Why is my book late, and why does it take so long to publish?

A grumpy publisher might reply:

It’s probably late because you delivered the darn thing several years late with several vital bits still missing, and now you expect your publisher to bring the book out, all squeaky clean and beautiful, in a matter of days or (let’s be generous) weeks. Sorry, it can’t be done.

Now that is a grumpy response and, for most (but not all) authors, completely unfair. Now to a more considered reply, one that will take several weeks of posts to complete.

Not science, and involving more than a handful of tasks

Let’s be honest: publishing isn’t science, let alone exact science. Any publisher worth her salt will thus add a bit of fudge to the timings of each of her book projects. And yet time and again it all goes wrong: delays happen despite the best-laid plans and added fudge.

What is it, then, that makes so many publication dates just wishful thinking? Is it the publisher, unable to organize his way out of a paper bag, or what?

Well, ‘what’ mainly (though some publishers have a fearsome record of super efficiency, others a dismal reputation for blundering chaos). The thing is that publishing a book is incredibly complicated, involving something like 100 different processes. Many of these are interdependent, meaning that if something slips here, then delays happen there and there and there as well. At the bottom of this post is a rough picture of this process.

Tracking the process

In the series of posts that follow, I aim to offer a blow-by-blow account of the publishing process. This should cover the following areas (which I’ll update with hyperlinks as posts are completed):

  • Editorial (starting here in the editorial department but proceeding to discuss types of editing and your role in it)
  • Announcement (how books are first made known to their potential readers)
  • Design (of book pages and cover, initially looking at why this is important)
  • Typesetting (looking at what it is then exploring issues related to the typesetting)
  • Proofing
  • Indexing
  • Printing
  • Shipping
  • Sales and distribution
  • Marketing and promotion (especially your role as the author)

Hopefully, this will give you an appreciation of what is happening (or about to happen) to your book and the role that you are expected to play in the process.

So hold onto your hats: our first port of call is editorial.

Production timeline given to new NIAS authors. (Note that right-hand times relate to typesetting only, left-hand to other tasks.)

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10 Responses to Why is my book late, and why does it take so long to publish?

  1. […] the Proofing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Who proofsFirst proofsWhy proof your book?Page […]

  2. […] forever to publish. (It’s not for nothing that this long series of posts on book production was initiated by the question ‘Why is my book late, and why does it take so long to publish?’) Even the most […]

  3. […] (Post #2 of the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) […]

  4. […] the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Why index?When to start on the index?Indexing […]

  5. […] the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here. This is a complete reworking of an earlier post on the same subject.) Possibly related posts: […]

  6. […] the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Who should do the indexing?Why index?When to […]

  7. […] the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here. This is a complete rewrite of an earlier post on the same subject.) Possibly related posts: […]

  8. […] (Post #10 of the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) […]

  9. […] (Post #11 of the Indexing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) […]

  10. […] (Post #1 of the Printing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.) […]

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