As a published technical writer, I’ve had my share of experiences working with a publisher and its editors for a period of seven months. For my own sanity, I’ll post some of my experiences in this series of blogposts on Experiences with Being Published. I feel these stories can be quite entertaining, and I might even get a smile on my face when I look back at these stores in a couple of years’ time…
On deadlines and the typical process
When a publisher targets you as a new writer, you are typically asked to create an outline for the book they want you to write. A publishing board then decides if the right topics are present in the book, before providing a ‘Go!’ for the book.
When you write a book, a schedule is determined based on the outline, so all people know what is expected of them. Typically for every writer, their schedule features deadlines; points in time when content (usually defined per chapter for a technical book) is due.
There’s a perfectly valid reason for these deadlines: After first delivery, the content is then reviewed by an independent technical reviewer, then edited for readability, spelling and grammar by a team of content editors from your publisher and then reviewed by a technical person at the publisher to make sure everything checks out. Throughout the process, time is allocated for the writer to address the comments and changes made by everyone.
Stakes and tools
Just like every other situation in life, in the process, people have different stakes. The publishing board has a clear vision of the book in terms of the maximum total amount of pages, the topics and the search engine research that governs their choices.
The content editing team has clear expectations as well. For cookbooks at Packt, the chapters must not exceed 50 pages and should have twelve recipes per chapter. These are not ‘pages’ like you write them in Microsoft Word. No, Packt has its own portal where they require you to meet your deadlines in. This platform features a button labeled ‘View in PDF’, that will tell you how many pages a chapter would have (including its ToC, but you can deduct these)…
Changes to the schedule
I was happily writing a chapter every two weeks. Imagine my surprise when after having met ten of my deadlines, I got a call from my publisher, asking me to speed up content delivery…
Uhm, no. We have an agreement on a schedule.
Their proposal was to deliver a chapter every four days, for the last couple of chapters, resulting in a deadline for April 12th instead of May 18th, without additional compensation or a clear reason why. Also, the five days per chapter for reviews was condensed into a mere five days in total, adding to the amount of work that needed to be delivered.
I proposed an April 22nd deadline, allowing for one weekend per chapter. Given the Easter weekend with a couple of additional days off from work, April 29th would be my deadline for everything.
That was quick…
This proposal was quickly accepted. Too quickly, perhaps…
After this decision, the entire process started to come tumbling down. Instead of working on a chapter each weekend, I now also was pushed into resolving comments from the reviewers, the editors and everyone involved with the book during weekdays. Now, I was dealing with four persons at a time with different roles and different stakes.
I learned a great deal about my creative process when creating the Active Directory Administration Cookbook. Looking back, I realize that the schedule change robbed me from the one luxury I had to improve on the quality of the book: the ability to write something and then take another look at it afresh a week later.
Even when self-publishing, the above pitfall exists. The Project management triangle applies to books, too.
Learn the intricacies of managing Azure AD, Azure AD Connect as well as Active Directory for Identity and Access Management (IAM) in the cloud and on Windows Server 2019.
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