She then freaked me out by saying she was also planning to pre-order my book on writing for children. Which is apparently going to arrive on her doormat in 429 days, despite the fact that...brace yourselves...not only have I not written a single word of it but also I also didn't know I'd agreed to write it. So keen is the fabulous Emma Barnes at Snowbooks that she's played a blinder of a tactic. Basically, Book Depository and Snowbooks say I'm writing it, so I must be. Bugger.
Note: I have now agreed to write it, but Write for Children is not the title, and nor is Dec 2011 the pub date. It's to be called So You Think You Can Write For Children? and will be published March 2012. AGES away. Relax.
Anyway. Let's talk about the length of time it takes to publish a book.
A. Author finishes book, sends to publisher, publisher says yes, book goes through editing and production process and is published when it's ready.
B. Publisher says, "Yes, we like your book proposal idea - when do you think you can write it by? Christmas? Lovely. So, we'll arrange our publishing schedule to fit your time-scale. Cheers."
- Egmont commissioned me to write a series of home learning books, based partly on some books I'd self-published. Series to be called I Can Learn. (Which I mention because it became and still is, very successful. And I'm very proud of it. So there. I don't earn much from it, as it's the sort of thing that's based on fees, not royalties, but parents email me and tell me I taught their child to read. So, that's nice. More money would also be nice but you can't have everything.)
- At the initial meeting, Egmont said they'd like to publish in twelve months. Lovely, I said.
- But the design, illustrations and production would all need to be done after I'd done the planning, layouts and writing of the content, they said. Fair enough, I said.
- And all that design, illustration and production would take ten months.
- Leaving me with two months? For twelve books?
- Um, no, they said.
- Oh, so, more than that, somehow? I said
- Um, no. Less. See, we need you to do the plan for each book and have it okayed by the team first.
- Leaving me with four weeks. For twelve books. From scratch.
Is that normal? Not exactly, because home learning books are not like full-length books.
Let's look at two more examples
1. My recent publishers for fiction and some full-length non-fiction, Walker Books, introduced an exceptionally cautious publishing schedule a couple of years ago, meaning that I/we had to deliver the MS of a novel 17 months before publication date. SEVENTEEN MONTHS?? WTF?
2. Write to be Published, with Snowbooks, had a delivery date of Oct 1 2010 - done! - for publication June 1 2011. That's a low-normal amount of time and I wouldn't want less time between delivery and publication. After all, my delivered MS could be drivel and need massive editing.
"Normal" is anything between the Snowbooks and Walker examples.
So, what has to be done during the time between delivery of the complete but unedited MS and publication? (Bear in mind that a huge publisher may need more time than a small one, because they have more books to handle and you do need to make sure that yours gets enough attention at every stage. And YOU should be informed and involved at every stage, too.)
- Editing - including perhaps a major revision. At this stage, you and your editor may send the MS back and forth several times until you both agree everything.
- Copy-editing - and more going backwards and forwards as the 12-year-old copy-editor suggests foolish changes to your MS and also some very important ones that you really should have noticed.
- Proof-reading - when tiny typos and widows and orphans and double spaces and wrong sort of commas are spotted.
- Cover design - and its approval by all parts of the company, and you.
- Back cover copy.
- Advance Information sheet with info for Amazon and all booksellers - this AI info is crucial and if it's not right it will be not right for ever and a day.
- Wooing of major book chains.
- Marketing plans.
- Typsetting and production.
- Insertion into appropriate catalogues.
- Bribery, corruption.
- Sales conference.
- Sending it to lots and lots of reveiwers who use it to prop up a table.
- Lots of things to do with distribution which I don't understand.
- Quite a bit of getting cross because things could always be so much better.
- The realisation that you've actually written a terrible book and everyone's going to hate it.
- Eating of chocolate.
- I've probably forgotten a few things.
Learn the art of Zen.