Monday 19 March 2012

So many unseens hold up publications

One of our books is suffering from considerable delays at the moment. Authors, particularly newer ones, are getting quite anxious. Those who been there before are just getting on with the next piece and have probably not even noticed that we’ve passed the next dead-line.
There are so many factors we can’t predict when we set our dates. Here are a few that we’ve encountered this time:
Authors not returning edits
Authors not supplying bios
Authors not responding to emails
Hidden tables in texts that won’t be removed – we’ve had to retype whole sections of text with the greater margin for error that that brings
Okay, so curly double quotes are unfashionable at the moment, but that’s what we’ve asked for and changing the single quotes is not as easy as you might think. If you do it too automatically you can create new errors.   
Peculiar formatting embedded in the text – so it too has had to be retyped
Normally, even with up to 24 authors, there isn’t too much of this sort of thing. There will always be some. For some reason, this time there’s rather a lot. It’s come at a time, too, when we’re changing our web site and getting out royalties.
As I’m also a published writer I can see both sides of this. So, I’m not surprised that one book has that has 43 authors contributing about 1500 words each has been delayed by 18 months. Six months or so seems to be the norm these days on complex productions.  Even a piece of flash fiction I had accepted a year ago came out two weeks ago instead of November 2011. All sorts of things can happen that are not anybody’s fault particularly. Life can catch up with us all and that often explains the delays, especially when you’re dealing with a large group of people.
In productions that involve a smaller number of people, it may be hard sometimes for writer / editor / designer to agree. This isn’t about major rows and fallings out but about each person involved trying to make sure that the most professional job possible is done.
And don’t you know it. Nearly always your editor sends you your rewrites or proofs at the worst moment possible. I remember doing my minor amendments for my PhD, responding to editorial comment on two novels, giving a final critique to a novel I was editing and marking two undergraduate classes’ final assignments in the space of two weeks. I just had to knuckle down and use some clever critical time-planning. I managed it and even had time to spare most days.   
I encourage people to follow me on Twitter. And if you DM me there I’m going to reply in up to 140 characters so it’s going to take less time. But please, look through my messages first – the information you seek may already be there.    
Believe me, publishers work hard – whether they’re one of the Big Six or a small indie. We don’t always have time to communicate, much as we’d love to and much as we love you. The ten hour day is the norm and sometimes it’s even longer. It doesn’t kill us because we love what we do. It’s a vocation, not a job. There does, however, seem to be an infinite number of tasks and only a finite amount of time. We crave your patience.