Editors – how to deal with deadlines

writing_book First world problems for authors: Editor deadlines. How much of a stressor is this for the modern author?

Though authors have worked with publishing and editorial deadlines ever since some ancient druid told his craftsman “Finish runes on this stone before setting sun at solstice, or Gods seek revenge!”, I believe deadlines have grown tougher in recent years. Why? Since the advent of Indie publishing there are hundreds of thousands more authors seeking the help of a pool of editors that have likely not expanded so radically. Put simply – there are too many manuscripts seeking too few editors.

It is not atypical these days to have to reserve your spot with your editor up to a year in advance, to get into their busy schedule. Good editors are in demand! I’m lucky to have an awesome editor, which means I had to book ahead.

It’s great to get locked in, but then I faced a dilemma: If I book too far in the future, my completed manuscript will be sitting around, and not out earning me readers and cash. Book too soon and I’ll end up scrambling to be finished. I set a reasonable date that seemed so far into the future that we’d have those flying cars we were promised, or at least warp drive; but no – that deadline came hurtling toward me like a freight train! I’m still polishing now, just a few weeks before my hand-in deadline. Fellow author friends have been forced to put in incredible hours to meet their own punishing deadlines. It’s a big stressor on an author, right at the time we are so ready to let our literary baby fly the nest (read as “I’m tired of this damn thing, make it go away!”)

In preparing for this piece, I spoke to a handful of editors, and most of them told me they are turning authors away, so as to better serve their existing clients. Wow – what a position to be in. Sounds enviable, but remember that editors are voracious readers, and it must pain them to turn down a manuscript that sounds awesome, just because it won’t fit their busy schedule. You can bet they’re going to turn down the irritating applicants first, so:

How to be professional with your editor:

  • Never argue or push them with regards scheduling. They are unlikely to upset existing clients by rushing you to the head of the line. No, you aren’t that important.
  • Keep them abreast of your own schedule and plans. If you warn them of changes ahead of time, they are more likely to accommodate you
  • Be flexible. If one of their clients cancels and they have a free slot, maybe it’s worth a ton of extra work to get your m/s ready to fill it.
  • Similarly, accept that they might hit road blocks that causes them to take a little longer. Life gets in the way of all of us.
  • Polish your m/s to the best of your abilities first. Don’t give your editor sloppy work full of obvious typos and glaring errors. He/she might not work with you again.
  • Pay on time
  • Format your m/s to their specifications, get it to them a few days before the due date, and provide good contact details in case they hit a snag.
  • Learn to assess how long it takes you to write a book

The last point deserves attention. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to be able to measure and assess how long drafts take you, how long your beta-readers will take, how long your rewrites will take. Learn these numbers for you and allow for disruptions in your schedule, be it day job, vacations or even the mythical “writer’s block” (more on that in another post).

Your editor is your best business relationship as an author. Nurture it. Thank your editor, work with them, always be polite. Editors make our books look great – don’t annoy them. Publishing is a small industry and some editors trade blacklists, so don’t ever mistreat an editor. Or anyone you interact with.

Oh, and for goodness sake, cough up to send them a signed paperback, or a free ebook at the very least. They’re probably proud of their part in making the book shine, or at the very least they can burn the copy to vent their frustration at working with you, if you’ve been an annoying client. :)

Authors, please share your experiences with editors. Editors, please jump in with advice. The comments section is open for business…


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