Saturday, 26 March 2011

Time's arrow

This is a post about scheduling. Fittingly, it's late.

When you're attempting to turn some words into some pages, probably the most important thing is making sure you know when everything is supposed to happen. Setting the deadlines is even more important than keeping to them: as long as you've got a finish date you know when to start panicking. Er, preparing for press. Not panicking. Publishers don't panic, they just get serious.

Actually, the joy of working on a one-off or annual publication with nothing else on your plate is that the dates aren't quite so ferociously important. If you have a long list of publications with a couple of deadlines every week, you can't afford mistakes. Here, though, a few days' delay makes little difference. However, it's still important to have a rough idea of when things are to happen.

The first thing to establish is when you want a van to turn up and dump a crate of books on your doorstep. In our case, we wanted early June. Some other university anthologies release around September, and while I like the idea of co-ordinating to generate wider exposure for creative writing MAs as a whole, since this was our first year it made sense to aim for release while everyone was still at university. Our dissertations (or 'novels', if you like) aren't due until September, but university teaching finishes in June, and after that there'll be a tiny diaspora as we wander off all over the place and go back to something approaching real life. So to make sure everyone is still around, the release date for the Manchester Anthology 2011 is early June.

With that approximately set, a press date could be worked out. For a short print run like this it might take a week to print and a week to deliver. Sometimes quicker, sometimes much slower, depending on all sorts of things from sluggish production (which naturally I will blame on something else. Maybe piskies) to the whole print run being bought up and pulped by the Ministry of Defence. Y'know, purely hypothetically.

Adding a week on for paranoia time, it seemed sensible for press to be around three weeks before the date we want the thing released. I've always been a fan of Friday press dates, because it means that after the raging horror of last-minute problems (first rule of publishing club: something will go wrong) you can go to the pub and not come out until everything is better.

Taking those estimates into account, that gives a press date of, oh. The thirteenth of May. Friday the thirteenth of May.

I'm not superstitious, okay? *hides under desk*

Right. That's the release date and the press date. The next one is the copy deadline. This is the date by which all the lovely authors have to hand their stuff in. Thankfully, short pieces of fiction like this aren't too hard to lay out. They require care, certainly, but basically it's pages of text. Equally, with serious writery types like this lot, all the copy should arrive in pretty good condition (right guys? Right?), so this isn't going to require arduous subbing and repeated proofing. With these advantages in mind, it sounds about right to go for a couple of weeks to proof and a week to slam it all into layout.

Working back from the press deadline, this gives the 22nd of April. When I worked with lawyers we used to have to add on another month or so to take their inevitable tardiness into account, but I trust writers, so the 22nd of April it is.

Time to send an e-mail...

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