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How do I deal with client who misses deadlines?

October 24, 2019

Dear Someone Else’s Dad,

I’m a junior editor working for a large publishing house. I’ve been assigned to work with an author whose upcoming book we anticipate will be a strong seller, so we are hoping to release it at a very specific time to maximize sales. The author, however, misses every deadline we have given him, which in turn, has upset the entire production schedule, and will ultimately delay the release date.  He mostly ignores my emails and texts (“Hi- just checking to see how you’re doing with the edits!”), and now my senior editor has blamed all the delays on me because of my inability to work with the author.  Any ideas about how to balance this?
Thanks,

Eddie the Editor

 

Dear Eddie,

I’m so sorry to hear about your being stuck in the middle. I just wrote a book, and I was so meticulous about following my publisher’s schedule because I thought they’d just abandon me, cold, wet and despondent, in an alley along with my sorry, wet, faded manuscript pages if I didn’t follow the rules.  Excuse me while I weep a minute.

 

The implicit message my editor gave me was: “We all want to maximize sales—you included—so even though it may be tough for you to stay on schedule for whatever reason, please trust our experience of knowing what needs to be done to finish on time.” 

 

In your case, even though you have two constituencies- your manager and your client—they both share the same goal: to sell a lot of books. I know that many juniors are fearful of being direct with clients, but in this case I’d recommend being as direct (and polite) as possible when communicating with your author.  And cc your manager.  An idea:

 

SUBJECT: Final edits due Friday to keep release target

 

Hi LazyShakespeare,

I hope all is well.  Can you please make sure that you send your edits on the February 24 draft (attached) by NO LATER THAN this Friday?  If we don’t receive your edits we’ll have to push back the release date, which our booksellers are already gearing for.  I know it’s a tough task, but please let me know how I can help out so we can all achieve our common goal of selling lots of books.

Thanks,
Eddie Editor

 

I wish all of you the best in getting LazyShakespeare to shape up.

Best,

SED

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