Monday, March 26, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait

Here's one I don't think you've answered... how much lead time do you usually get before your deadline? Some of my editors (at websites and smaller publications) have assigned stories and set a deadline for less than two weeks later. I'm happy to get the assignment and can usually rearrange my schedule to make it work, but I feel bad asking my sources to rearrange their schedules on short notice to meet my deadline (it reflects poorly on me because they may think I've put it off until the 11th hour). Plus, sometimes I send in the story and the editor emails me back a month later asking for rewrites. Umm... if you don't have any sense of urgency in publishing it, why should I rush to write it? I'm guessing other writers have grappled with this issue, too!

ARGH!! I typed out a long response to this only to have my computer freeze and require a total shut-down. ARGH!! I'm trying this again.

Deadlines will vary wildly depending on how organized your editor is, if she had a last minute story fall through, how often the magazine/website is published, etc. That said, I'd guess that my average lead time is about three weeks to a month, which is perfect for me, as far as my planning purposes. But I do sometimes get really fast turn-around assignments - say, a week or so lead time - and on the flip side, I often get evergreen pieces that don't need to be handed in for two months.

Whenever I have a rush request for a source, I say something like the following: "I was just handed a last-minute assignment for X magazine, and unfortunately, I need to turn this around by Friday. I know that this is very last minute, but if there's any way that you would have time to talk in the next day, I'd so appreciate it. If not, I completely understand." That way, the source knows that I'm not disorganized, and it also gives lets him know that he needs to hop to it.

If you *do* get a rush deadline, don't forget that you can always ask your editor for more time. You'd be surprised how accommodating editors will be, especially if the story isn't yet schedule. (Though if it's a rush, it probably is.) As far as why editors give you these tight deadlines, then don't get back to you for a month with edits? Ugh. It happens ALL the TIME. And yep, it's annoying. I imagine it's because the story has to wind its way through the entire editorial team, but still, it's annoying. And something for which I have solution, only empathy. :)

So readers, what's your average deadline time, how do you ask sources for rush requests, and do you find editors flexible with deadlines?


Unknown said...

Oh--that's such a nice way to phrase it! ("I was just handed a last-minute assignment. . .") I always feel badly rushing people, and that seems like a perfect way to address it.

And it does always happen to me, that editors hold things forever and then expect me to jump on it as soon as they call. I sort of just grin (publicly--I grumble loudly to myself) and bear it.

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

Thanks, Allison! I hate it when blogger eats my posts.