Although publishers can turn an electronic file into a printed book in a matter of weeks — as they often do for hot political titles, name-brand authors or embargoed celebrity biographies likely to be leaked to the press — they usually take a year before releasing a book. Why so long? In a word, marketing.
If you’ve been a reader of Straight From Hel or my newsletter, Doing It Write, then you know I preach that a writer has to start marketing about 6 months out from pub date. This article pushes it even farther out than that.
If it’s a book by someone who people aren’t familiar with, on a subject that people don’t necessarily need to have, it will take nine months to a year for people to figure it out. As soon as a literary agent has sold a publisher a book, and even before it’s edited, copy-edited, proofread and indexed, the publicity wheels start turning.
You’re not just competing with other books coming out at the same time as yours, you’re competing with general news. For example, if you have a book scheduled to debut in the fall, you’re going to have to compete with all the books and pundits jostling in the election arena for publicity.
Nan Graham, the editor in chief of Scribner, said she was releasing very little fiction from July to January. “I’m never publishing a novel in the fall of an election year,” she said. “I feel bad about every single person whose novel I published in the fall of ’04 because they absolutely got no attention or no sales.”
Part of the marketing strategy for your book has to include things you may not have even realized will affect your sales. It takes months to get the word out about a book. Barnes & Noble and Borders tend to order books six months out. ARCs have to go to reviewers months in advance. If your publisher’s publicity department is pushing you, they have to try to convince magazines and TV shows to feature you.
In the end, the article’s conclusion that the wait is not the fault of the technology in publishing, but of the people in the publishing and publicity process.