Why is Publishing So Slow?

One of the most common complaints about traditional publishing is how long everything seems to take. We’ve heard these grumblings for as long as I’ve been in this business, but it’s certainly increased in this digital age where immediate gratification rules.

To the author it seems like publishers do everything at a glacial pace. The funny thing is, when you work in a publishing house, you’re always moving at top speed, overwhelmed by how much needs to get done in a short amount of time. Things actually move very quickly for the editors, designers, marketing and sales people. The days fly by. Each person has dozens of projects in play at any given time, and it’s crazy managing them. They can’t do much but chuckle and shake their heads when everyone accuses them of being slow.

So why is there such a disconnect between publisher realities and author perceptions? Let’s look at a couple of different aspects.

“Publishers are SO Slow to Make Offers”

To authors, it seems like publishers (and agents) often take forever to make yes/no decisions on acquiring projects. And that makes it seem like publishing “moves slowly.” But the reason it seems slow is because your project is just one amongst dozens or hundreds on each agent/editor’s desk at any given moment. It may be taking a long time to get to yours… but it’s just because of the volume everyone is dealing with. In reality, everyone is making decisions at exactly the speed they need to, in order to fill their lists. Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it’s fast. But you can be sure that no matter where in the pile your project is, this process isn’t all about you. Don’t take the perceived slowness personally.

“Publishers Have SUCH Long Lead Times”

These days, you can get your book up for sale on Kindle within a matter of days after you finish writing it. So authors have less patience for publisher lead times, which are still often 12 to 18 months from contract to book release. Writers want to know why it’s so slow, and they’re constantly asking why publishers can’t speed it up.

Well, they could speed it up if they wanted to, and for certain (“fast track”) books, they do. But what you’re getting in that longer lead time is an editorial process to help your book shine; professional interior and exterior book design; and obviously your book gets printed and shipped to stores. That all takes time.

However, that’s not even the biggest reason for the long lead times. The fact is that even in this digital age, it’s the sales and marketing aspect that requires long lead times. This is where all those things you get with a traditional publisher that you don’t get with digital self-pub comes into play. There’s a whole marketing team that needs to read some or all of your book and plan their strategy. Even if their marketing efforts aren’t visible to you, they’re still sending your galleys out for review; contacting appropriate media outlets; and placing your book in the right retailer, wholesaler and trade catalogs, all of which require long lead times. Then there’s an entire sales team that also needs to read some or all or your book, and go out on the road to visit their accounts. This is all happening months before your book release.

So because of these very real marketing and sales realities, publishers are usually wary about a contract-to-pub span of less than 12 months.

Take It or Leave It

Of course, sometimes your long lead time is just a matter of scheduling. The publisher may want to acquire your book, but there’s no slot open until 18 months from now. Or 24 months. You have a choice to make. Sign the contract and deal with the long lead time; pass it up and hope to find another publisher who can publish you sooner; or pass it up and self-publish. (But if you’ve gone to all the trouble of getting an agent and working towards a traditional publisher, and your agent has shopped your project with due diligence and gotten you a solid offer in which the only downside is the timing, you’re probably unlikely to choose door #3.)

Is This a Dinosaur Industry?

In some ways, yes. Publishing has a long history and tradition behind it, as well as systems, practices and manufacturing realities that originated in the last century and are slow to change. But… it is changing. I imagine the next five years will see more change in the business of bringing book-length works to the masses than has occurred in the last 571 years. So, the meteor has hit, the dinosaurs are about to become extinct, and new life forms are taking over the earth. What an exciting time.

Q4U: What do you think about the glacial pace of the publishing industry? Has it bothered you? Why or why not?

TOMORROW…A decidedly more philosophical take.

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  • http://www.marniderr.com Marni Derr

    It is nice to hear that the publishing industry is open to moving forward with the times.
    As a non-fiction author, I was the one to feel rushed and pushed into getting the book done.
    My only issue with slow, was advance payments. This time around it took 6-7 weeks to receive payments after due dates were reached. In fact, my book is printed and due to release in 4 days and I have yet to see the final payment, and this is the second edition of the book!
    But that is neither here nor there. My main interest is in moving the publishing industry forward, especially in the technical sector. With software releases moving toward 6-month iterations, this will be a hard hit on books that take 12 months from proposal to publication.
    I’m very interested to see how traditional publishing adapts and changes with the times.

    • http://roberthenshaw.blogspot.com Rob Henshaw

      One reason the publishing process is slow for me is I own the world’s most crapaliciously slow laptop.

      Even though Father’s Day was just a week ago.

      Blue jeans are nice, too, though.

  • http://www.stephanie-mcgee.com Stephanie McGee

    Personally, I don’t mind the long lead time. (Until I read a book that I adore and am waiting for the next installment in the series to know what happens next. :D)

    I’d rather have a year wait time between contract and pub date. I want readers to have the best quality product I can offer, and I know that the lead time allows for that as editors and authors work together to really make that book stand out from the rest.

  • http://withinkfromthepinkpen.blogspot.com Colette McCormick

    As someone who is still trying to find an agent and get a contract soetimes the industry does seem to move very slowly. However, taking the emotion out of it and thinking about it from a business point of view, how could it be any different? I just have to be patient and keep persevering. I can do the second part but I do struggle with patience sometimes.

    • http://extremelyaverage.com Brian Meeks

      You asked how it could be any different?

      Every industry could be faster, publishing is no different.

      A company in the northwest wanted to build a new plant for making high tech computer parts. They had 2 plants already and knew that it took 41 months to get them built and running at 90% capacity. Both those projects were completed well over budget.

      The TOC (Thory of Constraints) consultant had the new plant built and running at 90% of capacity, on budget, in 13 months.

      Habitat for Humanity ran a project where they built a two bedroom house, with the same high quality of the other Habitat homes, in 24 hours.

      The very fact that the publishing industry CAN fast track a book, means that it could be faster. The problem is nobody questions the process. Or more accurately, nobody in a position to make changes, questions the methods used.

      I suspect that someday a publisher will emerge, who has realized there is a competitive advantage to speed, and the others will resist. They will do so at their own peril.

      Just my thoughts.

  • http://www.aimeelsalter.com Aimee L. Salter

    It doesn’t bother me. I’ve worked in a lot of industries. I know what goes on behind the scenes isn’t visible, but necessary. As long as my publisher gives me a window and sticks pretty close to it, I’ll be happy.

  • http://www.lynnettebonner.com Lynnette Bonner

    There are days that I hate the slowness – just before my first book was to release, time seemed to d.r.a.g. But when it came time to turn in book number 3 and the deadline was zooming at me from the horizon, I sure wished time would slow down a little. :)

  • http://whiteplatonicdreams.blogspot.com/ Tana Adams

    This sort of falls in line with my post today about the wait time concerning book sequels concerning the traditional model and self published authors and how both might effect sales.

    I don’t mind the glacial pace of traditional publishing because I’ve accepted it for what it is. I’m glad the model is changing. It will be exciting to watch it evolve into something new.

  • http://www.rosemarygemmell.com Rosemary Gemmell

    Interesting, as always. I have mixed feelings towards it all now because of the other options open to writers. My first historical romance was published by a small Canadian publisher on e-book first in May, but I still had to wait my place in the line and it took just under a year from acceptance to publication (with professional cover/editing).

    Yesterday, I published my own collection of eight previously published short stories on to Amazon Kindle myself – just because I could and it gets them another reading (hopefully!).

    However – I’m still holding out for an agent/traditional publisher for my mainstream novels and I’m prepared to keep waiting a while yet before looking at other options. So far, I have no intention of self-publishing anything that hasn’t already been published. But it’s an exciting time!

  • http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    Being patient can be difficult sometimes, but I find I always learn in those times. I tend to remind myself that with publishing, as with all things, there’s always more going on behind the scenes.

    Looking forward to your philosophical take.

    Btw, I love the Find Posts by Subject box. So cool!
    ~ Wendy

  • https://www.facebook.com/TammySnyderAuthor Tammy Snyder Author

    Sounds doable to me. Where do I sign up?! ;)
    Really, digital IS faster but come on, we do have to realistic…there is more going on in a publishing house and we know it. It does get in your craw that some can slip by faster but hey, if I had reached that status of popularity, I don’t think I’d mind being allowed first in line. It’d be a nice change from being the last kid picked to play!

  • http://davidatodd.com David Todd

    Yes, the almost imperceptible pace of getting a book published does bother me, even as an unpublished author.

    At the Write-To-Publish Confernece earlier this month, a representative of Tyndale House said they had recently done an e-book only contract for six to eight books. As I’ve been advocating that very thing, I find their approach refreshing, and forward looking. They will see how much more quickly they can get a book out, and how through low production cost e-books they can find their next best selling authors.

  • http://richardgibsonwriter.blogspot.com/ Richard Gibson

    Because my niche non-fiction book is moderately time-sensitive, the long time to print for traditional publishing was an important argument in my decision to go with print-on-demand.

  • http://alexisgrant.com Alexis Grant

    Great explainer, Rachelle!

  • http://www.lynnrush.com Lynn Rush

    The time doesn’t bug me much. It is nice to see more into why there is a long time between signing and shelf appearance. The marketing thing is so important. To get a good plan going, you need time for sure! I can totally see that.

    It’s just part of the biz, I guess. But if the end result is a book on the shelf, I think it’s worth it. :)

  • http://herzwords.com Christopher Herz

    Cover designs, editing, copy editing, proofreading, reviews, marketings. All of these make of the lead time.

  • http://cluculzwriter.blogspot.com/ joylene

    I waited so long — 21 months. Alittle longer than normal because just after I signed the publisher went on maternity leave, then the week she was due back, decided to extend it a year. I could just imagine the chaos that caused.

  • http://thejaimereports.blogspot.com Jaime Wright

    I don’t mind waiting. To me it lends itself to quality and a mad pace only stresses me :) Besides, you can only write so fast too? So if the pace is quicker, does that give a writer enough lead time to produce – and produce quality?

  • http://www.kathyholmes.net Kathy Holmes

    The lead time doesn’t bother me as much as the waiting to hear whether there’s interest. For one thing, there are so many digital opportunities and if you’re pursuing both, an agent for traditional and a digital publisher, you often hear from the digital publisher long before the agent. And that puts you in a weird position of trying to decide if you should pass up a digital offer and wait for the agent or go with the offer in hand.

  • http://www.sarahanneloudinthomas.wordpress.com Sarah Thomas

    We live in such an instant gratification society–sometimes it’s nice to let anticipation build. And as long as you’re waiting on a “yes” you haven’t gotten a “no.”

  • http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com Kristen Lowery

    I recently read a christian fiction book that I’m dreading writing a review for–and it was traditionally published by a well known Christian publishing house.

    Although the book had a decent story idea, it seemed to have barely been edited. In all fairness I will only be able to give it 2 stars.

    This same book if it had been edited well and adequate time would have been put into rewrites may have recieved up to 4 stars. The book had potential that wasn’t realized.

    The question an author needs to ask themselves is whether they will be happier with a 2 star book now, or a 4-5 star book in 18 Months.

    http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com

    • http://www.marniderr.com Marni Derr

      I wonder if it really was the ‘author’ though. In my case, the schedule was so tight the publisher didn’t even bother sending me the development edits, final layouts, or index.
      I was furious. Now that I have the print copy I don’t even want my name on it. So time is essential to developing a good book, I completely agree. But a good or a bad book is the result of everyone involved from acquisition editor all the way down to the poor author.
      I have learned so many lessons from these two books. :)

  • http://paulamartinromances.webs.com Paula

    My publisher had NO editorial process, I simply received the galleys a month before release date for typo correction only; they publish as e-book so there is no printing or shipping it to stores; and I am expected to have my own business plan and do my own marketing/promoting. Okay, they DID provide the front cover, and prepare the PDF format. But it still took 13 months from contract to release.
    Maybe I should be looking for another publisher that actually DOES all the things that take a long time, as you suggested, Rachelle!

  • http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com Kristen Lowery

    The long time between contract and publication date gives the author plenty of time to work on a sequel while they wait.

    http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com

  • http://LibertyWordWanderings.blogspot.com/ Liberty Speidel

    As an unpublished author, getting ready to dive into the query process and submit to agents, I’m not bothered by the long lead times. But, I would guess when I *AM* under contract, and I have that ultimate date when I know my book will be in stores, the days will seem to take years.

    I definitely dislike this “gotta-have-it-now” quality a lot of people seek. There’s something to be said for having to wait for things–it makes you appreciate them more.

  • http://jpkurzitza.com JP Kurzitza

    So here is the $64,000 question: If all things being equal, there’s a dynamite manuscript just burning with potential, and by your admission “…you’re always moving at top speed, overwhelmed by how much needs to get done in a short amount of time. Things actually move very quickly for the editors, designers, marketing and sales people. The days fly by. Each person has dozens of projects in play at any given time, and it’s crazy managing them”, one person in the biz is now doing the jobs of 5, the best interest of the author is NOT the priority, wait times are crazy long and royalties are insultingly low, why would any author decide to go the traditional route? Not trying it be confrontational, but rather just observing the changing publishing landscape that’s looming ever closer.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      JP, your question has been answered dozens (hundreds?) of times on blogs including this one, but bottom line, it’s a personal choice. If you want to BE a publisher and be responsible for all aspects of producing, marketing and selling your book, then you should choose self-publishing. But many writers don’t want that, and so they choose to partner with a publisher.

      Another truth is this: most authors whose books are doing well – those whose books sell 25,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 copies in the first year – wouldn’t have been able to even come close to that if they’d chosen some type of self-publishing.

      • Anonymous

        You have proof of that? That is a completely unsubstantiated and self-serving claim.

        You do know that you say the long lag time of publishing is justified, and then turn around and agree it is a dinosaur. Btw, saying that publishing moves slowly because other parts of publishing, such as marketing also move slowly, is not a justification.

        • http://www.kathilipp.com Kathi Lipp

          Anaonynous: The proof? Ask an author who has sold that amount.

          I think most writers have the fantasy that their book is so amazing it will be lifted up on the angels wings of word of mouth because it is JUST THAT GOOD.

          Yep – I’m sure it’s happened. But, unless you are Seth Godin and already have an amazing platform, it’s probably not going to happen.

          The sense of entitlement about what serves the author (or not) is astounding.

          Rachelle needs no defending, but is the least self- serving person I’ve met in a good long while. I would say that about the people I work with at my publisher. But when people talk about serving the writer, that’s when my self serving spidy-senses get activated.

        • Rachelle Gardner

          Good point about my “claim” being unsubstantiated. It’s not a generality across the board. I was thinking mostly of the writers I know whose FIRST books are doing very well through traditional publishing — 50k or more copies. Knowing these authors and their commitment to spending their time on writing as opposed to “being a publisher” and marketing their books full time, I’m pretty sure none of these people would have reached similar success on their own. Part of the equation is the genre, too, since some genres do better than others in e-book format. This will change over time, but it’s still a reality.

          In any case, my statement is based on what I’ve seen, and applies mostly to newer writers.

          • Anonymous

            Thank you for acknowleging your claim was unfounded when applied widely. Regarding debut authors, e-publishing is new, and it is impossible to predict at this point.

          • http://www.markwilliamsinternational.com mark williams international

            “Good point about my “claim” being unsubstantiated. It’s not a generality across the board. I was thinking mostly of the writers I know whose FIRST books are doing very well through traditional publishing — 50k or more copies.”

            As an agent you of course have a vested interest in keeping writers in the old system, even while recognising the old system is doomed. I don’t envy your position.

            APP figures indicate most paper published books sell less than 1000 copies, despite all this wonderful effort being out in by the publisher.

            Exactly how many “newer” writers are selling 50k or more, and over what time period?

            Our prospective agent took our debut novel under exclusive consideration and then rejected it as unsellable. In the time she had it on her desk we sold 50,000. We haven’t the heart to tell her…

            There are many, many self-published ebooks out there selling more than the 1000 the APP cites, that’s for sure.

            This despite the customer-base of ereaders being tiny compared to the paper-based market.

      • http://jpkurzitza.com JP Kurzitza

        If all things being equal, why couldn’t an indie-pubbed author make those kinds of sales? Their virtual bookshelf is forever.

      • http://lexirevellian.blogspot.com/ Lexi Revellian

        I cannot believe how meek and passive most of your commenters are!

        There is one main reason for the ridiculously long lead times in mainstream publishing – publishers have a monopoly on distribution to bricks and mortar bookstores, and this has given them enormous power. Like anyone with a monopoly, they have become lazy and
        slack.

        Now times are changing. In ten months, doing everything myself, I’ve published two novels and sold 32,000+ so far. I’m by no means unusual.

        Had I succeeded in acquiring an agent and a publisher, my first book would be sitting in a queue, while every day more bookstores close. I’d rather be where I am now.

        Lexi

  • http://www.katieganshert.blogspot.com Katie Ganshert

    Yes, it’s definitely bothered me! Only because I’m an impatient person by nature and I’m the queen of immediate gratification.

    This whole journey has taught me a big fat lesson in patience.

  • http://seobridges.com Erick Pettersen

    I’ve known I wanted to be a published novelist since I was 14. I’m now 34. After 20 years, I’m just getting to the point where I feel I have a mss I’d be proud to send out to agents.

    Being a writer is a business, just like any other business. Anyone who wants instant gratification might want to try an MML get rich quick scheme first.

    Erick

    • http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com Kristen Lowery

      …and if an author can take 20 years to write a book, 18 months extra to make everything just right is worth it. It’s only 6% of the time from start to finish.

  • http://seobridges.com Erick Pettersen

    Whoops! I’m obviously don’t always take time to edit my comments when I should. I meant MLM.

  • http://astridparamita.com Astrid Paramita

    Thank you for elaborating the process, Rachelle. It’s definitely harder to understand when we didn’t know what’s going on in the background and all we could think was they didn’t care enough for my book.

    Does it bother me? To be honest, maybe yes, especially when I’ve been writing the book for so long and then it takes longer to see it on the shelf. Then again, all the great things came through a process, so I’ll be patient :).

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t blame people who’d rather take the other option to this industry, with e-book and self publishing. I think it’s definitely a good choice for people who already have some sort of fan base and a good grip for marketing.

  • Jessica Kelley

    As an editor, I’m able to sympathize with authors on some parts of the long timeline–because sometimes, even your editor is waiting for an answer from an approval board or whatnot!

    Overall, though, the long lead time is necessary. The higher-profile authors who insist on a shorter lead time often pay the price in missed marketing opportunities, rushed editors, and even their own inability to meet writing deadlines they insisted they could!

  • http://cynthiaherron.wordpress.com Cynthia Herron

    “If it’s worth having, it’s worth the wait.”

    I think the Lord uses the waiting process as “seasoning”, Rachelle. It teaches us patience and perseverance. I know in my own life when I’ve looked back, God’s timing has been everything. Waiting isn’t easy; it’s downright uncomfortable. I’m so glad though He’s in chage and not me.

  • Jana Dean

    Time is a curious thing– I spent six years renovating a house I only lived in for six months. For some reason, I can’t sell my Mini Cooper (it’s only been for sale since last October). In the midst of both these senseless situations, God has met my housing and transportation needs.

    This side of being published, the lead times seem understandable. Once in, I hope I’ll still understand and appreciate the pace.

  • http://www.lynmillerlachmann.com Lyn Miller-Lachmann

    Excellent explanation of the reasons behind the long wait times from contract to publication. I had one novel take nearly 3 years because it was a small press that hit a financial speed-bump, and my debut wasn’t their lead title. My next novel with the same publisher took about 18 months and it seemed like lightning speed.

    What’s frustrating to me is trying to “break in” again after my editor passed away and the small press closed down. Even though my second book with them won awards and went into multiple printings, there will be at least a four-year gap between that one and my next novel. However, my late editor explained the virtue of patience in this business and using my time wisely, so that when my career finally relaunches, I expect to have a stockpile of four novel manuscripts in my genre, ready to go.

  • Kathy Janzen

    I think from my point of view that the “other” side of writing a book often seems long but when I look back to when the idea came to mind, then let it smolder and gain momentum then move to small notes, then to outline then to written word. Then editing and editing again. Waiting a year seems like a fair exchange. But that is all from an unpublished author so take it for what it is worth

  • http://barbaraannwatson.blogspot.com Barbara Watson

    Waiting, if I make it to that point, will be JUST FINE. The publisher can do their job because they are trained to do it well. Good things take time and are worth waiting for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ReginaLJennings Regina Jennings

    My publisher provides a handout describing the Marketing Process timeline – what they do 7 months out, 6 months out, etc. It reminds me of those wedding planner notebooks and in a lot of ways the process is similar.

    Yes, you can elope but you will have no guests at the wedding. Your dress won’t be the one you dreamed of and extras like a reception and bridal showers probably aren’t in the works. There might be a good reason to rush, but if you’re willing to wait your efforts to create a perfect (launch) day should be obvious.

    Your book might be perfect, your man might be perfect – but it’s good to put some thought into how you’re going to present them on your big day.

    • http://www.donnatalarico.com Donna

      Regina — perfect reply. I was thinking along similar lines. When you look at many other types of industries, there is just as long as a lead time. Take a cosmetics company for instance–they spend time on research and development, do market research, test designs/products on an audience, all the while working on ad campaigns, media buys, story pitches to top beauty magazines and blogs, etc. When you think of a book as a product, a year is NOT that long. I realize that this is not a perfect example; I’m just trying to illustrate the processes and all the other departments that are involved.

  • Anonymous

    Btw, if people are wondering how to post anonymously, you put your name as anonymous and then put your mail as anonymous@gmail.com.

    • http://readgreatfiction.wordpress.com Kristen Lowery

      …and when anonymous people write angry confrontational posts everyone else knows they’re only worth two grains of salt.

  • http://susan-swiderski.blogspot.com/ susan swiderski

    As they say, all good things come to (s)he who waits. After all the work a writer puts into creating something worthwhile, it’d be foolish to rush it to market before it’s been given every opportunity to succeed. Sure I’d like my book to get on the market today, but I’d much rather it get there “dressed for success.”

  • http://lvcabbie.blogspot.com Dale Day, MSG, USA-Ret

    I signed a contract with an e-publisher on June 18th, this year. I carefully read the contract and it explained why it will take some time to actually release the work.
    First, an editor will work with me to ensure it’s a polished and marketable as possible.
    Second, an artist/illustrator has to take the time to ensure the cover gathers public interest and best follows the theme of the novel – sending it to me for approval.
    Third, their marketing department will send pre-publication copies to reviewers to help bring attention to the work – and they have no control over that.
    And finally, it’s going to be up to ME to approve the final work.

    Is that going to happen overnight?

    Not hardly – even in this day of emails and other electronic miracles.

    Ah well – patience, patience and patience.

  • http://www.intheshadeofthecherrytree.blogspot.com Zan Marie

    I’m not going to complain if I ever get the chance to wait for my book to be published.

    BTW, I love the new look, Rachelle. This is classy.

  • http://twittertales.wordpress.com Louise Curtis

    Mostly, I understand that publishers have a lot to sort through – which is why I expect around six months as a response time, regardless of publishers’ own estimates.

    Right now, however, one of Australia’s biggest publishers has had one of my books for over two years. I appreciate that it’s hard to make a decision – but that’s a bit much.

    Louise Curtis

  • http://www.thejellybeansofwriting.blogspot.com Krista McLaughlin

    Honestly, I think that it is a long wait, but I’m willing to wait. If it has taken me this long to write the book, hours of painful editing, querying, getting an agent, and going through the process. It’s worth it to be traditionally published in my opinion. :)

  • http://www.carlastewart.com Carla Stewart

    Before I had an agent, before I had a contract, before I held a published book in my hand, I thought it was a galatial speed at which the process moved. Lucky for me, I received great advice early on and made a list of goals. Learn all I could about writing and publishing. Get an agent. Wait for God’s timing. I spent several years doing that while writing, honing my craft. It did seem slow, but preparing had its benefits. I did get the nod of an agent (bless her, she’s perfect for me) and the first contract came. And the next. NOW, it seems as if things are moving at lighting speed. While I’m juggling awards season for the debut book, I’m promoting book 2, doing edits for book 3, and bargaining with my schedule for time to write book 4. Three years ago I would have never imagined that time could move so quickly. Now I’m glad for that lead time to polish, go through the editing and marketing and design process. I’m traditionally published and am grateful that I waited and followed my “goal plan.”

    • http://godsonggrace.blogspot.com Linda Clare

      I totally agree, Carla. A good book can be written by a writer, a great book is (usually) a team effort. Linda Clare

  • http://saschaillyvichauthor.com/ Sascha Illyvich

    Authors don’t understand that depending on the backlog of submissions, sometimes a: things get lost and B: shit happens. Really. We had a LOT going on over at Sizzler Editions when I decided to ask the publisher about launching an erotic romance line. when she gave the OK, it was cool and I began acquiring submissions so we could get books out but there’s a LOT that goes into one book.

    I personally want my authors to have the best job possible done on their books, from cover art to edits. So if I’m slow, deal.

    As an author, I’ve always known there was a lead time. The model isn’t capable of being efficient, simply due to volume. As long as my book comes out and I get paid, I’m good ;)

  • http://www.pure-text.net Lauren @ Pure Text

    I just pray the traditional publishing industry will be able to evolve successfully instead of dying off altogether. I’m sure there are many who are adamant to see that this won’t happen, but things really are changing for books! And, in my opinion, only *sometimes* for the better.

  • Neil Larkins

    Two points–
    Point 1:Like any business, especially ones that have a lot invested in a product, it is essential to make the best use of your employees by loading them with all the work they can handle. Otherwise, a lot of sitting around happens and that costs money. Simple economics.
    Point 2: As in point 1, it is important to have as many t’s crossed and i’s dotted before rolling out the product in order to insure success and recoup investment. This takes time even when you’ve done it many times before.
    But two questions: How is it that a celebrity who writes a book on a timely subject gets his/her book on the market while the subject is hot? This is often done in a matter of weeks. Why no long lead time here? Or is that short time just perceived? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Neil, those celebrity books are “fast track” books and when they happen, everyone in the whole publishing chain is forced to set aside whatever else is on their desk to get the fast track book done. These books eat up a lot of resources and therefore can’t be done too often. Since they’re fast-tracked, they don’t get the long lead marketing that most books need, but like you said, these are always celebrity or extremely newsworthy books, so they’ll capitalize on all the buzz that’s already out there. They’ll be blitz marketed.

  • http://theofficialfanpageofritchiewhite.webs.com Ritchie White

    This is wonderful, great post I was wondering how to approach an agent, I am very low Budget for I live on Disability, and I am trying to find an Agent, but have no Idea what to say and how to say it. I am a western writer some fiction, and some non-fiction, but I have had no luck on my search at all. is there any advice that you may be able to give me that would help me? any will do, I am determined to publish my writing. Thanks Ritchie

    • Rachelle Gardner

      Ritchie, please see the post “How to Get Published” which you’ll find under the “Popular Posts” tab at the top of the page. You may also want to surf around the site for lots of info and other resources.

  • Brian Chilton

    Ms. Gardner: Certainly an interesting post. I’m having difficulty squaring a few things, though, based on what I hear about the industry. You assert that one of the big reasons for the long lead times is the marketing activity going on behind the scenes, but then apply that to new writers. I’m consistently hearing from my agent that as a first time novelist I should expect zero marketing/publicity assistance from even the major publishers. Assuming that’s true, how could that extend my lead time? One thing that has struck me about the publishing industry is that for the vast majority of those involved — whether writers, agents, editors — this is a part time job, something squeezed in with other responsibilities, whether in the form of family, a full time job, or usually both. That necessarily means there are going to be substantial delays as the part-time duties are repeatedly subordinated to the full time ones. In other professions/industries (I work in law), the reasons offered by the publishing industry for its inability to make decisions quickly, and then act on those decisions efficiently, would never be accepted. But once one recognizes that for most people publishing is not full time, then the slow nature of the beast seems entirely understandable.
    Cheers,
    Brian

    • anonymous

      Mr. Chilton’s remark about debut novelists (in most cases) receiving no publicity and/or marketing support from their publishers certainly rings true. This is especially true in genre fiction.

      One thing Ms. Gardner said also caught my attention. She mentioned that (any given author’s book)…

      “is just one amongst dozens or hundreds on each agent/editor’s desk at any given moment.”

      That seems completely inefficient to me. I write computer programs for a large corporation. At any given time, dozens/hundreds of projects are in the works. But each individual is generally working on just two or three projects at a time. Work on one, then work on a second while the first is being tested, then make changes to number one while number two is being tested, etc. Things get done fast. And they work.

      Yes, years ago we could get away with telling our marketing or accounting departments that would take months but we’ve become much fast and more efficient.

      I feel the main reason the publishing industry is ‘so slow’ is because they’ve been able to get away with it. They were the only game in town.

  • http://www.johuddleston.com Jo Huddleston

    Of course, the glacial progress of traditional publishing is less than desirable for all writers/authors. It’s akin to having a doctor’s appointment and sitting in their waiting room for an hour past your appointment time–the doctors over-book! (no pun intended) Any business that understands its incoming volume will maintain accommodating employee labor. From finishing a manuscript to signing contract is the slow part that is difficult to deal with. After the contract, the time element doesn’t affect me or my mindset.

    Good topic,
    Jo

  • http://apps.kellymillerauthor.com/blog Kelly Miller

    The long lead time is definitely frustrating for the author waiting to see their novel on the local bookstore shelf. But I totally understand the need to polish the product from the words to the cover to the marketing strategy. It’s one of the reasons I’m taking the traditional publishing route rather than throwing it up on an Ereader. I want the best novel possible, and I know with the publishing industry backing me, I can achieve that.

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  • http://www.dominogalaxyblog.com Matthew Thompson

    I’m just starting out as an indie author, so I don’t have the pain of waiting. Well…come to think of it, I still do. In fact I did a post on this just today.

    http://dominogalaxyblog.com/

    You have great site. I’ve been reading it over the last year or so. I put a link here on the post. I’m sure there’re many who, like me, are trying to build interest for their books.

  • http://www.deankmiller.blogspot.com Dean K Miller

    I tried to dilgently go through each comment posted. Only one mentioned what I was first thinking after reading the intial blog:

    How long does it take the book to get written?

    What would you, the author, do if you were called by a publisher and told to produce a book in 3 months? Would you barter/belly ache for more time, pleading for that it just doesn’t happen that fast? And then the publisher calls each week asking for your manuscript. How do you respond?

    I’m certainly not out to justify untimely delays or mismanaged processes, but let’s not forget the tmie and effort that went into the product in the first place.

    It would be discouraging to spend 4 hours fixing a meal, only to have it consumed in 15 minutes, even if the burp at the end was from the heart-(burn).

    When I get to the point of query and submission I’ll take what the industry has to offer. It’s my choice to sell or not. After, that, it’s my choice to continue on with that same process, or not.

    And so it goes….

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    Hi Rachelle! Great, interesting post! Ah, where to begin with this topic…

    I don’t know the perspective of a person who’s worked behind the scenes in publishing, but as a consumer I think it’s really, really weird & silly for publishers to try and introduce TECHNOLGY books that are already a year & a half old by the time the “hit shelves”. In my mind, I wouldn’t see buying an already-outdated tech book. They need to be careful with that. They try to treat all books the same with the 1 1/2 year turnover for 99% (if not all) of their books.

    Also, I see them realing biographies when people have that information online for free. You know? And there’s one other thing. As a consumer I personally won’t spend $20 on an ebook. Seriously. It’s not a hardback & their offers have tight restrictions that don’t come with hardback paper.

    If I see certain publishers charging crazy ebook prices, not only will I not buy the ebook, I won’t buy the print from their either. Let them suck it up. Sorry.

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