Okay this? Is not okay. Ever.
I’m getting really sick of seeing this reader entitlement thing where readers email the authors to demand the next book or skewer them for the release schedule not being conducive to their personal desires.
- There was a year between Touch & Geaux and Ball & Chain.
- A year (or more) between book releases is pretty much standard in the publishing industry. Anything less than a year is luck and probably some pretty creative finagling by the publisher because of marketing reasons or to coincide with a convention or other major event. Or that is a specific agreement set up by that author and their editor/publisher and is not to be used by you as a yardstick for all other book releases.
- All that to say, it is never up to the author when their books are released. That is set by the publisher according to their production calendar. The publisher has to look at how many editors they have, how many copy editors they have, what the schedule at the book printers looks like to get the book printed on time, and a host of other details for every single one of their authors. It takes a lot of work. More work than you can imagine.
- Books don’t just happen. Say your book is 100,000 words long and on a good day, you can write 3,000 of those words. ON A GOOD DAY. That doesn’t take into account life: family, job (if you have one), school, sickness, injury, grocery shopping, paying the bills, watching tv (because authors aren’t robots and deserve down time for entertainment purposes to recharge), reading books, sleeping, writer’s block, messing up and having to remove scenes and redo what you’ve already written, scrapping the project and starting over because it’s not coming together, etc. It’s still going to take you anywhere from 3-6 months to get that book done (maybe more). Then the book goes to the editor, who takes anywhere from 1-2 months to read it (sometimes shorter depending on work load and, again, production schedule). We’re at roughly 6-8 months now. Then the book goes back to the author for major revisions. Those usually take 1 month to finish. Then the editor reads it again. Other people read it for mistakes. Another few weeks (let’s say a month to keep it easy and rounded). It goes back to the author again to make corrections on the nitpicky level. Then comes all the formatting and page proofing and making sure it’s been converted in to ebook format properly and that the bound book looks good and nothing got janky in the process. This is why it takes a year.
- Stop being an asshole to authors who actually care about the books they’re writing. When you send messages like this, it does not have your intended effect of “oh sorry, my bad, I’ll get that book done faster for you.” It has the effect of “Fuck you, I really lost the motivation to write it now because it’s not going to make you happy anyway so why bother.”
And that’s just fucking shitty.
Stop being assholes to authors. If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t send the email. Bitching to them about anything, especially something they have zero control over, is malicious and, frankly, immature.
We’re better than this.
This sense of entitlement is fucking revolting.
I’d rather wait a year (or even two) for a book that doesn’t feel rushed, and the author is truly pleased with and proud of, than something that feels like it was just kicked out to placate a tiny portion of the audience.
@tristinawright covered this pretty well, but some other considerations:
1. Once the book is a) written, and b) edited (which, between writing time, multiple rounds of developmental edits, and multiple rounds of line edits, you’re looking at a 6 to 12 month process right there for most authors at most publishing houses), you then need to tack on about one whole month for technical editing alone, if the technical editing process is done with love and care.
First there’s copyediting (a full-time copyeditor will spend three-quarters of an entire full-time work week doing their first pass alone on a manuscript as long as the Cut & Run books are, and that’s assuming they have literally zero other duties, which is a grossly unrealistic assumption), which involves usually one very detailed pass between editor and author and then two or three smaller passes to clean up bits.
And then there’s proofreading, which will take a full-time proofer about half a week on an ms as long as Cut & Run’s are, and then, again, it’s got to go back to the author, and then back to the proofer and back to the author again for the little bits of cleanup. Sometimes a book will go through this stage twice, with two separate proofers, depending on how many errors the first proofer caught and how likely it is that some still remain (you can basically never eliminate 100% of proofing errors, but you aim for 99.9%, and some genres, like SF/F, tend to lend themselves to needing two sets of eyes because of all the unique usage/vocabulary they tend to introduce.)
And while all this is going on, if needs be, there is also a fact checker (typically for historical novels and non-fiction).
2. After technical editing, there’s production. Again assuming love and care, the book designer will spend about two full days creating unique interior elements such as chapter heads, drop caps, scene breaks, title page designs, and sometimes other graphics like maps. Typesetting involves not only selecting the perfect font to match the mood of the book and getting all the text elements into the right places in relation to the graphic elements listed above, but also involves going through the entire book literally word by word to hand-flow and hand-kern the text for the best possible reading experience. (This means manually adjusting the spaces between individual words, individual letters, and individual lines to make everything fit just right even when the text wants to break in awkward places.) If there’s a print and an ebook version, each version needs doing separately because one is fixed flow and one isn’t.
Once the designer’s done her job, it goes to a production proofer, who goes over the designer’s work and make sure nothing wonky happened in typesetting or that she didn’t miss any places where the kerning or flow or line breaks weren’t quite up to par. The production proofer also checks the cover design for issues (and we are assuming here that the cover design was done simultaneously with the primary editing process, since that’s how it works at our house, at least).
Then, if there’s an ebook, the book goes to conversion. That’s about a full day’s work per book. Once the book comes back from conversion, it needs to be proofed yet again, because conversion can introduce weird errors. Meanwhile, the print book goes off to the printer. And of course, once the galley comes back from the printer, that also needs to be proofed again, because sometimes printers do weird things like selectively fail to print every drop cap in chapters 8 through 12, or repeat chapter 4 twice, or who knows what else. We use two and sometimes three printers (for POD, Amazon has their own printer and then we use Ingram’s printer for everything else, and for offset we use an absolutely wonderful printer in Maine), and each printer’s proof needs to be checked by a production proofer. It takes about two hours to check each proof.
So at this point, assuming 3 to 6 months to write the book, 2 to 3 months for dev and line edits, and 1 to 2 months for technical editing and production, you’re at a bare minimum of 6 months and, more likely, somewhere closer to 11 months. Of course in the cases where the book is already written (which is NOT the case with a series author writing on contract rather than someone who just happened to sub a book written on spec), times are shorter because you can subtract the 3 to 6 months for writing, but you’re still at a minimum of 3 months and, more realistically, more like 5 months. And we’ve yet to consider a critical part of the production schedule:
3. MARKETING! Most print-first presses and (sadly only) a very small handful of e-first presses submit their books for review to the national trades: magazines like Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist and RT Book Reviews and other places that get your book in front of both readers and the very crucial book buyers at stores and libraries. Most places ask for a bare minimum 3-month lead, and from experience we can tell you that if you don’t have at least a 4-month lead, your book isn’t going to get reviewed. For some types of titles and editorial coverage, you need a 6 to 9 month lead. For all of our lead-title releases, we aim for a 7 month lead. What that means is that the book is, at the very least, edited, laid out, and printed a full seven months before the release date. For most of our titles, we aim for a 4.5 month lead because it takes a couple weeks to get ARCs printed and mailed.
If you assume the standard 4.5 month lead, on a book that isn’t yet written, you now need a bare minimum of 10.5 months and a rough maximum of 15.5 months from conception to release date. Most books are about 15 months. Books for which you’re aiming for a 6 to 9 month marketing lead can need as much as two years. When we sign a book that is already written (such as something we pick up off the slush pile, or a finished book an existing author sends their editor), it’s very uncommon for us to schedule a release any quicker than 7 months post-contract. Our average lead time for a completed book between contract signing and release date is 9 to 10 months. It’s not at all uncommon for us to sign a year or more ahead, especially with a book we know is going to need/deserve a huge marketing push that requires us to have the manuscript completed 7 or 8 months in advance.
And that’s why Abi’s books take so long to come out.
Obviously there are plenty of presses who operate much quicker than this. Especially in the e-first space, it’s very uncommon to see presses account for marketing lead times (which is a big reason why it’s so uncommon for queer romance to be reviewed in the national trades), and it’s sadly equally uncommon for e-first presses to edit or produce with love and care. (Which is not to say that there aren’t any out there who do great work; there are, but readers really need to go looking for them most of the time.) When an author signs a contract in February and their book comes out in March or April, there is absolutely zero way possible for that book to have been edited and produced the way it should have been.
So as a reader, demanding faster release times is basically saying, “I don’t care about quality.” Which is, honestly, absolutely fine, but kindly do not say it to an author’s face because that’s incredibly disrespectful of their work. That being said, there is of course no one arbiter of taste and no right way to enjoy your fiction, and nobody should ever judge anyone for their choices. And let’s face it, quality is slow and expensive, and if you’re reading three books a week, both slow and expensive can be real issues for you. There are in fact many, many presses who share the quantity-over-quality sentiment—or, if you prefer, the “good enough” mindset (which is actually a very common and well-studied consumer behavior wherein you say, for instance, “Okay, I need a blender. I don’t need 16 speeds and the ability to make snow-cones; I just want some smoothies,” so you buy the good-enough, inexpensive blender rather than the fancy $300 blender). That being said, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press copping to the “good enough” business model because admitting it means alienating a large chunk of readership who do care quite a bit about quality, but a press releasing eight books a week and paying their editors $300 a manuscript and using amateur volunteer proofers to avoid the expense of a professional is clearly more vested in quantity than quality. Still, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shopping with those presses if your primary concern is fast, cheap reads. And honestly sometimes, even at such presses, you’re going to get lovingly written books that needed very little editing to start with (or that the author had edited on their own), and so you’ll end up with a gorgeous quality read even if that’s not the press’s primary concern. But if you want a gorgeous, quality read all the time, then it’s important to take into consideration how much time careful writing, careful editing, more careful editing, yet more careful editing, careful producing, careful editing some more, and careful marketing actually takes.
And whether that matters to you or not, for goodness’s sake, please be kind, and think about what you’re really saying before you hit send. Remember that real people are writing the books you read (just as authors and publishers, conversely, must always stay keenly aware that real people are reading the books we release). There’s enough ugliness in the world; let’s not make more of it, especially in the spaces where we come to relax and unwind.