Since I talked last time about the nitty-gritty of RPG writing (September) and some of the trials of writing in another’s RPG universe creation—or ‘playing in someone else’s sandbox’ if you will—I wanted to talk about a couple of things that every single writer will face: meeting and missing deadlines.
Why Are Deadlines So Important?
In Dice & Deadlines: Freelancing (July) I talked about the RPG industry being a business. Publishers are in it because they want to make money first. They love the business of roleplaying games second. This is especially true when dealing with the major players in the RPG arena—Wizards of the Coast, CCP, Fantasy Flight Games and numerous others. They all have to answer to the bottom line. And you, as a freelancer, do affect that bottom line.
Here is how: Gen Con Indy, scheduled for August, is one of the major annual gaming conventions in the United States. It is one of several. A large number of companies schedule their major launches for conventions like Gen Con Indy. In order for that RPG book to be presented at the convention, the timeline (very roughly) looks something like this:
December/January – Freelancers receive assignment and contract.
February – Freelancers turn in assignment, get feedback and rewrite requests.
March – Final freelance work to editor for last edits and editor gives the whole book a final edit.
April – Book to layout editor and then to a final round of proofing.
May – Book to printer, receive proof, send back with changes, and receive new proof.
June – Accepted final proof of book to printer.
August – Book launch along with author signings and swag giveaways.
Look tight? It is and that is the name of the game when it comes to writing for the RPG industry. A lot of writing with tight turnarounds. So, what happens if you slip or miss your deadline? Either everything gets moved out or some other freelancer gets picked up to finish what you didn’t or the editor does the work. Or, the book slips its schedule and misses its launch date, costing the company time and money.
No matter what, no one is happy. Not the editor who chose you and ended up with extra. Not the company who lost money. Not you because your reputation is tarnished.
When to Ask for an Extension
Now, not every book is scheduled to release on a convention but every book release has a specific release date for a reason—quarter end, RPG creation anniversary, you name it. But we all know life happens. Slips happen. When do you request an extension?
As soon as you realize you will not hit your deadline and not a moment later.
I was given three months to write a 70,000 word Savage Worlds book. More than enough time for me. I finished another project during that first month and started the book in the second month. At the end of that second month, a friend of mine died and left me reeling. By the time I pulled myself back together, I knew I would not make that deadline and I knew that, as the sole author on the book, I needed an extension. As soon as I realized it, I did what I needed to do.
How to Ask for an Extension
I did ask for the extension. But before I wrote that email, I did my homework. I figured out how much I had left to do, how many words I could get done in a day and figured out how much time I needed. So, my email told the publisher what happened in short, professional terms, that I needed an extension and how long that extension needed to be.
When you need to go to your boss (that is who your editor or publisher is) with your hat in your hands, you will look 100% better if you have done your due diligence and can ask for exactly what you need. This gives the company enough information to determine if they have the time to give you or if they need to pull in a pinch hitter.
The moral of the story is to always meet your deadlines. If you can’t do that, inform the company immediately and ask for an extension of a specific length of time.
Got any questions about deadlines and extensions or anything else I’ve talked about on Dice & Deadlines? Comment and I’ll do my best to answer.