Publication Pause

When I talk to many former colleagues and friends about my writing efforts, the inevitable comment is: "Great!  I can't wait to read your novel.  When is it being published?"

That always sends me into a long explanation about the publishing industry that starts something like this: "Well, things in the publishing world happen slowly..."

A few years ago, I  thought the big task was getting the darned book written.  Little did I realize having a manuscript is only a step along the path towards publication.  Let me provide a real (and realistic, for those parts I haven't completed yet) timeline for LEVERAGE, my first novel.

Step #1:  Design the novel -- about three weeks (actually I didn't complete this step with LEVERAGE, but have for all the subsequent novels)

Rest the material for a minimum of one month, while working on other projects.

Step #2:  Write the first draft -- LEVERAGE took me about nine months while I was working full time.  The first draft of DELIVERABLES, which I wrote during NANOWRIMO this November, took about five weeks.

Rest the material for a minimum of one month, while working on other projects.

Step #3:  Revision and Editing cycles -- LEVERAGE took six of these, which consist of an end-to-end read through, followed by a detailed set of corrections and improvements.  Each cycle takes me about three to four weeks to complete, and I rest the material for a month after each one.  INCENTIVIZE took three cycles, and I believe DELIVERABLES will take three as well.

Step #4:  Find an agent to represent your novel -- with LEVERAGE, I did this in parallel with some of the editing work.  I thought it was finished a couple of times before it was really done-done.  This process could easily take a year or more.  For me it took about four months.

Step #5:  Agent finds a publisher -- This is where I'm at currently with LEVERAGE.  We've been chasing publishers for about five months now.  I believe a reasonable amount of time to complete this process is one to one and a half years.

Step #6:  Work with the publisher to get ready for launch -- This includes preparing cover art, completing additional editing, planning the launch, and getting the book printed and distributed (and several other things I'm certainly forgetting right now).  I haven't done this yet, but I hear eighteen months to two years is pretty common.

Total time from start of a project to books in the stores -- roughly sixty months or a whopping five years.  Perhaps four years, if you already have an agent, and three if you have a publisher.  That's a very long time.

There is a faster alternative -- self-publication.  Once the end of Step #3 is reached, you contract out cover art and (perhaps) copy proofing and formatting -- then publish electronically and set up a contract for print on demand books.  From what I've read, this appears to take about three months, although once you know what you're doing, it can probably be done faster.

Total time from start of a project to books available online -- roughly eleven months.  Quite a bit faster.

At this point, I'm focusing on the traditional publishing track -- knowing I have no established brand name, and I want my titles to be distributed through the bricks and mortar stores.  But the world of publishing is changing, and with electronic formats becoming a larger and larger portion of all books sold, the choice is no longer a no-brainer.