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Friday, December 10, 2010

People who miss deadlines

It is a golden rule of publishing that the higher the frequency of the title the more efficient is the magazine. Weekly magazines are easy to work on because the workflow is steady. It has to be. If they stopped pedalling the bicycle would fall over. Monthlies are less efficient because each month starts with a week of idle pondering and ends with a week of frantic production. Quarterlies are so inefficiently produced you may as well do each one with an entirely new staff.

When it comes to individual contributors the golden rule is that the busiest people are always the first to file their copy. The promptest will deliver the night before the work is due. The tardiest will get in touch before the end of the deadline day and try to negotiate a postponement. You’re almost embarrassed to talk to them because they’re not ashamed to ask.

The very best people are never ill, elsewhere or detained on family business. If they are they don’t tell you about it. They know that when you say Friday you mean it. They don’t see it as a starting point for negotiation.

Lateness is clearly a state of mind, though what exactly it denotes is not easy to explain. There’s certainly an element of arrogance about it. The late contributor always assumes that other people’s promptness has made their own lateness less of a problem. It also seems to show a terrible lack of confidence. It’s like bands who spend years in the studio. That’s because they like making records but can’t bear finishing them. When they finish them they know they will be judged. They don’t like that one little bit.