September 12, 2013
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

BookStacks

(the stacks of Queens University Library.  Books!  And girls with cuff buttons!  Two good reasons to patronize libraries.)

I’m in the middle of reading Ryan North and William Shakespeare’s To Be or Not To Be, so I am tempted to make everything into a choose-your-own-adventure story.  We’ll see how this goes!

So you’re an author who’s signed up a book with a publisher!  Of course the very first thing you will want is a due date — when, down to the second, does your editor want you to deliver this book?

Frustratingly, your editor may say something like, ‘how about September 2015, but really any time that fall is okay; just keep me updated.  And don’t worry about it if you slip into early 2016.’

Why can editors be so cavalier about their dates?

Here is a look at the editorial process from the scheduling perspective.

IF THE AUTHOR IS A NEEDS-NO-EDITING MIRACLE-THING:

Author writes first draft of book and turns it in: it’s perfect! — six months

Author draws first draft of art and turns it in: it’s perfect! — one year

Book: finished in 1.5 years!

IF THERE’S SOME EDITORIAL BACK-AND-FORTH:

Author writes first draft of book and turns it in: it needs some work; proceed to draft 2.  — six months

Author writes second draft of book and turns it in: it’s perfect! — six months

Author draws first draft of art and turns it in: it needs some work; proceed to draft 2. — one year

Author draws second draft of art and turns it in; it’s perfect! — six months

Book: finished in 2.5 years!

IF THERE’S A LOT OF EDITORIAL BACK-AND-FORTH:

Author writes first draft of book and turns it in: it needs some work; proceed to draft 2.  — six months

Author writes second draft of book and turns it in: it needs some work; proceed to draft 3. — six months

Author writes third draft of book and turns it in; it needs some work; proceed to draft 4. — six months

Author writes fourth draft of book and turns it in; it’s perfect! — six months

Author draws first draft of art and turns it in: it needs some work; proceed to draft 2. — one year

Author draws second draft of art and turns it in; it needs some work, proceed to draft 3. — six months

Author draws third draft of art and turns it in; it’s perfect!  — six months

Book: finished in 4 years!

(This doesn’t even account for things like: cover design, character design, pencils, inks, colors, outlines, plus any life crises on the part of either author or editor etc. etc. etc.  Books can take much longer than this!  How crazy is that?)

I’m not saying any one of these processes is better than the others — frequently, having lots of editorial back-and-forth is a wonderful and richly rewarding experience.  (See also: not built in a day, Rome.)  But what I am saying is that when an author is at the stage of a book where they’re pitching it to an editor and when the editor’s at the stage where they’re being pitched the book by the author, it’s difficult for either of them to say just how much editing is going to be involved — and therefore how much time is going to elapse between the contract being signed and the book being turned in.

So if you’re an author who’s concerned about your editor’s off-hand attitude to your due-dates, do not fear!  That casual attitude is typically a good sign, because it means your editor is willing to be flexible in their scheduling, and work with you to make the best book possible — however long it takes.

Your Comments are Welcome!


× 2 = two