A publication file (Section 26.1) can be used to control various options that are independent of the authoring process, or for some conversions may be necessary. And the managed directories scheme requires use of a publication file (see Section 5.6). Use the -p switch to specify this file, using a path that is relative to your PreTeXt source (or an absolute path if it seems to be ignored).
Sometimes you might have need to pass stringparams to the PreTeXt script, though this will eventually be something an author will rarely do, and is more likely necessary for developers. This is accomplished with the -x flag, followed by a space separated list of (stringparam, value) pairs. Do not use parentheses, just separate with spaces. But note that -x cannot be the last option passed to the script since it makes it hard for the script to “see” the filename for your source.
pretext -vv -x debug.datedfiles no debug.chunk 0