Why does it take so long to publish a book? Answers!
by Gayle Lynds: What an exciting day! In the Rogue Limelight is the amazing Karen Dionne – yes, THAT Karen Dionne, author of THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER, the hypnotic psychological suspense novel that set the publishing and reading worlds ablaze with celebratory reviews and awards while topping bestseller lists around the globe.
I love Karen. Not only is she a magnificent storyteller, she’s also one of the most generous authors around. In fact, with Christopher Graham she created the immensely popular online writers’ community Backspace to help other writers achieve their dreams even before she published her first novel, FREEZING POINT, in 2007.
We’re fortunate to have her here today to share insider intelligence about the steps a publisher takes to turn a manuscript into a bound book and send it successfully on its way to store shelves across the nation. Karen wrote the following article a couple of weeks ago for her newsletter, and I was so taken by it that she gave me permission to republish it here.
Plus, just for fun, Karen has inserted three deliberate spelling and punctuation mistakes. Be sure to watch for them as you read. The answers are at the end of her blog.
And here’s the great Karen Dionne, giving us the inside scoop about how publishers do it….
As most of you know, my second psychological suspense novel, THE WICKED SISTER, is wending its way through the publishing process as we speak! Because THE WICKED SISTER won’t hit bookstore shelves until June 2020, I thought I’d share a bit of what’s going on behind the scenes to explain why it takes such a long time to turn a manuscript into a book.
After the author and her editor have agreed on the final manuscript, the editor sends the manuscript to the copy editor. The copy editor’s job is to check grammar, spelling, and internal consistency, and having recently been through the process, let me just say that copy editors are worth ten times whatever they’re paid. Punctuation, capitalization, word usage, dates, places, the novel’s internal timeline—every aspect of the text is examined in minute detail, and thank goodness, because none of us who care about language and punctuation enjoy coming across mistakes when we’re reading a book—least of all the author who wrote it!
And while we’re on the subject of copy editing, I’m currently reading Benjamin Dreyer’s Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style and learning a lot! Dyer is Random House’s longtime copy chief and his book is a sharp, funny grammar guide, offering lessons on punctuation, from the underloved semicolon to the enigmatic en dash, to the rules and nonrules of grammar, including why it’s OK to begin a sentence with “And” or “But” and to confidently split an infinitive. Dreyer will even help you brush up on your spelling—though, as he notes, “The problem with mnemonic devices is that I can never remember them.” (As a side note: how would you like to be the copy editor who was given the task of copy editing that book?)
Back to the publication process . . . after the copyedits are finalized, the book goes to layout and production, who have the job of turning what has previously existed only as an electronic file into an actual physical book. At the same time, the art department works closely with the editor and author to come up with an amazing cover. This is also when the marketing department begins working with the editorial department to develop marketing strategies to help get the book in front of the account book buyers. This includes sending ARCs, or “Advance Reader Copies,” to reviewers and influencers to create buzz for the book in advance of it’s publication.
While all of this is going on, the sales department is also working to “sell in” the book to the many and varied places who carry books—from small independent bookstores to chain bookstores, to big box stores such as Costco and Sam’s Club.
Then about six weeks before the book publishes, the publicity department kicks into high gear, working to get the book mentioned in broadcast, print, and online media. THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER was reviewed in The New York Times and featured in People and Cosmopolitan magazines thanks to the efforts of my wonderful publicity team.
Again, all of this takes place BEFORE the novel is actually published. And many of these departments continue working hard long after publication to get the book into the hands of the consumer.
I hope this overview helps folks better understand why it takes roughly a year to ready a book for publication. And here are hints to those three deliberate spelling and punctuation mistakes:
Gayle: Thank you, Karen! We’re all waiting for THE WICKED SISTER – June can’t come fast enough! And dear Readers … please tell us – did you find the highlighted mistakes?
Delighted to have Karen with us today to share these publishing insights. I'm often asked why it takes so darn long to get a book out…."a year?" many ask. Karen gives us the answers. Thanks for a great article!….Karna Small Bodman
Thanks, Gayle. The Marsh King's Daughter is a wonderful read, and its great to learn from such an esteemed author. (Did you catch my error?)
And that year goes so fast! Because at the same time it's winding it's way through the system, we're promoting the one that came before that, editing the book to come after that, and writing the one to come after THAT! Is it any wonder writers can seem a bit scatterbrained? (Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything…)
I'm still in awe of The Marsh King's Daughter–can't WAIT for The Wicked Sister!
A great explanation of a process that can sometimes seem frustrating to the author! It's good to be reminded of how many moving parts there are on the way to publication and of all the talented people who make it all happen. Thanks to Karen for allowing this piece to be reposted here. And on a "side note" – I LOVED The Marsh King's Daughter and, like Lisa, was in awe of Karen's work.
I absolutely loved this book. I know the UP of Michigan and clearly so does Karen. I loved the intricacies of Helena's relationships with her husband, daughters and the father she once adored. Absolutely one of my "best reads." I can't wait for The Wicked Sister! Thanks for sharing the evolution of a book with the Rogues.
Thank you, Gayle for your lovely and overgenerous introduction, and a huge thank you to everyone for their kind words about The Marsh King's Daughter! Your words are especially sweet because I'm a huge fan of all of YOUR work! And yes, especially to those unfamiliar with the publishing process, a year can seem like a ridiculously long time to wait for a book to be published. I hope this behind-the-scenes look lifts the curtain. Publishing is definitely a team effort!
As did I! (P.S. – there are probably some unintentional mistakes in my essay above – that's why I love copy editors!)
Karen, thanks so much for stopping by the Rogues and giving a great rundown on the process. And, BTW, I have loved Backspace from way back when. Thanks so much for that!
What a perfect explanation of the process! So glad to see you hear and can't wait for iThe Wicked Sister in 2020!