(this is a calendar — it’s actually the calendar on my desk)
How far ahead are the graphic novels we publish planned?
It’s early winter of 2015 right now. (I’m writing this piece on Wednesday, January 28th, as it says in the calendar above.) Right now, authors are turning in the books (or have already turned in the books) that we’re going to be publishing next winter, between January and April 2016. We’re finalizing up our lists for Spring 2016 and Fall 2016, figuring out who’s going to be delivering books to us in the next six or seven months so we can publish them next year.
Next year! That’s pretty far away.
2016 is indeed pretty far away! And the fact that the books coming out next spring and fall need to be turned in no later than six or seven months from now means that if you submitted a graphic novel to us tomorrow and it was wonderful, needed no edits, and completely finished, probably it could come out next May at the earliest. If you submitted a graphic novel to us tomorrow and you’re going to need some time to work on it, it probably won’t come out until at least 2017 or 2018 or even later.
In the meantime, we’re starting to put together our schedule for 2017. It’s not a very final schedule yet, because there’s still time for books to be late — or, in rare cases, early. But we’re taking a look at the books that seem like they’ll be done a year from now so we can make sure we have enough of them and that they balance well as a list.
We have all sorts of books signed up that are contractually scheduled to come out five or six years from now, but we typically don’t look more than two or three years out when we’re actually planning schedules. That’s because after that, everything gets pretty wibbly. When we sign contracts with authors, we put a due-date for their book in their contract, and we expect that they’ll turn their book in on time unless they notify us to the contrary somewhere along the way. But being a month early or a month late can be time enough to slide to a different season, and we frequently have authors who turn a book in saying either, ‘this took me six months less than expected’ or ‘this took me three years more than expected.’ Provided we have some notice about these things, we can figure out how to deal with these scheduling problems, but it makes planning further than two years out a bit like building castles on shifting sands.
Publishing is often accused of being a very slow business — probably because it is! There are a lot of systems in the publishing industry (the mills of God, etc.), and that makes it difficult to have an author turn in a book today and to have it in stores next week. And sometimes that’s a problem!
But sometimes, that’s the opportunity to give a book the best chance for it to be promoted broadly to everyone possible.
(thanks to Twitter for this question!)