One of the most basic decisions about any call is whether to set a soft or hard deadline for submissions. Unlike a hard deadline, which is carved in stone, a soft deadline provides authors with a target date to submit their work, with the understanding that the deadline will be extended.
A soft deadline is better than a hard deadline because:
- Authors get a date to budget their time for, while also getting a cushion in case of unforeseen problems.
- You can get a gauge of the quantity and quality of submissions and fine-tune the call if needed.
- The extension can be used to promote the call to authors who may have missed it the first time.
A soft deadline is set under the assumption that you will eventually extend it, so don’t forget to budget for the additional time. Also, soft deadlines work best when you don’t publicize the fact that they are soft deadlines. People often produce their best work when crunched for time, so don’t ruin your authors’ creative edge by hinting the deadline will be extended.
Lastly, don’t confuse a soft deadline with accepting late submissions on a case-by-case basis. A soft deadline should be applied to everyone equally, regardless of their circumstances. If you’re leaning instead toward accepting late submissions on a case-by-case basis, be sure you have clear criteria in place for determining which submissions qualify for an extension. (But that’s a topic for another post.)
BTW, a soft deadline may not be best for every situation. To see if that might be the case for you, check out our post on why a hard deadline is better than a soft deadline.