Your editor is your spokesperson to the rest of the publishing company. How well do you know your editor?
What level of communication works best for you and your editor? If you prefer e-mail and they prefer phone conversations, you better figure out a workable compromise. Trust plays a big part in all this. If there can be a strong author-editor line of trust, both parties will be more comfortable dealing with less formal communication. It’s a two-way street, of course, which is why I didn’t simply say, “the author needs to earn the editor’s trust.” You’ve got to have enough of a dialog before the contract is signed to feel the editor has your best interests in mind as well.
What if you run into a problem? What if you’re about to miss a deadline? Unfortunately, many authors choose to sit on bad news, partly because it’s human nature. Resist that temptation. The earlier you give your editor a heads-up about a possible issue, the more time the two of you have to troubleshoot the problem and take evasive action.
What if there’s a promotion tied to your title and the availability date is critical? First of all, your editor should tell you about that as soon as they know. Assuming they’ve done their job, it’s important for you to alert your editor if you anticipate any problems meeting the deadlines you’ve been given. Keep in mind that accounts will drop your book from a promotion in a heartbeat if the date is missed. That can mean the difference between getting 4-5 or more copies (per store) into a large chain vs. only having 1 or 2 copies in the chain’s top stores.
Missing a due date is a serious problem, but not the end of the world. I say that reluctantly because I don’t want to encourage authors to start blowing off dates. Give yourself and your editor the best chance to succeed though, and keep an open line of communication.
P.S. – Don’t let your editor bully you into delivery dates you can’t possibly hit. Take a realistic look at your schedule and make sure you know what you’re committing to. If the editor truly values you and wants you involved in the project, they’ll find a way to make the schedule work for you. Every publisher would prefer a well-written book a bit later to a poorly written one that’s “turned in on time.”