A popular post from February 2010
by Annette Lyon
After “What are you calling it?” one of the most-asked questions I get about my writing is, “So have you started anything new since your last book?”
The answer often shocks people, because often it’s not that I’ve started something new; I’ve finished something else, have turned it in, and am working on yet another project.
The reaction: “But your book just came out!”
Well, sure. But the timeline of publishing is nothing if not crazy. You don't turn in a manuscript and then see the actual book on shelves a few weeks later.
An example: I turned in the manuscript for my cookbook on October 6, 2009.
I was promptly asked many times if readers could buy the cookbook as Christmas gifts . . . in 2009. As in, two months later.
Not. A. Chance.
(This Christmas, 2010, sure you can. It's out now.)
The book was accepted quite quickly (within a month, I think). It went to editing, and then we had weeks of photo shoots and layout and design and proofing. Books with lots of illustrations and color are often printed in China, and shipping is often by boat.
Such was the case here.
That meant for the book to reach shelves in October (if you're doing the math, that's a year since submission), the book had to reach the Chinese printer in MAY.
And that's a fast turnaround as the book industry goes.
My novels usually take even longer. Even an established author with a publisher may have to wait months to get an acceptance. Then they wait more months to begin revisions. Then they do editing. Then proofing. Then they wait for typesetting, and they proof galleys. Each of those steps can take weeks or months.
And then, of course, the book needs to be printed and shipped to the warehouse and then distributed to stores, which takes more time.
One difference with novels is that they generally aren't sent to China. Most of mine have been printed in Canada, which is a bit quicker than China, but you still have to factor in a couple months for printing and shipping. (This isn't like running to Kinko's.)
So it's not at all uncommon for a book to take anywhere from 9 months (a QUICK turnaround) to 2+ years to reach shelves or anywhere in between. Release dates can be moved up or back (or both, back and forth, until it's finalized, which is maddening; the author psyche has a hard time handling changes like that).
Sometimes the release time is simply a marketing decision: we can't have two similar books with the same release date, or they'll cannibalize one another's sales. We want this new author to have a decent shot, and if they're released the same time as a best-seller, they may fade into the crowd. Or, this book will be great for Mother's Day/Christmas/other holiday so let's save it for when people shop for gifts.
The delay feels a little weird at times. You work hard to promote a book you wrote at least a year ago, when you've been living and breathing (and very excited about) at least one totally different book during that entire time (and are likely researching or drafting a third).
The moral: If and when you get a contract, keep writing. If you don't, readers will have to wait several years before they see your next book!