Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why it's taking so long for my book to come out

Approximately 3756 times a day I get asked when my book is coming out, and nearly 100% of the queriers are SHOCKED when I tell them that it isn’t until March 2014. (And I got my book deal almost a year ago, so imagine the shock when I got asked back then!). Often times when I give this response, someone mentions their friend or relative whose book is coming out next month, and wants to know why mine isn’t coming out that soon too.

Fair enough.

But it’s a bit of complicated answer, so to save anyone from having to hear my awkward, rambling, nonsensical speech once again, I thought it was about time I did a blog post for the non-writers in my life to explain.

There are a couple different ways a person can go about getting a book published. One of them is traditional publishing and another is self-publishing.

Traditional publishing is when a publishing house (such as Random House, Harper Collins, etc) buys the book rights from the author. They pay the author an advance against future earnings, edit the book together with the author, design and package the book, market the book, and distribute the book to the public.

With self-publishing, the author basically becomes their own publisher. The author provides the funds to publish their book (for example on Amazon), as well as to create a cover. The author is also responsible for editing, marketing, distribution, etc. of their book.

Both forms of publishing are valid ways to get a book out there into reader’s hands. Each has their own positive and negative aspects, and no one way one way is better than the other. But I’m not going to get into detail on that because that’s not the point of this post (and also no sane author willingly enters a conversation about traditional versus self-publishing).

Why my book is taking so long to come out:

When you self-publish a book, you’re in charge—your book comes out when you’re ready to put it out. When you publish through a traditional publisher it takes much longer to see your book on the shelf (on average 1-2 years from the time you get a book deal).

My book is coming out through a traditional publisher: Random House.

1-2 years is a long time, right? Some might say painfully long. But a lot goes on in that time. A LOT. Here are some of the things:

  • The book’s editor writes an editorial letter for the author, marking all the areas that she thinks need work on a broader level. This can be anything from ‘This character isn’t working for me’ to ‘I think this particular plot needs re-thinking’. The letter can be anywhere from a single page to 30 pages long (a friend’s letter was 28 pages!). Creating this letter takes time—sometimes upwards of a few months as editors have many authors on their list and other demands on their time. Of course it also takes time to complete the changes after the author receives the letter, also sometimes months. Once the changes are made and the author ships the book back to the editor, the editor needs to read it again and:
  •  Line edit, which is basically when the editor goes through the manuscript looking for issues on a sentence level (And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get through just one round of major edits!). The editor is now looking for things like awkward wording, repeat words, sentences or paragraphs that need clarifying, etc. The editor then sends the line-edited manuscript to the author to review, make changes, and send back. When this is done:
  • The book goes to the copy editor, who looks for spelling and grammar errors that may have been missed and also for consistency issues. In my experience, copyeditors are geniuses. (Fun fact: If you’re my copyeditor, then you had to properly format ‘I want to tap that ass’ with the right quotation marks. I like to think that she loved her life when this happened). The author then receives the copyedited manuscript to read over, accept the changes, and send back to the editor. After this comes:
  • First page passes, wherein the book is printed out with the proper font and spacing that will appear in the final book. This is sent to the author, who will read it over, accept, and then send back to the editor. Are you noticing a trend here? After this comes:
  • Advance reading copies (ARCs): these are uncorrected advanced copies of the book that come out several months before publication. They’re sent to reviewers and book bloggers and are used in giveaways and probably a lot of other things I don’t know about yet because I’m not yet at this stage.
  • Of course during all this time, there’s a lot going on behind the curtains that the author never sees. The art department is busy creating a beautiful cover for the book. Marketing and publicity are generating media and public interest in your book. The subsidiary rights team is hawking your book to foreign publishers all over the world. And I know I’m probably missing many steps here.

This is all to say: it seems like a LONG time (and it is a LONG time), but a lot of really great and important stuff is going on during that time. So it’s all good. And stuff.

I’m starting to wonder if this blog post was more to make me feel better.

**For a complete guide to publishing from the point when the book is written see author Alison Cherry’s post here. Also add her book to Goodreads while you’re at it! 


  1. Very informative post! Much better than what I tell people when they ask that about your book publication date, which is, "umm, cause stuff happens, like a bunch of stuff, like umm.."

    1. Haha! That's pretty much what it sounds like when I do it too!

  2. Thanks for this post, Michelle. I really knew 99% of this (except for the 1% being why is your book not coming out tomorrow....kidding). But it's always nice to see everything explained so clearly. I am excited to see the cover of your book - I hope Indigo is on it!! :D

    1. I can't wait to see the cover too! Like, really can't wait!

  3. Of course all this stuff is important, but I still can't wait for March 2014 :-)

  4. It's cool to see this all lined out like this, especially for those of us still in the querying trenches. It's like this window into the mysterious and magical land of publishing paradise!

  5. I guess I never really realized how much goes into it! I mean I knew but to see it all written like this really puts it into perspective!

    1. I had no idea too until I was drowning in edits! :P

    2. But you seem excited which is great! Hopefully I'll be in your boat sometime soon!