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Up Against It

AN-BanffMay of 2005 was the single busiest month I’ve ever had when it comes to book events. Coming off two Chapters tours the previous year, and sitting on invitations to travel for book events and to hold writing workshops, we stacked up a schedule that crossed four provinces in as many weeks –– not much by the standards of a traveling musician, but plenty for a writer, and a publishing company in its third year.

Things started off very well in Newfoundland, continued in Halifax, then it was back to Ontario for week three (counting that as time ‘on the road’ would be disingenuous, I guess). To finish the month, we were off to Alberta… and that’s where things got interesting.

Events in Lethbridge were excellent, and we also got to drop in to see our printer of the time, who was based in Calgary. With that all done, we had set aside time to reward ourselves; Jacqui had to speak at a conference being hosted in Banff, so we set aside a few days to head up to the Rocky Mountain resort town, as a reward for a month of hard work.

Or that was the plan when we booked the flights, anyway. Months later, when the final leg of May 2005 was finally upon us, circumstances were rather different. See, that summer I’d been invited back to Toronto Trek, then Canada’s largest fan-run convention, and we needed to have a new release ready for the weekend. The Earther Equation was partway through its edit, but with all the preparations for the month of events, it wasn’t nearly ready for press…

So guess what I did in Banff.

AN-TEEPocketFor three days straight, I sat in a lovely hotel room (with no air conditioning, in the middle of a heat wave), and worked through the final substantive revision of the book –– while Jacqui did the same in between sessions at her conference. I did escape from time to time to get a swim in at the local pool, but that was basically just to let the cleaning staff fix up my room. In the entire time we were in Banff, I took exactly one photo… and it’s the one leading this note.

Such is the reality for any writer or publisher when we’re up against a deadline –– and please don’t mistake me, this isn’t a complaint. As I’ve said before, those of us who get into the business of storytelling have it pretty easy; the odd time we need to sacrifice for our passion, we should do so willingly.

What’s interesting, though, is how timelines have changed.

Consider: we were in Banff in the last week of May, and Toronto Trek wasn’t until July 15th. In order to have The Earther Equation delivered in time for the event, we needed to have the book on press by June 20, which meant we were within three weeks of our drop-dead deadline when we were in Alberta.

If you read those dates in the context of traditional print publishing, you might go pale; in the good (or bad) old days, that sort of quick production turnaround would have been impossible. However, thanks to digital print technology, and Jacqui’s multiple-international-award-winning experience in professional communications, we were able to run Iceberg on schedules closer to those found in the professional communications world, than in the book world. That was always one of our secret weapons –– the ability that helped us maintain production with our lean team, and our daytime obligations.

But reading those Earther Equation timelines back now, I go pale for a different reason… because I’d be in so much trouble if we still needed that much time to release a book.

This past weekend, we locked Snapdragon, and loaded it up for yesterday’s ebook release. Instead of doing a final lock on the title four weeks before delivery, and then having to review galleys or a hard-copy proof, we were able to go from approved copy to final ebook edition within a matter of hours, all the work being handled in house. Even if the book had been destined for print, like War Footing, the timeline would have been truncated down to just ten days.

If Iceberg was working on a professional communications schedule before, I’d say we’re closer to a magazine schedule now, which is why we can offer a series like Champions in bi-monthly installments. Granted, it helps that we’ve amassed an extra decade of drafting experience –– running four novels a year for Defense Command taught us a lot –– but still, the technology of ebooks, and digital print production, have truly changed the way this industry works.

And I, for one, am glad of it. Last May, I went to Halifax to see a certain lady, and Jacqui and I went to New York so she could receive her IPPY Silver for A Daughter’s Gift. Elspeth was launched that same month, and Mandarins followed it in July… but I certainly wasn’t stuck in my hotel editing on either trip. And I definitely got more than one photo.

If you want to write stories, the technology today is better than it’s ever been. Be sure to take full advantage (and bring a camera).

As much as I love spending time with Alex, Stephanie and Strong… I’m glad I wasn’t in my hotel room editing when HMCS Sackville traded passing honors with HMCS Halifax.