come out.

Btw this labor/birthing analogy is appropriate because when you submit a draft, it's called 'delivering the manuscript' and the day is the 'delivery date.'

Anyway, to give you an idea why you shouldn't take deadlines too seriously, the first draft of my second novel was due in early October.

I had already booked a celebratory trip to Vegas, so I actually delivered the manuscript a couple days ahead of time.

I was sitting around the pool at the Bellagio, imagining all those people out there holding my book that same time next year (ha!), so proud of myself for making my deadline.

But after the trip, I went home, eagerly awaiting any news on the book.

I didn't hear a word until my editor emailed me - two months later! - casually asking where the manuscript was.

When I told her I'd already turned it in - and was able to quickly forward the original email with the manuscript attached - I don't think she was impressed. (Btw, that's another hint: if you want to get taken seriously as a writer, don't be too organized. Don't find and forward old emails in the blink of an eye.)

Because that's not acting like a real writer.

And all anyone wants to do in the biz is discover and work with 'real' writers.

Having said that, don't be too late submitting your manuscript! Say you're delivering in June. If you submit the manuscript three months later in September, that doesn't mean your publishing date will only be moved by three months.

Publishers have carefully arranged schedules far in advance.

Not only that, but there are many people involved in the process of publishing your book: copy editors, production editors, jacket designers, typesetters, PR and marketing peeps, printers, shippers. Even the bookstores themselves are expecting your book at a certain time. If you're too late, you could actually lose your place in the schedule and the publication will have to be pushed to a whole new season, even the following year, when they have another opening. 

So if you want to be a successful author, be cool, but not toooo cool. ;)

A week late? Maybe two or three? Try that at first. When they go from polite reminders to actual yelling, get that manuscript out the door.

On the topic of deadlines, I missed mine for HUNTER'S MOON.

But that's a good thing about being an indie author: you don't have to take your deadlines too seriously either.

Thanks so much for checking in! Subscribe to the blog and help make the most of your first book deal!