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What's in a Deadline?

by Chris Tugeau

Chris Tugeau is an artist and artist's representative. This article is used by permission. It and other articles can be found at her excellent web site at www.catugeau.com

I remember the whirlwind in my family household the years we were all caught up in high school graduations and registering for college deadlines! There were applications, housing deposits, Senior project due dates, finals, yearbook salutations, cap and gown sign-ups, Prom and Postgraduate Party ticket dates, party gifts to purchase, orientation reservations…WOW! To a greater or lesser extent, these deadlines must all be met in order to ensure a smooth ending and an opportune beginning. If not....

Due dates and deadlines can make or break a good time, a memory or possibly a future. Missing deadlines can result in anything from a rushed apology to fine paying or even a missed opportunity altogether.

As an artist representative, as well as a mother, I am MOST aware of and concerned with the importance of meeting deadlines. The making of art is a business, and part of a larger business. ALL elements of a work have deadlines so the work can get printed, distributed and sold. That's what pays the bills and allows for the next project to begin. At best, missed deadlines are annoying and stressful, and at worst, very expensive, in more ways than one. But why and how are deadlines arrived at?

Recently, I spoke with editors and art directors at three publishers about the importance of and the determination of deadlines for their type of publishing. The first was a small publisher, and the medium one was similar. Once the full color art comes in they need a couple of weeks for "the committee" to check it over editorially and designwise. This composite of elements (text, size, art placement, and content, etc.) is compiled on the computer, and the disk goes to the color separator. The original art is shot digitally or the flexboard goes on a scanner. More than one book is being worked on at a time, so this can take another couple of weeks. A printout proof is made in order to make corrections, by the committee again, then back to color separator for a matchprint. A couple of more days for the editor to proof, and back to the separator. Once approved, everything is put on film and sent to the printer. The printer sends in "blues" (printer dummies) which are also checked for missed registrations, typos etc. This can all take another month and is the last chance to catch errors. This shouldn't be rushed! Then a couple of weeks to a month for final printing and it's off to the warehouse for packaging and shipping. One can easily see that delays at any point can cause expensive problems.

Large publishers often print overseas, if the dollar is strong, as it can save a lot of bottom line money. But missed deadlines along the process can cost them much money too. The time elements due to shipping overseas add time with less room for adjustment. Late art may mean that publication will have to push to another list! The art due dates are determined by the production due dates. Extra room MAY be built into the dates with large publishers, but don't assume this. Remember, a missed list may mean a year's delay if it's a seasonal book! No one is happy with that. NEVER assume there is room to be late.

This is particularly true of educational publishing where the "drop deadlines" are usually just that. They may have allowed only a couple of days to scan or shoot the art, place it into the layout, find out it won't fit or the color is wrong, make alterations and try again. The editor has only a week or less to check everything before it goes to a tight production date with LOTS of other pages of art and text. Back ups cost lots -- if only for bottles of Excederin!

My advice to artists is to take the deadline dates very seriously. If they seem just too tight, try to adjust them up front, or do not take the job! If you find you just can't make it (life happens!) communicate that as soon as possible to your art director (and rep!) Your reputation (and that of your rep!), perhaps even your career, can ride on how you handle deadlines. You are under contract -- that is a personal and legal promise. As I shared with my sons and daughter about college deadlines -- if you miss them, it can cost you a future opportunity you can't afford to miss!

Edited: appeared in the SCBWI Metro newsletter July 1998.
© Chris Tugeau.
May not be reproduced or printed, except for personal use, without permission.

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