Shop Talk: Write Faster! From Manuscript to Market

There was a bit of a dustup a week or so ago when an author took exception to an email from a reader telling her to write faster. Personally, I love emails like that. It says to me that a reader has enjoyed my work and is anxious to read more. I mean, what’s not to like about that?
Her point was that, most of the time, the long months it takes a new book to be available to readers has little to do with the author, or how long it takes to write a book.
So I thought it might be interesting today to pull back the curtain a little on Great Oz-the-Publisher and talk about the process of getting a book to market.

Or, rather, the timing. The process doesn’t vary a lot from publisher to publisher, in my (admittedly limited) experience.
1.      Author turns in manuscript.
2.      Editor suggests revisions.
3.      Author turns in revised manuscript.
4.      Manuscript is either accepted or sent back by editor for another round of revisions.
5.      Once revisions are final, manuscript goes to production.
6.      Author receives manuscript with notations from copyeditor and accepts or rejects suggested changes.
7.      Author receives final typeset proof for proofreading.
8.      Advanced reading copies are produced, usually three to six months before the publication date.
9.      Publication date. The book is out, amid much rejoicing!
Sometime during all that, a cover will be rolled out, the author will be asked for dedications and acknowledgments, and a publicist will develop a plan for how a book will be promoted.
And that’s pretty much how it rolls. A step or two might be skipped along the way, but that’s typical.
What really differs between publishers is the timetable on which all those steps take place. As a general rule, it seems the bigger the publisher, the longer the release time, although a few of the big boys have experimented with releasing series in shorter time frames in the last year or so.
The release schedule for my own books has varied wildly. Royal Street was written in the spring of 2009; sold in winter 2009; released in spring 2012. For-ever! Part was my fault–it needed two rounds of revisions. There were blurbs to get since it was a first book. It takes a while to get on the pub schedule at the right time so the book gets maximum play. River Road? Written in summer of 2009 immediately after Royal Street; sold in November 2009 at the same time as Royal Street; released in November 2012. So, six months between release. Three years from manuscript to market.
After River Road came out, a lot of folks asked about the nine months that will elapse before Elysian Fields releases in August. Unlike the first two books, Elysian Fields was contracted before it was written. So it was written in late fall and winter 2011, turned in January 2012. I got first revisions in August 2012, and turned them in in September 2012. Got second revisions December 2012 and turned them in in January 2013. Now it’s on its way to production. So we still have copyedits and proofing to go. It’s just a long process, especially with a large publisher. Editors are working on multiple novels at once.
[The Penton books were almost the polar opposite, with the three novels written and taken through a whirlwind production cycle to release four months apart. And I have the ulcers to prove it. But it was fun having the stories out that fast!]
Does the “ebook revolution” change the production time? Not from the editorial end. Ebooks still need covers, revisions, editing, copyediting and proofreading. The time (and money) saved on the digital end is in the physical printing, distribution, and storage of books.
So, that’s kind of the answer to “Write faster.” Well, except that, truth be told, many of us could write faster, including me. Speaking of which….I have a deadline!
Do you get impatient waiting for new books? Are you less likely to invest in a new series if you know there will be six months to a year before a new book comes out? How many of you wait until a series is complete before reading?

UPDATE: I wish I’d thought to embed this earlier–it’s so freaking funny, and it fits today’s topic very well:

One commenter from today’s Shop Talk will receive a $10 gift Amazon or B-and-N gift card (or equivalent Book Depository order if international).

58 thoughts on “Shop Talk: Write Faster! From Manuscript to Market

  1. I do not mind the wait between books. Sort of an accepted thing in the publishing world. I like it best with just six months between books but a year seems to be the standard. After all the publisher needs to sell the books they printed. I never wait for a series to finish to start reading it. I do have some where the series has finished and I still have a book or two on my TBR pile.

    • I don’t wait either, Roger, although I do have some “must read” series that I’m behind on now (Mercy Thompson, Black Dagger Brotherhood and Dresden–all behind!).

  2. as long as the wait isn’t too long i don’t mind but it’s true that i waited for some series to be finish before starting on them just to be sure i could afford it ( not easy to know how many books there will be, and i admit it wasn’t the one at the top of my wishlist either^^))
    1 year between books can seem long but it’s quite standard like Roger says. for me 1 year it’s not a problem as long as there isn’t a cliffhanger ( 1 year of suffering not for me thanks!)

    now… i did stop a series because it was too long… it’s well written but the author did put a cliffhanger that wasn’t necdssary ( never is!!) and teh next book? not before 4years minimum! really for me 4/5 years is too long because you mature, you taste can changes etc during that time if there wasn’t a cliffhanger t could be liveable because you can read it and such then find the new one and be happy but a cliifhanger and 4 years of suffering…. bad idea

    • Ah…cliffhangers. I don’t like big cliffhangers. A mild one (like at the end of River Road…what’s going to happen with DJ and Alex) I don’t mind, but not a huge one. It really annoys me.

      Another thing that impacts the release time of books, one I didn’t think to include, was the book format. River Road, for example, was released in hardcover, so the usual practice is to wait and release the book in paperback after six months or so. The trade paperback of River Road comes out June 25, about six weeks before Elysian Fields. Those are all marketing decisions.

  3. I admit that I don’t like the wait between books (had to wait a YEAR for Frost Burned!!!!) but I certainly understand why it takes so long for the author to write and for the publisher to get the books to the shelves.

    I have noticed that a few publishers have started putting out several books in a series in a cluster – Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, for example, was published with the first three books coming out over a three month period. As a reader, I LOVE that, and I think it’s a great way to draw readers in. I doubt it’s all that practical for most authors, however.

    Most series I’ll start before the end is published, but I’m not starting Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series until the darn things finished. Same with KMM’s newest Iced series. I DESPISE cliffhangers,lol!

    • LOL. In some ways I’m glad I’m behind with the Mercy Thompson series so I won’t have that wait! I liked having books come out quickly with my PNR series, and had noticed Kevin Hearne’s first three books came out quickly–that creates a certain synergy. Of course that meant he likely had all three of those first books written when that schedule was created. I still want to read that series…badly!

    • I swear, I’m going to read them next! I just started a book coming out in May called APOCALYPSE COW. It is hysterically funny, and I hope to get the author on here for an interview next month! Then Iron Druids.

    • there are also several novella that comes betweens or before teh books but i loved the first 2 books ( i have more but i’waiting so i can read without wait^^)

  4. Sometimes I wish the next book in a series would come out faster but I read so many different series in several different genres that I have trouble keeping up with them now.

    • I know what you mean, Sandy! I love series–love being able to follow characters through multiple books. And yet an occasional standalone would be nice.

  5. I don’t mind waiting for a year for the next book in a series I really love. I usually reread the other books while waiting. Well timed and natural cliffhangers I don’t mind, but I do hate unnecessary cliffhangers: When the story has a perfectly natural rest point, but there’s one or two extra chapters added to the book to add a cliffhanger for the next book.

    I usually pre-order the next book of series I love while it’s still 25% off the normal price. This makes sure I get the book as soon as it releases.

    • There are a few series I preorder as well, so even though I’m behind in my reading, the books are on the shelf waiting for me because I KNOW I’m going to read them eventually.

      And I also hate when there’s a clearly “manufactured” cliffhanger that’s meant only to sell the next book.

  6. I do get impatient, but only b/c I love the books so much. I just tend to keep myself busy in the meantime. I will say, though, that a nice 6-9 months does give me more wiggle room for staying caught up.

    • I think six months is kind of a sweet spot for me. Gives me time to read the book before the next one, but isn’t so long that I feel the need to re-read before the new one comes out.

  7. Waiting 6-9 mos. is okay, but if I have to wait a year or more, I tend to lose interest, no matter how good the book or series is. There are just too many new and shiny books being released every week and catching my attention. If the book is released in hardcover, that’s even worse, because then I have to wait another year for the paperback and by then, I’ve completely forgotten about the book. I read in ebook format anyway, so it’s a price issue – I refuse to pay the higher price for an ebook that is currently only in hardcover.

    I don’t think the publishers realize just how many sales they are losing with their windowing practices. I can understand them keeping the price higher for the ebook in the first couple of months after release, but after that, drop the price! Otherwise, it goes to the bottom of my list, where it gets buried and then I will probably never buy it.

    • I hear you! I wasn’t happy that River Road came out in HC because of the price point, and if the series ultimately fails I will point to that as a contributing factor. It’s frustrating to have a book out that I honestly feel is a good book, knowing people don’t want to or can’t pay the asking price for it. And I don’t have any control over that. It’s especially frustrating as a new author trying to establish my writing career because it feels like an uphill, maybe even unwinnable, battle.

  8. I can’t wait until a series is complete to read it–I just can’t wait. Or, a series may have “ended” but the characters don’t know it, so the author ends up writing more; like the Del and Tiger books by Jennifer Roberson. (So glad we aren’t done with Del & Tiger). I do wish some authors would write faster, but just because I love their work and want MORE! I’m not wanting faster writing to be mean, just because I’m loving what he/she has written so far.

    • That’s why I love when readers say that to me–I take it has a huge compliment. If it weren’t for that little niggly bit about paying the mortgage, I’d love to try writing full time so I could write faster!

  9. I often wish after finishing a good book, that I already had the next one, and waiting a whole year or longer is torture at that moment. But truth be told, I read so many series and authors, that I have plenty to enjoy while I wait for the next book.
    I did enjoy the three Kevin Hearne books to come out back to back, but the rest of the books have a normal waiting period between them.
    And don’t forget the Clan of the Cavebear series by Jean M. Auel: it took her 30 years to write six books. And if you delete all the repetition in the last books, they would be half as big.
    But no, the wait between books is never a consideration, only the price.

    • Speaking of slow, one series I have been waiting to start is George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, which reminded me of a video I absolutely adore that ties in with today’s topic. I just embedded it at the end of the post. I’ve probably seen it 20 times and it still makes me laugh out loud. It’s called “George RR Martin Write Like the Wind.”

    • OMG! Clan of the Cavebear! I really thought I’d be dead and gone before Auel finished that series. I use to take it down about every three or 4 years and re-read it so that I’d be ready for each new book when it came out. I’ve had the last book since the day it was released and haven’t read it cause I don’t know if I can finally say goodbye to this series or not.

    • You haven’t? Wow. I have to admit, I really hate Jondalar in this last book (no idea if that is his English name as well!). And it could not be the last book, it is pretty open, I was expecting more. Who knows, in another 10 years or so …

  10. I hate the wait between books, I mean seriously, seriously, seriously hate it. But I’ve found something that works for me. I simply go ahead and get the books and horde them like nuts for winter on my bookshelves -often for years. When the series is complete or there are 4 or 5 books out I will read them all back to back.
    I recently spent about six days, little sleep or food, to read The Mortal Instrument series and it was awesome. Heck I didn’t even start JD Robb’s In Death series till there were about 28 books out. Then I spent about 3 months reading them in 6 book increments with a stand alone or short series between them.
    How do I manage to resist you ask? First of all I stay away from spoilers on blogs, I simply make sure that everyone is still loving that series. Well, once in awhile I’ll slip and read the first book as everyone is simply ape-shit about it, but if I do, I put it aside to re-read with the rest of the series as face it- with the amount of books I consume, I’m lucky if I remember much more than I loved it, the characters names and a few highlights. I want to remember all the twists and turns, pissy comments, overheard conversations and little bits and pieces that it’s impossible to remember after a year. In the meantime, as this is something I’ve been doing for ages, I have 50+ awesome series and unknown amounts of stand alones waiting for me on my bookshelves to read while that new series grows on another shelf. Seriously, wouldn’t you like to experience the Harry Potter series back to back as a new reader. That’s the buzz I get when I read a new series back to back even if it has been out five years. I read The Hunger Games back to back right before the movie came out and I can’t imagine the agony of waiting a year between these books. I sat at the pool reading them one weekend and cried so hard that my husband thought someone had really died. It’s so hard explaining to a non-reader that no Victor from Y&R did not die again 🙂

    • Plus I’ve explained to my kids that if I die before I get all these series read, that they can sell them on Ebay for much more money and easier if they have a complete series rather than odd books here and there.

    • LOL–good advice for the kids! I think my all-time favorite series is the Dresden Files, and I didn’t start reading it until six or seven books were out and did the same thing–spent a month reading them back-to-back. Same with the Sookie series–I think I finally dove in on book seven. I am a couple of books behind with both series now, and since both will be ending soon (Sookie, like, next month, but Dresden not for four or five more books), I might wait and just reread the whole series in one massive reading orgy.

      I have all three of the Hunger Games books but haven’t had time for them yet. they’re waiting patiently!

  11. I read multiple series, but I hate a year wait for the next book. Six months is doable. I have really enjoyed group releases like Kevin Hearne’s first three book. Loved the first book and was able to gobble up the next two right away. If I have to wait longer than a year, I’m less likely to purchase a book in the series unless it is one of my absolute favorite authors. On the other hand, if I find a new series, then I have multiple books to read right away.

    • I’m sort of right in the middle. If I have to wait a year, I’m almost assuredly going to have to re-read the last book to catch up, which is enjoyable but annoying because it takes away from reading new stuff! I had to re-read Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison before I could read Ever After. So that makes it hard. I love immersing myself into a world with multiple books as a reader. As an author, I want to say “please go ahead and buy the books so the publisher won’t cancel the series!” So it’s a yin-and-yang thing. LOL.

  12. I don’t really know for the ebook evolution, I think I would prefer to have it fully complete. Because I forget easily and it can be tricky. But it’s something I need to try to see. Otherwise I never wait for the series to be finishes it would be too long and I’m really not that patient. But it’s not a problem for me to wait, I just need to remeber I want the other books lol. I usually remember and check all the time the releases date. But it’s not a problem to wait for a book as soon as I know that we’ll have a new one. I buy what I want and don’t really look at the dates for the sequels.

    • Same here. I read so much that I forget (I refuse, in my own case, to say it’s impending old age!) between books what happened. I think one reason I love the Dresden series so much is that the first six or seven books were out before I discovered it, and I devoured them back-to-back.

  13. I have to be honest and say that there have been times that I was impatient waiting for the next book in a series. Most of the time, if I am caught up on a series and it will be a while before the next book comes out, I just start a new series. I can’t even count how many series I am reading. I keep track on a calendar when the new books are coming out, that way I can be ready for them.


    • The calendar’s a good idea! I think there’s a site (I want to say FictFact? or something like that) where you can put your series in and they send you email notifications when the series has a new addition.

  14. I’m impatient yes, but I understand that the books can’t be released any sooner than they are. If I really get invested in a series, I’ll buy a book the instant it becomes available. I can’t fathom waiting years! until the series is finished.

    • AND the tricky thing with waiting is…how long will a series last? I mean, the Hollows series is ending at 13 books. I think Dresden will end at 20. Sookie’s ending next month. Anita Blake will be in her 20s forever. So there’s a real downside to waiting 🙂

  15. I have to admit, I get impatient waiting for books. I don’t always wait for a whole series but I do quite frequently wait for several books in the series so I can read several in a row. It’s hard to wait for the next in a series and a lot of time I’ve moved on to another great series and it’s hard to get back to that one I’ve had to wait for.
    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

    • It does take a while to get back into a series after a long break, Barb. I used to re-read the whole series when a new book came out (I did this with the Black Dagger Brotherhood until it hit book six), but after series get so long that’s impossible. So now I try to re-read (or at least speed-read) the last book before the new one, just as a refresher and to get me back into the world and the rhythm of that author’s writing.

  16. Hell yes I get impatient waiting for new books to come out but the wait has never stopped from investing in a series. I’ve never waited until all the books in a series comeout before I start reading them because I’m too impatient, I need to devour what’s available as soon as it becomes available especially if it’s a tried and true authior!

    • LOL, and that’s EXACTLY what authors love to hear, Timitra! If everyone waited, no series would ever go beyond two or three books, or however long the author’s contract is for 🙂

  17. Yes, I get impatient for books, which is why I prefer reading series back-to-back, especially if each book ends in a cliffhanger. I also find that I fall in love with a series more if I do so, rather than wait for a year for the sequel, because its like I get immersed in that world more intensely, if that makes any sense! 🙂

    • I do understand that immersion factor. Since I’ve been reading these comments it’s made me think of what I always say are my favorite series: Dresden, Hollows, Mercy Thompson, Black Dagger Brotherhood. All of those were series I didn’t discover until they were at least three books in, so I was able to really get immersed in those worlds.

  18. Sometimes I do like to wait till the whole series comes out before diving into it. Once I’m into a series I tend to gobble up books one after the other so its better. But that’s not always the case. Some books look too exciting to wait. I actually don’t mind if the author takes time to write her books. I would hate it if a favorite author of mine wrote a bad book just because it was written in a hurry. If the book is good then it was worth waiting for 🙂

    • I think it’s really fun to read a series back to back. I’ve been less tempted to do that now that i realize it hurts the series if enough people do it. But I agree, a book’s quality can’t fall victim to its schedule.

  19. the wait, hat i can handle. but the days to publishing? that’s a different story. around a month before due date, when the teaser starting to come out, is the hardest part of the wait cause it’s just making me crazy.

    • LOL. Yes, the teasers and the buildup can drive a person nuts! It’s because publishers love pre-orders; they use them as a gauge for how a book might sell.

  20. I follow so many series that someone’s always got a new one coming out. When I finish the newest _______, I do mourn for a little while, then go grab the next thing on the pile. Oh, and the little cliffhanger thing? What exactly IS going to happen between DJ & Alex?

    • Ha! That was my mild cliffhanger, wasn’t it? All questions will be answered in Elysian Fields…untili the next questions arise. How’s that for vague?!

  21. I love reading series!! And yes it is hard when you come to the end and have to wait for the next one, but like others has said I read so many different series that I always have something to read while waiting on another to come out. However wow!! I was not aware of everything that an author goes through for one book. That is amazing and now we know what take so long. I want to say thank you for explaining the process of publishing a book.
    Happy reading and writing*

    • Thanks, Teresa…yes, it’s a really involved process. Writing this serial that I’m currently in the middle of, I’m finding the steps greatly crunched together and it’s a crazy pace!

  22. I don’t mind the wait between books, because it gives me time to check out other series. I also read the books in a series as they come out, especially the ones with massive cliffhangers. Thanks for such a great post; it really gives an insight into how much work really goes into getting a book published. 🙂

    • Thanks, Breana. Cliffhangers are maddening…but they do work as far as making sure people buy the next book. I don’t mind a mild cliffhanger but the big ones? Drive me crazy!

  23. It depends on the amount of time expected to lapse between books in a series being released (and how many books are already in the series). I am in no rush to get through George R R Martin’s books since I know there is such a lengthy wait between releases. Otherwise, the amount of time in between doesn’t really bother me. I do wish Pat Rothfuss would finish his third book, but I know the wait will be worth it!

    • I have heard such good things about Patrick Rothfuss’s books, but again haven’t delved into them. They’re massive! And yes, I think he’s going to be kind of on a George RR Martin pace in putting them out. I haven’t heard a date for a third yet.

    • Wow, 3 years!?! That is definitely a long time to wait for your book to come out. The wait must have driven you crazy. I always just assumed that the process took about a year since a lot of the series I read take about a year in between books. If a book is part of a series I enjoy I definitely get impatient. I want to know what happens next 🙂 I prefer reading series so the 6mos-1yr wait doesn’t bother me but sometimes I will wait to read the first book until the second book is out so I can read them back to back (if the series is new to me and I wait a year in between the first and second book I often forget what happened in the first one). I don’t have the patience to wait for ALL the books to release so I can read them back to back though lol.

  24. It’s good to hear this. It’s easy to forget the process and it’s also easy to forget authors are people too and they have their own lives. I get so sucked into books and with all the series now, I am always anxious for the next book to come out and the series I am really into, I often want the authors to write faster. Not intended to be mean, just that I am way to anxious for the next book 🙂 A year wait is really hard and I often groan when I see there is a release date a year away, but I love the work and the series, so I wait. It’s fun to follow authors and interact with them on their blogs and facebook. I love the updates and sneak peaks and it helps to remind me that they have their own lives 🙂

  25. I thought I’d comment to this post. Hemm.. I don’t like awaiting actually especially too long waiting \(“▔□▔)/ ARGHHHH!!! Going frustate lol so I will turn to other book but sometime book is worthy too wait 😀

  26. I don’t get impatient for books to come out in faster. Or at least I don’t think that I do. I mean I don’t go around saying “why can’t so and so finish her books faster”.

    But I do find it hard because i read a lot of series. And it’s hard to have to wait a whole year in between books.

  27. Don’t like waiting for new books. Not interested in waiting for books in a series if I know they have cliffhangers.