Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Fridays in Publishing Nowadays?

For those who don't know, the publishing industry has always been considered the slowest industry in the world. Up until recently, a "traditional" print publisher would take anywhere from six months to over a year to publish a book. And I'm not just talking about big books.

In some cases it still works this way. When I submit a short story for an anthology to a "traditional" print publisher, the anthology usually isn't published for at least a year. Why it always took so long...and still does...passes me by. I don't get it and I never did. For almost twenty years, I always went with the flow, never asked too many questions, and did what I was told to do.

And summertime has always been notoriously slow in publishing. After Memorial Day, it feels as if everyone's closed up shop and hit the road for Maine. My literary agent friend takes two weeks off in July and the entire month of August. He's in his sixties and he's worked for many years, so he deserves the time off now. However, he's been doing this for the past thirty years. It's not something new. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Why work when there's no one else around?

This past week I've been seeing a lot of blog posts about summer Fridays. And I'm seeing these posts from those who still work in "traditional" publishing. For those who don't know about summer Fridays, it means that many people in "traditional" publishing take Friday off all summer. My friend the lit agent takes Friday off all summer, too. And has been taking Friday off for the last thirty years. And the work week doesn't begin until Monday afternoon.

Before I started submitting my fiction to e-publishers, I used to get extremely frustrated in the summer. Summer Friday's drove me up the wall. I simply can't understand why anyone would need so much time off. I will admit that I do take the work ethic to the opposite extreme sometimes. I'm lucky in the sense that I only need about four hours of sleep at night. But I also love what I do and taking too much time off is more stressful to me than not taking time off. It would be like letting readers down. And from what I hear, people who read e-books read them fast.

Once I discovered e-publishing, I forgot all about summer Fridays. And that's because in e-publishing summer Fridays aren't usually an option. Things move at a faster pace. If I submit a book to one of my publishers, the book goes through strenuous rounds of edits and it released in digital format within the same month. I work five days a week all the time. And many times I work six and seven days a week. It's not uncommon for people in e-publishing to be up late at night e-mailing back and forth about edits and book covers. And it's not uncommon for U.S. authors to rearrange their work schedules to accommodate an editor in London.

I know I'm not the only one who works this way. I know other authors who work just as hard, if not harder, than me. I recently read where Barry Eisler said one of the things in "traditional" publishing that made him unhappy was it takes so long to publish a book. And I agree with him. I know my e-publishers...all of them...work a normal work week all summer long. I've never heard anyone taking Friday off in the summer, at least not in e-publishing. Most of the time we're lucky to get Saturday and Sunday off.

And I've never heard anyone in e-publishing complain about it either. We're thrilled to be working and producing for our readers. We can't wait for the next project and we're always brainstorming about the future. I'm sure most younger authors out there who started out in e-publishing...and those who are self-publishing their own books...never even heard of summer Fridays. And, I'm also sure a lot of people in e-publishing are balancing two careers at the same time. If they aren't working two jobs, they are home raising families, which is more than a full time job in itself.

So when I see something written about summer Fridays these days, I can't help but wonder how long this is going to last in "traditional" publishing. Don't get me wrong. It's a nice concept if you can afford it. In fact, I applaud anyone who has reached a point in life where they can afford to only work three or four days a week and take months off at a time. My friend the literary agent has had many big books...not to mention some great timing and fantastic luck...over the years and he deserves his time off. But I doubt everyone in "traditional" publishing is in his position. Most of the people I know in all areas of publishing these days are working harder than ever before. And they are loving every single minute of it.

2 comments:

Emma Lai said...

My e-publisher closes its door to submissions for two vacations a year, once around Christmas and once around the Fourth of July, but even then someone's around for emergencies. The rest of the time, I can reliably contact someone, including company owners, and hear back within 24 hours. Who wouldn't love those kinds of response times? And, I personally, like knowing I'm going to have a couple of weeks off during the year with no edits in and no edits out.

I'll refrain from commenting about traditional houses since I haven't had too much interaction with them.

ryan field said...

I actually contact my editors to see when they are taking vacations so I don't bother them with e-mails.

I think it's important to take time off. I try to stay away from the computer on weekends. But if I took off Fridays all summer, I'd be losing a lot of valuable work time.