Writers talk about their deadlines all the time.
“I have so many deadlines!” “I don’t think I’m going to make that deadline.” “At least your deadline is later than mine.”
I think we often forget how very important those deadlines actually are, even aside from the fact that we signed a contract saying we would meet certain deadlines and by the time the book is turned in, have usually already received money for it.
Things to remember: it isn’t just our editor who’s waiting for that manuscript. There may be a copy editor, and a proofreader, and perhaps a whole string of production people who all need those pages at a certain time, so they can do their work and then send the book-in-progress along to its next stage. All of those people have managing editors watching over them to make sure they make those deadlines.
Besides all that, there’s the physical printing of the book, and shipping it to warehouses, and shipping it out to stores from the warehouses, all so it can go on sale on time and the writer can have a lovely release day with cupcakes and balloons.
While the writer is writing and complaining about deadlines, production is already in progress. Harlequin, my publisher, requests “Art Fact Sheets” from the author months before the manuscript is even turned in – for example, a book due in February might require Art Fact Sheets, which include a synopsis and character descriptions, to be completed in August. This is so the art department can get to work on the cover, any special fonts or interior art, etc.; this same information can be used for numerous marketing purposes, including overseas sales. If the AFS aren’t completed, a large number of people can’t do their work.
Additionally, it’s in the writer’s self-interest to meet deadlines. The writer who turns in late is not just hurting her own reputation; she’s shifting the routine of whole departments, sometimes forcing them to reschedule things in their own lives to compensate, because the books have to come out on time. Production staff can cope with all sorts of delays, of course; things happen, books have problems; but they don’t have to like it. And next time, they might not want to go out of their way for you.
Finally, meeting deadlines is just polite. If one thinks of missing a deadline as being rude to exponential numbers of people, suddenly it’s a lot more personal. The writer and the editors and the production staff are a team. If one element isn’t there at the right time, it all collapses. Writing is a solitary activity. Print publishing is not.
Edited to add: Useful post on deadlines by agent Jessica Faust.