Off, off, and away! And how long should it take?

Well, I sent off my short romance manuscript yesterday. Now I get to wait and worry about whether the editor likes it. I’m sure she will, but you never know. As I’ve said often enough, publishing is very subjective and what one person likes, another will hate.

I have to admit, I don’t like waiting for a response any more than the next writer. But I understand that it takes time to review the dozens of submissions that publishers receive every week. Then a decision has to be made, and most publishers require approval from at least two people before offering a contract. That takes more time.

Publishing is SLOW. Yes, e-publishing is faster than print publishing, but edits take time. You still have the back and forth between editor and author as they work to make the manuscript perfect. Then there’s the production process. That adds more time to the length between contract and release.

Would I mind a release a year after signing the contract? No way! It’s better than the two years that’s so common among the big New York print publishers. And if the e-publisher waits until the edits are done to assign the release date, I know I’m not going to be told the date has to change because the manuscript needs more work. Hallelujah, a release date that’s all but set in stone! Every author’s dream, as it makes promotional a whole lot easier if you know for a fact your book will be out on such and such a day.

It appears I’m in a minority, however. I’ve heard countless authors complain about the length of time it takes for their book to come out. It doesn’t matter if it’s an e-book that’s out in a year or less or a print book that takes up to two years to come out. The complaint is the same. Why can’t my book be released sooner?

Well, there are a couple of reasons for that. The ones you as the author can control are the condition of your manuscript when you send it in and the length of time you take on revisions. When you submit to a publisher, make sure you have that manuscript polished until it shines. The more perfect the writing, the less editing it will take, thereby cutting down on the length of time between contract and release, at least with most publishers. If it’s a great story but the writing isn’t up to par, it takes more work to get the manuscript whipped into shape so it can go into production.

The other time consideration is how long you take on revisions. Now, I’m not saying you should rush through the revisions your editor requests just to get the manuscript back to the editor faster. Rushing tends to lead to mistakes and that makes the editing process take longer. But you should always meet the deadline your editor gives you. If you find a few things that could be improved that the editor didn’t comment on, by all means improve them. That may save the editor a step in the next round of edits. Don’t completely rewrite the book, however, because the story you have is the one that’s under contract. The improvements I’m talking about are taking an awkward sentence and smoothing it out, adding a bit of description to a kind of dry area, things like that. Small changes to improve the quality of the manuscript.

Now, the thing you can’t control is an editor’s schedule. Yes, your manuscript is one of his priorities, but he likely has several manuscripts under contract that all demand his time. Plus about a million other little things that add up to keep him busy beyond belief. Try to be patient with your editor. He wants to see your book released as soon as possible (just like you), but it takes time. Assuming you’ve gone with a reputable publisher, they’ll get your book out to readers as quickly as they can.

I know, none of this helps if you’re looking for instant gratification for your writing. If you’re one of those people who absolutely cannot wait longer than a week to hear what people think about your writing, consider starting a blog. It may take a while to build up a readership, but your work will be out there instantly for the world to see. Another option is self-publishing, but that takes money. A lot of times, you won’t get the same quality of editing that you’d get with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher; you may not get any editing at all. That lack of editing is likely to cost you in terms of sales, but your book will be out fast.

Remember the moral of the fable The Hare and The Tortoise. Slow and steady wins the race.

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