- The Speed of Publishing
Side 1 / Slow Publishing
Writing is a slow process. And the traditional publishing process is often an even slower one.
What writer has not heard this tune? The grooves of the publishing world’s “Slow Side” have been on continuous play for a very, very long time. It is Side One of an album that until very recently has been played as if it were the only side.
The Slow Side opens with a literary agent. In the US alone, there are more than 1,000 literary agents with many of them specializing in a particular area or subarea of writing including fiction, nonfiction, children’s, picture, middle grade, young adult, Christian, African American, and boutique. If you do not have a literary agent to pitch and sell your work, then the process of finding one can be a time consuming and frustrating one.
Many suggest that those seeking an agent submit multiple and simultaneous query letters, especially if your goal is to find the best person and not just a person. The Associated Writing Programs (AWP) recently offered to help aspiring writers to find an agent by facilitating the submission of short samples of members’ work to multiple literary agencies. If one or more of these agencies saw potential in your work, they would then schedule a meeting with you at the AWP conference to discuss the possibility of representing you to acquisitions editors.
Finding a literary agent though is just the first tune on the Slow Side of publishing. Once you have an agent, you then need to reach some type of an agreement on your book proposal. On the short end of the time spectrum, this might take anywhere from one to four months; on the long end, there are stories of agents working with authors in excess of two years on proposals.
This second cut on the Slow Side of publishing shares a resemblance with the second cut on vinyl albums. Just as the second cut on Side One is often the best tune on an album, so too must your proposal be strong in order to better your chances of landing a book contract — let alone a lucrative one. After your proposal is completed, your agent will pitch your project to various editors in the hope of selling it to them. But again, like the timeline for developing a proposal, landing a book contract can take anywhere from one month to two years for a successful result.
Now that you have an editor who is going to work on your project with you, you will need to negotiate the details of your book contract. Depending on the amount of the advance and other important details, this can be wrapped up in a couple of weeks or can drag on for months. Good news though is that most authors will move ahead with working on their final manuscript while contract details are getting sorted out. If the manuscript is complete, then it will be sent to your editor to read, which usually takes about two months. However, if the manuscript is not complete, then it may be due to the press up to eighteen months after the contract is signed.
Editors usually expect some revisions for your manuscript, which might take you anywhere from a week to a month. In the case that extensive revisions are required, then a month might become months, but hopefully not much longer. The next stage of the process is getting your manuscript into galleys, which usually takes traditional publishers anywhere from four to six months after revisions. You are then given a few weeks to read over the galleys and make corrections. Once the galleys have been corrected, then your book is sent to a printer. Depending on the quality of the printer, you might have hard copies the next day or the next month. Finally, a month or two after it ships from the printer, your book will be available in bookstores for purchase.
I review the timeline for the traditional publication process in effort to defamiliarize a familiar process. In “Art as Technique” (1917), Viktor Shklovsky...