Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Takes so Long?

What takes so long from an editor accepting a manuscript for publication and the book appearing in book stores? The process can take months or even years with a ‘Big Boy’ publisher.
Yet, there are exceptions: Books about some political scandal can appear days after the scandal comes to light; Biographies of a celebrity can be bought within a week of their death. So it can be done faster. Why isn’t it?
Small press and self-publishing don’t take that much time. How do they do it?
Editing. Every manuscript needs an editor. It may be the rare exception that only needs one comma added and one numeral (like 9) spelled out (into nine), but no publisher knows that until an edit is done. With the Big Boys, sometimes the editor who decides which manuscript to purchase is also expected to edit those manuscripts. Obviously, an established author’s manuscript will be edited before those by new authors. Small presses don’t publish as many books, and often use free lance editors, who fit their assignment into their schedule in order to meet their deadline. In my case, I ask for a month (and occasionally wish I had two).
Cover Art. This is, apparently, the next step for the Big Boys, because nothing else can happen without the pretty picture for the front. Of course this takes time, from concept through several renditions until it is ‘just right’. And then, it’s sent to somebody else to put the type (title, author, etc.) on it, and that may take several attempts before it is deemed ‘acceptable’. Remember, the Big Boys have many of these being done at the same time. Small presses, again, may work with free lance artists, who may even put the type on. Or they might use a stock photo, which takes even less time.
Reviews. I never paid attention to these myself, so I was surprised at how much emphasis is placed on getting them. In the past, reviewers expected to receive a printed book, complete with cover art, that they could read. This would be months before the book was officially published. Some still want it done this way, but others accept e-files of the book. Some small presses don’t get reviews early enough to quote them on the back of the book, so that cuts some time off the process.
Sales Materials. This seems to be a long, drawn-out ordeal for the Big Boys. Each book must get added to their catalog, the sales teams must be trained in how to best pitch it to the book stores... Many small presses don’t pitch to book stores, because the book stores won’t carry them. Therefore, their efforts for one book are simply added to the marketing of all the others they have available. Add it to their catalog and website, mention it in the newsletter and their social media comments. They might create fliers to send to gatherings of likely readers.
A typical Big Boy book stays on the shelf about 6 weeks. A small press may never ‘discontinue’ a book.

Is being published by a Big Boy worth wasting all that time? What do you think?

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