Tag s | Proposals

How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How long does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail bookstore side of the equation. In the beginning, the biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process for traditional publishing takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification (customer walks in, buys something, and walks out). With indie publishing there can be nearly instantaneous gratification (one click and you are published!). But traditional book publishing is a process business. I created much of this post over eight years ago and the details stand unchanged. This is still the  norm.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers, the diversity can be quite extreme.

I know of one major publisher that can move from making an offer on a book proposal through the contract process to sending the advance paycheck within 30 days. But that is the exception.

In one case we accepted an offer for a client’s book. Two full months later the paperwork for the contract was created by the publisher. There were errors in the contract that needed to be discussed, negotiated, and revised … add another six weeks. Yet another month went by before an advance payment was received. From acceptance of a deal to paycheck was 4 1/2 months.

What is average time for the traditional publishing process?

In my experience:

1) From idea to book proposal to your literary agent: 1-3 months
2) From agent to editor and book contract offer: 2-5 months
3) From contract offer to first paycheck: 2-3 months
4) From contract to delivery of manuscript to editor: 3-9 months (sometimes longer)
(From delivery of manuscript to editor actually working on it: 2-5 months)
5) From editor to publication: 9-12 months

Total time from idea to print: approximately 2 years.

Your mileage may vary.

What has been your experience? Please do not mention specific publishers, agents, or editors by name. The industry changes every month,  and what may have been a challenge may no longer be the case.

What is the longest time our agency waited after submitting a proposal to receive an offer from a publisher (#2 on the above list)? We once received an offer from a publisher 22 months after we had submitted the proposal for consideration. When I called the author, she said, “What book was that?” She had already written two other contracted and published books in the interim! As I said above, your mileage may vary.

The shortest time? A client worked on her fiction proposal for quite a while. She customized her idea and pitch to target exactly where that publisher was currently publishing new releases. The proposal landed on the editor’s desk on Thursday. We had an offer on Monday. I repeat, your mileage may vary.

Why does it take so long?

The main challenge for most authors following the traditional publishing model is that one-year time period from delivering the finished manuscript to when it is actually published. This “delay” can easily be classified under marketing. A publisher cannot and should not start their machinery (cover design, marketing plans, etc.) until they know there will actually be a book. And they won’t know there is a manuscript until it shows up in-house.

I remember some disasters in the “old days” when the turn-around time from delivery to publication was much shorter than a year–and the author failed to deliver on time. In one case, a publisher was actually fined $5,000 by a major bookstore chain for failing to deliver a book that the chain had put in their catalog and for which they had run special marketing. The stores lost significant sales because there weren’t any books.

There was another case where the publisher jumped the gun and spent money on a cover and branding design only to have the book never be written and the contract canceled. Thus publishers won’t start on those expenses until they know they have a manuscript.

In some media circles, there is a demand for “Advance Reader Copies” (aka the ARC) six to eight months in advance of publication (either print or ebook copies). That way the media outlet can read the book, write the review, and have it published at a time that is about a month before the release of the book (i.e. Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, etc.). To achieve that means the book has to be turned in and all editing, cover design, and typesetting has to be a long way toward completion before the ARC can be created.

[I’ve left the comments from the earlier post alone. Feel free to add new thoughts below.]

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Would You Buy Your Own Book?

When I ask a room of writers if they would buy their own book if they saw it on the shelf at a major bookstore I am met with a variety of reactions. Laughter. Pensiveness. Surprise. And even a few scowls. How would you answer that question?

But the question is meant to ask if your book idea is unique. Whether it will stand out among the noise of the competition.

It is not a question of whether your book is important or valuable or even well written. It is ultimately a question of commercial viability.

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That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

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The Ultimate Sound Bite

Can you boil the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea into twenty-five words or less?

This is one of the keys to creating a marketing hook that makes your idea sellable in today’s crowded market.

You have less than a minute to make that hook work.

It is also called creating the “elevator pitch” or the “Hollywood pitch.” The goal is get the marketing department to exclaim, “We can sell that without any problem!” And ultimately to get a consumer to say, “I want that” or “I need that” or “I know someone who should have that.”

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The Wild Pitch

In honor of the upcoming baseball season I thought it would be fun to explore the art of pitching.

A couple years ago I was watching a Major League baseball game and the pitcher unleashed a horrific throw that sailed about eight feet behind the batter. It floated to the backstop without a bounce and everyone in the stadium wonder what had just happened. It looked like the pitcher lost his grip and could not stop his delivery. In baseball terms this is classified as a wild pitch.

Unfortunately many writers unleash a pitch on an agent or an editor before it is ready to deliver. Let me list a few actual letters I have received.

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Six Questions for a Literary Agent

1. What should a client expect from you as an agent? That I will work hard. That I will keep on top of the ever changing marketplace. That I will maintain my integrity as a businessman of honor and honesty. That I will protect your interests. That I will tell you the truth, about the industry, about your writing, about your ideas.
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Endorsements: How Important Are They?

How important are endorsements? (Those “blurbs” on the back of a book that exclaim “A real masterpiece!”) Let me answer with a question. When you are browsing a book title do you look at the endorsements or notice who wrote the foreword or introduction? I suspect you do without realizing …

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Who Am I? – About the Author

The author biography section in a book proposal seems to be one of the least anxiety-provoking sections, yet I often see areas that could be improved. Here are a few ideas on how to make your author bio section the best it can be.

Include a portrait

When I was an intern on Capitol Hill, one of my duties was to open the mail. On one occasion, we received a resume that included a portrait, which was not the common practice at that time. The portrait wasn’t large, and if you looked like this man, you would put your picture on everything, too. But the office manager said, “I would never hire him. He’s an egomaniac.” Now, maybe my office manager was jealous. (And no, I don’t think he’s reading this). But I thought including a picture was a great idea. On proposals, Steve Laube recommends including a portrait in the author bio. And no, no one will think you are an egomaniac. I have put together many proposals under our banner, and I can tell you that including the visual is helpful. We like portraits that are about the size of a postage stamp.

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Will You Vouch for Me?

As part of my continuing series on proposals, today I’ll talk about endorsements. This element can cause anxiety, so I hope this post will ease your mind.

When to Ask for Endorsement

Some writers tell me, “I’ll get back to you on that list as soon as I talk to the authors.” Or even, “I’ll let you know as soon as the authors read my manuscript and get back to me.” In reality, neither time is right to ask an established author to endorse your book. The time to ask is when you already have a contract and the publisher is almost ready to send advance copies to potential endorsers. Then the publisher can offer a deadline for the endorsement and the endorser can verify whether or not he has time to read and endorse the book.

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