One question that readers often ask me is: “How far in advance of publication do you work on your books?”
A friend just asked me that question while I was working in my church’s Library Cafe on Sunday. Among the library books on display, she saw my first orphan train book, With You Always, and wondered when the second book in the series was releasing and if I’d written it yet.
I told her that, yes indeed, the book is written, that it’s actually been finished for quite some time and will release in May of 2018. She was a little surprised by my response and wondered why there was such a long wait.
After working now with three different traditional publishers, I’ve learned that the publication timeline is fairly similar for most books. The traditional publication pipeline involves a number of specific steps that are spaced out to allow each process to be completed thoroughly and meticulously.
The first step involves the author turning in the first draft of her manuscript. Publishers usually set a deadline for the author about a year out from the publication date. So for example, since the second book in my orphan train series releases in May of 2018, I had to turn in my first draft by May of 2017. I actually wrote the book at the end of 2016 and gave myself time to self-edit before turning it in.
The next step is the rewrite phase. Several editors read the first draft and compile their editing notes. Their reading often takes a couple of months before they return those multiple pages of feedback to me. Then I have about a month to go through my manuscript and do the rewriting (macro or big picture edits). At this point, I might add new chapters or scenes, delete old ones, revamp the plot, add in character arcs, etc.
While all of this is going on, the publisher is in the process of coming up with a title, cover, and book summaries. I give them suggestions, but ultimately their team meets together to make the final decisions.
After I turn in my rewrites, my line editor goes through the book again and this time checks for clarity, transitions, grammar, punctuation, style, and other details. This line edit takes a couple more months.
About six months before publication, I receive the book cover which I’m allowed to show to readers. Here’s the cover I recently revealed for Together Forever.
Also about six months before publication, I get another set of edits called the Review Galleys. Each publisher handles the Review Galleys in a slightly different way. Some send a digital copy with notes in the text that need addressing. Bethany House prints out the pages, and I make changes in the margin with a bright colored pen.
I’m currently in the process of going through the Review Galleys of Together Forever. My publisher gives me approximately two weeks for this stage, my last time to make any major changes before publication.
In a couple more months after my editor incorporates my edits, I’ll see a second Review Galleys. At that final read-through, I can only make very minimal changes. While I’m editing my book for the last time, my publisher will also have proofers reading the book to catch any final errors.
During those last few months before publication, the publisher will begin sending out advance reading copies (which won’t be the final copy and may contain a few errors!). Those ACRs are usually sent to bigger reviewers (like BookList, Romantic Times, Publishers Weekly, etc.) to solicit reviews that can be used in marketing.
Finally, about a month before the release date, the book is printed. Within the following weeks, the author receives her copies, and influencers begin to receive theirs. Books are shipped to stores so that they are available by the publication date (and some may even end up in stores ahead of the date).
So there you have it! Not every traditionally published book follows the above timeline exactly. But the process is fairly consistent and hopefully gives you a glimpse into what goes on during that year between when an author turns in the first draft and the book hits shelves.
How about YOU? What surprises you most about the publication process?
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