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Friday Report: October 16, 2020

After a few frantic weeks of multiple book releases, we had no new or updated books this week. That was actually a disappointment, as I’d hoped to get a couple of titles out the door, but ironically, not having control is sort of normal in this business. More on that in a moment.

The Apple event occurred, and I found it kinda “meh.” I might get a new iPhone, but it’s far from a top priority as it doesn’t solve any significant problems for me. (Number of times I’ve EVER thought, “I sure wish I could watch a 4K movie or play an interactive game on my phone over a cellular data connection: Zero.) Nothing about Big Sur or Macs with Apple silicon was mentioned, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens there. Although one or two of our books might need some minor updates to discuss the HomePod mini, basically nothing else affects us here at Take Control.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to shed a little light on how things work when it comes to scheduling and delivering books.

Based on the feedback I’ve received from customers, I think there are a couple of common misconceptions. First, it sounds like some people think we’re a big corporation with fancy things like a staff and offices and a budget. In fact, my wife and I are the company’s only employees, we work from our home, and we have to have Big Serious Financial Conversations if we want to do something crazy like buy a new computer every few years.

There also seems to be an inaccurate image that our authors write for Take Control Books full-time. In reality, every one of our authors and editors (apart from me) is a freelancer, and they all have other work too. Some of them have full-time jobs, and some have an assortment of other ongoing and one-time freelance gigs (writing articles for magazines and websites, writing books for other publishers, producing podcasts, and so on). Most of us have kids, and all of us have lots of other things going on in our lives besides work.

And so, as much as I might wish it to be otherwise, prediction and reality rarely coincide.

Of course, every book has a schedule and associated deadlines, but these are frequently missed. Other than reminding, pestering, and pleading, there’s nothing I can do when a manuscript doesn’t appear on time. Because our authors and editors are independent contractors and not employees, I can make requests but not demands. They’re in control of their own schedules. It would do me no good to say, “If your book isn’t ready by such-and-such a date, we won’t ship it at all,” because that would hurt us (and our customers) as much as it hurts the author, and anyway, I’m not a big fan of negative motivation.

Besides, I can hardly fault an author for being late with a manuscript when they were ill, or had a death in the family, or had wildfires raging outside their house, or had unforeseen obligations connected with their job, or any of a thousand other things. Because those sorts of things happen to me too.

Indeed, I’m way way way behind on at least half a dozen of my own books I’ve been meaning to update for eons, and also way behind on my Take Control to-do list (which remains at 85 items), because I don’t have the luxury of going to a quiet office for eight uninterrupted hours of work every day. I have two school-age kids at home (because the schools still aren’t open, and probably won’t be at all this school year), and one of those kids has significant disabilities and thus requires an enormous amount of attention. Interruptions are constant, sleep is poor, and I have to deal with all the usual random life events that suck up my time (to say nothing of the constant distraction of the news). I squeeze in as much work as I can, when I can, but it’s far from ideal.

I should also point out that some of our books are dependent on software releases from other companies. I can’t tell you how many times our schedules were thwarted because some app or operating system didn’t ship when we were told it would—or an update changed something that required an immediate revision to a book.

So, our schedule for October is turning out to be nothing like what I thought it would be even two weeks ago. I have guesses and hopes about the remainder of this month (and the rest of the year), but time will tell what we’re actually able to pull off. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and understanding!