Saturday, September 02, 2006

Deadlines

Just to prove that it's not all fun and games, I spent most of yesterday emailing a number of artists and asking about "that piece that was due today." Nearly none of them were done...or even particularly close to being done in a few cases.

I love artists, I really do...Some days it’s just harder to remember why.

Many artists don't understand book publishing schedules and it’s no wonder. In magazine or newspaper publishing, if a job is due at 3:00pm Thursday then it gets done by 3:00pm Thursday. Period. If not, the story runs without the art, you never get another job from that AD, and it’s likely that you don't get much work from anyone that knows that AD. In book publishing...well, we have these odd cumulative deadlines. Three times a year I need to get four month’s worth of covers designed and ready for meetings, a black and white catalog, a color presentation, proofing deadlines, more meetings...all leading up to the actual printed book. I often hear artists complain, “I was working like crazy to meet the deadline and now, suddenly, there is tons time in the schedule!?” More often then not, missing that first deadline has caused some quiet havoc behind the scenes. It means that the AD has found a way to make-do for a while with a sketch or a shot of the painting in-progress, or they begged the patience of various Sales and Marketing peoples, or were willing to stay up very late the night before a deadline trying to wrestle out a quick design. None of this is seen by the artist so it seems that the first deadline was rather arbitrary. But those deadlines really were there for the good of the book, not to mention the mental health of the art director. (Artists - You want the books sporting your artwork to do well. If a book does well, the company will want to try and copy that success, which includes working with that cover artist again.)

If artwork is going to be late, communicating with the AD is key. We may have lots of time in the schedule and we may not. If asked, there may be easy ways to work it out so that both the AD and the artist is happy. Tom O’Brien created the artwork for our Starscape edition of Prince Umbra. In the middle he got a call from Time Magazine to do a cover. He asked if there was any way that he could squeeze an extra week from us. (Mind you, he did stress that he was prepared too turn Time down so that he could meet his prior commitment to us.) We had the time. He did both covers. Everyone was happy.

I should say that there are many reasons a cover can be late that is not the artist's fault. I screw up, the editor might not be forthcoming with information at the time I need it, a book is added to the schedule late, etc., but since yesterday was “Prod the Artist Day”....

12 comments:

Arkady Roytman said...

Irene, you should come to the Beer Garden tonight (09.03) and drink your troubles away :P

Jack Ruttan said...

Not trying to cheese you off, but have you looked into aspects of your management style that might make it "all right" to be late?

I've worked as a freelance under both conditions. It's a fine line between pressure to be on time, and unnecessary pressure, and a kind of "slough of despond" where whatever you do doesn't matter.

Not that I imagine you're like that, but I was a better freelancer than an editor, where I let contributors get away with too much, because they knew they could. Even normally conscientious people can be sucked into this mindset if they see all others around them doing it, and getting away with it.

Irene Gallo said...

Ha! Well, it probably IS true, that I am a bit too lenient with them. I have a reputation among illustrators for being good to work with and for understanding their issues. (Although, I know there are a few that would disagree. ;-) ) That reputation certainly has many adavantages...But I can also let it be pushed too far. Still, if you get two or more ADs in a room together they will have similar complaints so I can’t be _completely_ blamed for spoiling anyone.

Irene Gallo said...

Arkady - I wish I could join you but I'm out on Long Island. See you Thursday for Sketch night at the Society? The Half-Tones are playing!

Hey, speaking of, I wanted to blog the sketch nights. Can I swipe one of your fantabulous watercolors for the post?

Jack Ruttan said...

I think you can still be good to work with, but not one to be trifled with, either.

I treasure good editors and ADs. Good ones often made me feel part of a team, even though I only communicated with them through e-mail and phone calls, and was possibly in a different city.

Arkady Roytman said...

sure thing, Irene. Swipe away.

Sketch nights start back up on Tuesday the 12th.

Tristan Ewell said...

It's funny because it's not me.


This time...
;)

stanko said...

Having been on that side of the fence "I feel your pain" My worst was dealing with the copy-writers. The almost done, almost done... then finding they doubled the copy, or changed headlines the after the comps were approved could make the most seasoned designer cry.

Irene Gallo said...

Stanko - Don't I know that pain! Arg...And then everybody looks at you like, "What's the big deal. You just have to retype it." Unfortunately, it really does breed bad typography. I'll not worry about the text blocks on the back cover or flaps assuming that it'll come back with new copy inserted. But, if it doesn't, or you are too rushed at that point, then the jacket goes out without attention being paid to loose lines and such. Huge waste of my time, the copy-editors time, the proofreader's time.

Mike Corriero said...

Very informative read Irene, thanks ;) I understand that AD's have just as much if not more stress than the artist working for them..and it goes unseen. I've had my fair share of deadline changes, topics being changed and 2 or 3 different AD's all giving contradicting advice causing me to have to change something two or three times and eventually they settle on the first design after the other art directors told me to change about 10 things. So I have found it hard some times to keep my cool ;) but I never take it out on the individual since I know it's some times not that persons fault. A blog article like this at least gives some insight into the troubles that are often present when working with publications, artist, deadlines and how the Art Director is putting forth the extra effort and double overtime to help the artist and make the best of a bad situation in cases.
I some times get scared that if I don't meet a deadline that I'll lose out on future jobs with that client, which is true depending on the company. If I honestly feel like things are going bad and or something came up that couldn't be avoided I'll let the art director know as soon as possible and they are often very nice and generous enough to provide some extra time. In one case just recently this involved my grandfather passing away suddenly due to cancer, I let the AD know but continued on with the job, I wasn't late for the agreed deadline but would have finished much quicker had personal things not taken a turn for the worse.

Anyway thanks for sharing your opinions and information.

Dave said...

If on your next “Prod the Artist Day” you get so frustrated that you find yourself daydreaming about those seasoned news artists that make their 3 o’clock deadline drop me a line. I've worked in a breaking news environment for nearly 10 years and understand how important it is to deliver on time. I'm chomping at the bit.

Arne said...

Hey, if you ask me the artist is responsible when he/she agrees on a deadline. The costs caused by being late are for the artist. That's the risk of being an illustrator.
On the other hand: Commissioners should agree on a term like 'with every day of delay caused by a commissioner the illustrator gets that extra time on the deadline'. Not every publisher seems to realise that they are as much responsible for the deadline as the artist.
Glad to hear you do :)

Arne
illustrator