“So, when does The People Vs. Cecelia Price come out?” a friend asked me the other day.
“Fall 2015,” I replied.
“What?!” she balked. “But you sold it a year ago!”
“So it won’t come out for TWO YEARS since it was sold?”
“Is that…” shocked face “…normal?”
There are a lot of things that the general public doesn’t understand about publishing. The biggest one, at least for me and the people I spend time with, is the amount of time it takes to publish a book through the traditional channels.
There are a couple of rules when it comes to books that come out in print – often, ebooks can be released more rapidly because of the very nature of the electronic book. But, when it comes to hard backs, paperbacks, and the like, some things are pretty standard.
1. Usually, it takes one year from when your final manuscript is accepted by your editor for the book to be published.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s pretty normal for most, mid-list authors. For bigger names or books that publishers believe will sell very well/bank on a trend, there will often be an accelerated pace of release. But those situations are rare.
2. Publishers buy books as they are, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need revisions.
Every author who sells a book gets an edit letter from their editor. It will detail the specifics of things they’d like changed. Some changes are miniscule. Some changes are complete overhauls. It depends on the editor, their style, and the book itself. But there are few authors who think that their book is perfect. On top of those revisions, you’ll also get copy edits AND pass pages, which will check all the grammar and formatting. All of these things are things you, as an author, would need to address. And that takes time.
3. There are a lot of things out of your control.
This one is important, and it sort of drives the rest of my post.
Here’s the thing — sometimes things happen that you have zero influence over. Sometimes your book will get bumped from it’s publication date to another season – from May (Spring) to August (Summer) for example. Sometimes your publisher will have too many books or too many similar books coming out in one season, so they’ll move your release to balance their offerings. Sometimes no one can agree on a cover and it takes too long to pick one. Sometimes your editor is waiting on blurbs from other authors for the cover. Sometimes life just happens.
Which is why the title of this post is “limbo” — because that’s what most of this career is. There’s some hurry up and wait. There’s some straight waiting. And there are exciting, fun moments. But, mostly, there’s just waiting.
Our world is pretty much navigated by instant and near-instant gratification. The idea of waiting a couple of years for a book to come out when you could publish it yourself this afternoon on CreateSpace or Smashwords is difficult to grasp. I totally get that. There are advantages to self-publishing and that time factor is a big one. In the future, if I self-publish, I know that will be a huge difference for me.
But there are lots of things that you do get out of traditional publishing. The biggest one is that traditionally published books usually get into bookstores. It is really REALLY hard to get bookstores like B&N to carry your self-published book. (You’ll have more luck with local indies.) You also have more support in terms of publicity. Publicizing your book is a huge part of getting it sold. Otherwise, there’s a lot of shouting into the void. The book might be available, but it can easily get lost in the millions of others that are out there.
So, what do writers do with their time? What should writers do with their time?
For the most part, I suggest writing something new. I will always suggest that. The best way to combat any sort of limbo-blues is to write something else. That’s actually how The People vs. Cecelia Price was born. I was waiting for Taste Test to come out and waiting for my option book (which is Just Like the Movies) to be purchased.
Everything’s a trade off. Self-publishing is more instantaneous, but requires more work from the author in terms of time/effort/publicity. It also doesn’t come with an advance – in fact, you’ll usually shell out some money before you see any. Traditional publishing, on the other hand, takes much longer, but it’s a machine — you have editors, cover designers, publicists, and a dozen other people working on your behalf.
Neither option is a bad one and both have their own version of limbo. It’s just up to you as to how you spend that time.