I love book festivals.
Wordstock, last weekend in Portland, Oregon, was wonderful. How could it miss with some of the nation’s finest authors, people in the book business swapping insider knowledge about what’s new, and an audience of people who want to talk about books.
One of the highlights was PEN/Faulkner Award winning novelist T.C. Boyle’s appearance. I have enjoyed reading Boyle’s work for years. A polished speaker and fine performer, Boyle read his short story Top of the Food Chain, an ironic, but chilling account of a senate committee investigation of a Third World environmental disaster.
After the reading he told the audience that he had just finished his next novel days before beginning his current tour with his new book T.C. Boyle Stories II. The new book should be out next year, he said. Then he paused and corrected himself to say we could expect it in early 2015.
Early 2015! Twelve to fifteen months.
It was a sharp reminder that it takes a long time to publish a book.
While authors would like to see their manuscripts turned into finished books on bookstore shelves and the pages of Amazon by next week at the latest, there’s a lot that must be done for that to happen, and it takes time.
A professionally prepared book goes through three stages of editing:
- Content editing which focuses on the book’s clarity, cohesiveness and overall effectiveness as well as refining character, plot, theme and dramatic devices in fiction
- Copy editing focusing on correctness at the sentence and word level for syntax, grammar, mechanics, spelling and punctuation
- Proof reading a final check of the proof copy of the book to discover and correct any errors that may have sneaked through the production process
Each of these stages of editing is a collaborative process with the manuscript going back and forth between author and editor.
Book layout and cover design are similarly collaborative processes. Designers talk with the author about her ideas for the look and feel of the book, formulate sketches for the author’s approval, and develop the book cover and layout the interior. Again files travel back and forth several times.
When the book files are completed they go to the printer. Depending upon how busy the printer is, it may take a few days to print the book or it may take weeks.
If the book is being published by a traditional publisher the publicity, marketing and sales departments are all involved in preparations for the book’s roll-out. They may play an important role in placing the book’s release on the calendar.
Self-publishing may shorten the timeline required to produce a book, but it doesn’t eliminate the time lag between the author’s completion of her final draft and the book’s appearance. A self-publisher who employs an editor or book designer must go through the same time intensive back and forth process followed at a traditional publisher. Printers work on their own schedule no matter who is employing them.
Some self-publishing authors shorten the time to produce their books by skipping some of the steps described above. That makes things happen faster, but it can result in a less than professional looking book.
So, be patient. Making sure that all of the steps in the process of professionally publishing your book will take time, but that time is an investment in making sure that your book will be the best it can be when it does appear. That’s an investment that will be repaid when readers see the result.