Tips for: Deadline Extensions

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Asking for a deadline extension can be scary for a lot of authors, especially if it’s your first time working with an editor or at a publishing house. It takes so much work, dedication, patience, and often turmoil to get to this stage in the traditional publishing process, so it’s understandable that after all that, you might feel like your position is…precarious.

Maybe you’re worried this will come off as unprofessional. Maybe you’re worried this will ruin marketing/publicity plans. Maybe you’re afraid your editor will resent you. Maybe you’re scared this means your book will have to change seasons and you’ll lose readers. Maybe it’s more internal, and your own anxieties mean you view this request as a personal failure.

I’m not listing these fears to give you ideas or try to make you feel bad. Rather, I’m trying to show you that you’re not the first person to think this way when in this situation. Because I promise you, you are not the first author to request a deadline extension. You’re probably not even the first author to request one from your specific editor. You’re possibly not even the first to request an extension from your editor for your season. At my publishing house, we have a cross-departmental, cross-imprint meeting where we discuss every book’s deadlines, and I am telling you: Deadline extensions are very common, and no one is thinking less of you for requesting one. Please don’t think less of yourself.

*As usual, before we start, I’d like to give a note on perspective: At the time of first writing this post, I have been an editorial assistant to two editors for about a year and a half. I work on a relatively small team, so I interact with all of the other editors fairly often as well. I am not, nor have I ever been, at one of the Big Five, which might function differently. Much of publishing is subjective, so I aim to update this post whenever I gain larger perspective on this topic that might be helpful. If you’re worried about your specific scenario, I encourage you to have a conversation with your agent, your editor, or other authors whose opinions you trust, as soon as the concern crosses your mind. The below guidance is nothing more or less than my thoughts on the best ways to request extensions and what getting one might mean (based on my experiences).

Why Would I Need An Extension?
Is It Okay To Ask For An Extension?
When Can I Ask For An Extension?
Will There Be Repercussions For Asking For An Extension?
What If Everyone Hates Me For Asking For An Extension?
What If I Just Need, Like, Two Extra Days?
Are There Alternatives To Extensions?
Okay, So… How Do I Ask For An Extension?

Why Would I Need An Extension?

There are lots of reasons you might need an extension! But I think you’re actually looking at this response because the real question you want answered is, “Is my reason for wanting an extension valid enough?” And look, I’m not your parent, spouse, therapist, agent, or (odds are) your editor. Most importantly, though, is that I’m not you. So I’m not really in a position to say definitively yes or no. But! (And it’s a big but! Please keep reading!)

But what I can say is this: If your deadline, as it stands, is either currently causing you distress or you think it will eventually cause you distress (even if you’re not at that point yet), then it is completely valid for you to open up this conversation with your agent/editor. In fact, it’s probably to everyone’s benefit for you to raise the concern as soon as you can. You can read more about that below.

And look: At the end of the day, publishing is a business, and while sometimes that can mean stressful situations, no business is worth more than a person’s well-being, including yours.

Is It Okay To Ask For An Extension?

Yes! If my little intro to this post and my answer to the previous question didn’t explain it well enough: It is always okay to ask. I’m not going to say the timeline you’re requesting will be feasible without repercussions, but by starting an open conversation with your editor (and agent), compromise is almost always possible

When Can I Ask For An Extension?

The real answer is: Whenever you need one! But if you’re anything like me, you want to understand the full context of your question, because every action does still create a reaction, and not all extension requests are the same.

As you may know by now, there are multiple stages of the traditional publishing process. And even if you know about most of them, you may not think about them much. Let’s give a run-through of the deadlines you’re working toward in each stage, and what pushing them can mean. *Please note: None below should discourage you in any way from requesting an extension, and I genuinely hope this information doesn’t make you feel like you shouldn’t ask for one if you need one. All of this is just to provide context you may not be aware of otherwise. If you ever feel like you need an extension, please ask for one!

The deal-making stage

This is when your editor makes an offer to publish your manuscript. In that offer letter, there’s generally information about when a draft will be due/what season and year your book will be published in. Editors often pick specific seasons to fit marketing needs (e.g. spooky books usually publish August/September, and “summer reads” usually publish between April and June), avoid imprint list overlap (i.e. if your book is a contemporary romance, we don’t want it in the same season our imprint has two other contemporary romances releasing), and/or to fit the editor’s own list (e.g. if they already have a full list through Fall 2026, then the soonest they could acquire your book for would be Winter 2027). If you already know any of the deadlines listed in your offer letter will be difficult for you to meet, tell your agent! They can negotiate with your editor to find a date that works for everyone.

This is one of the easiest stages to adjust schedules in.

The in-between stage

This isn’t an official stage, but as mentioned above, there could be quite a bit of time between getting your offer and your book being published. In this liminal space (unless you’re, like, more than two years from publication), you might receive a schedule, even if it’s just bare-bones. If something comes up between getting those dates and beginning work with your editor that will make meeting any one of those deadlines difficult, let your editor know! They can change the plan so you start revising sooner, to allow for more buffer time with each revision; swap your editorial schedule with a different book’s editorial schedule that maybe works better for you; or possibly even move your book release to the next available ideal date to give more time in the schedule.

This is one of the easiest stages to adjust schedules in.

The developmental editing stage

This is when you’ll receive the edit letter people talk so often about. This stage usually has the most amount of time for revisions built in because you’re making larger-scale changes to the story. Also, epending on your specific circumstances, there might be some buffer time built into the schedule from here until it’s due to copyediting (CE). Sometimes, though, asking for an extension at this stage could mean that you skip a round of revisions with your editor, you lose a few days/weeks on a future round of revisions, or your manuscript will be turned in late to CE. (This, in turn, could use up the buffer that CE builds into their schedule.)

The line editing stage

This, as you may have guessed, is when your editor provides line edits on your manuscript. Turnaround in the schedule for a round of line edits is usually shorter than for developmental edits, but still longer than reviewing CE passes. This is when you’re getting close to your deadline to turn your manuscript in to CE, but there’s still usually some buffer time in the schedule with your editor, especially if you’re willing/able to have a faster turnaround in a future round of revisions.

The copyediting (CE)/proofreading stage

At this stage, your book’s schedule is no longer (basically) just between you and your editor. You also have at least one copyeditor, a managing editor, and, if your manuscript is in it’s designed PDF format, a designer and compositor. All of these people, including you and your editor, are looking at each pass for specific aspects, to try to catch/prevent as many errors as humanly possible. As you can probably guess, this takes time, and yet this stage can have some of the fastest turnarounds of your book’s overall schedule.

This can be the hardest stage to adjust schedules in.

Will There Be Repercussions For Asking For An Extension?

There can be, and they can change depending on what stage you’re in when you ask for an extension. If it’s close enough to your manuscript going to CE, then this could mean losing a round of copyedits or, if your book is a sequel, not getting the same copyeditor as your previous book. I specified a few possibilities for each stage in the previous question.

Most important to note, though, is this: If your release date never gets pushed back, every extension you ask for means there is less flexibility in the schedule later on. This is not your team being bitter or trying to get back at you for asking for another extension. It just means that we have strict deadlines to get books to printers if we want them to get to bookstores in time for release. And these deadlines are only getting stricter as supply chain issues continue to be—and I believe this is the technical term—fucked. So if the end point isn’t moving out, and you’re at the point where there’s no more buffer time left in the schedule, then there’s nothing left to give. No one is mad at you; it’s just the reality of the situation. This is why you should talk to your team as soon as you can if you need an extension, so that together, you can make an action plan. (And this doesn’t mean you’re SOL! If you’re out of buffer time but can’t make a deadline work, please see Alternatives.)

What If Everyone Hates Me For Asking For An Extension?

Look, sometimes people are assholes, and I’m not going to say otherwise. But as long as you’re not a jerk when you ask, then there’s no reason for them to be either (and if they are, well, that’s why you CC your agent. It’s their job to put jerks in their place). Like I’ve said, people from all sides of the industry ask for extensions what feels like every day. You are not and have never been alone in this. So if they’re not jerks, then they won’t hate you. And if they are jerks, then who cares if they hate you! You don’t want to work with jerks, anyway.

What If I Just Need, Like, Two Extra Days?

That is almost always fine. Just please—please—please?—tell your editor (and depending on your relationship with them, CC your agent) with as much notice as possible.

Are There Alternatives To Extensions?

You could ask about skipping rounds of revisions with your editor (not always preferred), moving your book’s release out (not always possible), or adjusting whatever’s happening in your personal life that’s the impetus for your extension request (also not always possible).

But coming up with good alternatives requires situational context. That’s why I really encourage you to have an open conversation with your team if you need an extension/adjustment on a deadline. Alternatives are possible, but they’re dependent on specifics of your scenario, and that’s something only your team will know.

Okay, So… How Do I Ask For An Extension?

First: Whenever you are having logistics-based conversations with your editor, and they have an assistant, I cannot recommend you CC’ing their assistant enough. (For my anxious friends: You don’t have to address the assistant, or change your communication style; just CC them and talk to your editor however you normally would. This information often affects the work the assistant is the one doing, and including them from the get-go helps prevents miscommunications on the publisher’s end.)

Second: Similarly, for any situation that makes you worried about the response, CC your agent. It is their job to help you through this and back you up. If you forget, though, or you think it’ll be no biggie and then get a questionable response, you can always tag your agent in after the fact, and that’s totally fine.

Third: I generally recommend asking via email so everything’s written down and can be referenced in case of miscommunication or someone forgetting what was said. If you communicate better in person/via the phone, that’s totally fine! Schedule a call with your editor (and maybe invite your agent—you can ask them what they think!), have the conversation, then send your editor (and their assistant, if applicable) a follow-up confirming all of the information as you understood it.

Below is a draft template you can use and make your own. There are a lot of holes and asides because, as you’ve seen above, there are a lot of different scenarios you might need this for! But I hope having this base helps.


Subject: Deadline extension—[Title of Book]

Hi [Editor],

Hope you’re well! I’ve been working on this draft of [Title of Book], and while I think it’s going great [Side note: If it’s not going well and you’re stuck, you can say that! We’re here to help! This is our favorite part of the job! Not every editor will offer help without being asked, even if you say you’re stuck, because they don’t want to push/impose on your story if you don’t want help. So if you do want help, this is a great time to ask!], I’m not sure I’ll make our agreed-upon deadline of [date revision was due]. Would it be possible for me to turn it in on [desired new deadline] instead?

[Optional:] I know this might mess with our schedule later on, and if this new deadline makes a different stage unusually tight, I’m happy to discuss a compromise!

[Optional:] If this change will negatively affect a part of the future schedule, I’d love to talk out our options.

Thanks so much,

[Your name]

Happy writing. You got this.

❤ Elanna