Sometimes you don’t want to understand why things happen or how you can become a better person through active listening. Sometimes you just want someone to help you figure out how to fix a problem.
I can do that.
This question is from a recent cocktail party conversation.
My friend is currently working on three different projects with three different publishers. Because of delays, project shuffling and unexpected happenings on all sides, the projects are now all due in a one month window. It’s sort of freaking her out. Each publisher wants their project by their deadline and each publisher has a really good reason for not wanting more delays. One publisher is even telling her that their projected income for the coming year hinges on her meeting the deadline for the book! She can’t meet all of the deadlines and do a job she feels good about on all of the projects. How does she get extensions without ruining her relationship with any of the publishers?
Nothing like a little “my children won’t eat if you don’t do this!” pressure to get the blood flowing, is there?
First things first: Figure out what you want. Ehm, what “your friend” wants.
When stress starts to mount, our wants tend to get less nuanced. Obviously you don’t want to turn in crap work and be under the pressure of three equally demanding deadlines. But understanding your want so bluntly gives you only one obvious solution: move one or all of the deadlines. Approaching a problem with only one solution sucks.
Are there things that could make all or some of the deadlines work? Are there other pressures on your time that if removed could allow you to meet the deadlines? If you had editorial help with your writing process, would that speed things along? Do you just need a damn cabin in the middle of the woods with a case of wine and no cell service for the next month?
You also need to understand more about each publisher’s interest in their deadline. If you have an agent or a lawyer, this person can be of terrific help here. You basically need intel on why each publisher wants what they want and that’s what agents and lawyers are made for.
Once you know why they want what they want, figure out how each publisher’s interests line up with what you want. Is there one that can provide the editorial assistance you’re looking for? Does one of them own a cabin in the woods?
Are there places where you see the interests of the publishers lining up? Does the book publisher have a novel by a new author who may be of interest to the literary magazine publisher? Could they both benefit if the literary magazine published a piece by new author in this issue and saved your piece for the next publication?
If the three publishers don’t know about one another yet, you need to tell them. They each need to know about the other and they need to understand what your commitments are to each.
Have your agent or lawyer help set up this conversation. It’s best if you can do a meeting with everyone and approach it as a problem solving session. Come to the meeting with solutions that you’ve created based on everyone’s interests. Doing so will give you the benefit of anchoring and let the other parties know you’re serious about finding a solution.
If one of the parties refuses to play along, don’t worry about them; focus on the two parties that will work with you. All you need is one good solution to your problem, it doesn’t necessarily matter who helps you find that solution.
The bottom line is that none of you want a crappy product. That’s your shared interest and having a shared interest is the best place to start when solving problems.
Do you have a question that just needs a solution? Drop me a line and help provide the next piece of good advice on Work Made for Hire!
Featured image by hellojenuine. via flickr.com.