A note from Laura: this post springboards from a little tidbit I shared about the title of the fall 2016 In Death title (Apprentice in Death) and the resulting “why can’t we have it now?” comments. It’s also a preventative measure for the upcoming Stars of Fortune, book 1 of The Guardians Trilogy, and the predictable “why do we have to wait for the second and third books??” (In the latter case, it’s because book 3 is not yet written.) We’re so lucky that Nora has the discipline and fast pace to give us more than one book per year but that can be lost in the fun and excitement of a new book. So let’s get a peek into what goes into a book beyond the writing.
I think I’ve tried to explain the publishing process before, but I’m going to try again, with–I hope– more detail.
Laura will often announce when I’ve finished a book or the title of an upcoming. Many readers are impatient–and I appreciate that–and wonder why they can’t just have the book NOW. It’s written, after all.
To begin, my process is generally a three draft deal. When I’ve completed the final draft, I send it to my editor and my agent. I let out a big WOO!
My editor and my agent will read the ms (manuscript). My editor–any editor–will read it through. He or she is the first reader. She–as mine’s a she–will read it to see if it engages, if it holds together, if it’s a good story, and makes sense, does the job. This read isn’t done at the office–too many meetings, too much other work for that–but most often on the editor’s own time. Mine read this last ms. over the weekend after I turned it in. The editor may make notes–have questions. Maybe something doesn’t hold together, maybe the ms needs some more work. If it does, those notes become an editorial letter or discussion, and the writer may have to do revisions. Minor or major, depending.
This triad–writer, editor, agent–all want the same thing. The best book possible. That’s work, and that’s time.
If the ms holds together, or the revisions are done, the editor then reads the ms again for a line edit. That’s line by line, editing. It takes time. It may be a very clean ms, so little has to be done, or it may need more work. Either way, this next step has to happen. Then it must be copy edited, and gets its first proofing after that.
Meanwhile, the editor is working with the art department on a cover. With Sales and Marketing on how the book will be sold in, how it will be marketed. It has to be scheduled, and this book is one among many. Accounts–bookstores, chains and independents, other venders like WalMart, Target, Costco and so on, have to be addressed–so there are book reps who deal with that. Catalogue copy must be written, Publicity has their meetings on the book–what to do there? Back cover copy, flap copy must be written. That cover has to be produced, maybe revised, produced.
None of this happens in five minutes. Or five days. Or five weeks. Or five months.
The book must be printed, produced–audio and e must be produced. If it’s a major book Advance Reader Copies are produced and seeded. And the book must be proofed again, by a proofer and by the author. Any changes resulting from the proofing must be fixed in the final product.
And yes, yes, yes, there are still going to be mistakes that slip through. You have humans, you have mistakes. A lot of people think/say: If I proofed that book, I wouldn’t have missed that mistake. Maybe not, but you’d have missed something else. If you think you’d miss nothing every time, let me just say: bollocks.
In any case. It’s a very labor intensive and creative process, on many fronts. It takes between nine months to a year to reasonably take a ms from completion to publication.
It takes a reader a matter of hours or days to read it.
Nothing, absolutely nothing is ever going to change that gap. Writers can’t write as fast as a reader reads. Editors can’t edit that fast. Publishers can’t publish that fast. That’s reality.
But! There are scads of wonderful books published every month for readers to choose from and enjoy. There are scads because there are writers and editors and publishers working their asses off to make that so.
Enjoy them. And some impatience is fine. Just don’t blame the author, the editor, the publisher when the book isn’t in your hands five minutes after that final draft is done, and the writer lets out a big WOO!
PS. I did these two galleys back-to-back in the evenings–as like my editor I have too much work to do this task during the work day. That’s two solid weeks of proofing in the evening, after a full work day–and juggling that in between signing tubs of books three days a week.
But today I made soup!