The Importance of Deadlines

Working in production has taught me the value of deadlines.

I’ve always been a deadline enthusiast – I am, by nature, a procrastinator and need structure to make sure I finish project on time – but when you’re publishing weekly and monthly magazines (plus a load of supplements), deadlines take on a whole other meaning.

Each magazine has multiple deadlines – sales, editorial, design, subbing, printing, and shipping – and it is my job to ensure that every single one is met.

What I’ve found, though, is that each department isn’t really aware of how anyone else works. They argue and wheedle to get more time, without considering the knock-on effects.

When one person delays, everything is delayed, and since I’m the final gateway, that means I bear the pressure to get the magazine out on time.

So what does this have to do with writing?

As an indie, it is YOU who must set the deadlines.

If you want to make books happen, set deadlines. If you struggle to finish stories, set deadlines.

How? Here’s how I do it.

  1. Decide when you want to publish the book.
    Consider what time of year might suit its subject matter best (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day) and also when it’s likely to get noticed. August, for example, tends to be a fairly dead month.

  2. Count back one-two months
    Yes, MONTHS. You’re going to need 1-2 months prior to release in order to do your marketing prep, send out advance copies to reviewers, etc. Build up the buzz so your book’s launch doesn’t go unnoticed. If you’re releasing a print edition, you can use this time to get the copy prepped and ready for distribution, so that the ebook and print versions launch together.

  3. Count back one-two weeks
    This is the time to typeset/design/lay out the book and review the finished product, catching as many of those last minute typos as possible.

  4. Count back another month
    Give yourself a month for edits and revisions. Ideally, you’ll hire someone in to work through your manuscript with you.

Can you finish your manuscript in time to meet that first deadline and have your manuscript ready to be edited? If not, you’ll need to rethink your timings, considering carefully how long each step of the process will take and — most of all — allowing time for delays.

Confused? Here’s the schedule in practice:

  • March 31: Manuscript finished.
  • April 1-30: Liaise with editor and make final revisions.
  • May 1-7: Lay out the book, final proofing.
  • May-June: Prep the print edition, do your marketing work, etc.
  • July: Launch!

That’s how my ideal schedule works, at least.