People ask me,“How long until your book comes out?” When I tell them it won’t be in bookstores until Feb. 1, they sometimes raise their eyebrows, click their tongues, and otherwise look surprised/exasperated/disbelieving. I always feel a bit defensive. I want to say, “No, it’s true. I really do have a novel coming out. I’m not making it up. It will be published. Honestly.”
Instead I joke, “It’s kind of like being pregnant.” Nine months, eight months, seven months, waiting, waiting. Yet I’m surprised at how much there is to do while I count down the days.
So why does it take so long? There are a lot of factors. Here are just a few:
- Edits — Contrary to popular myth, editors still edit. I worked with my editor to move some things around in the storyline and generally improve the manuscript. As the weeks went by, each of us would think of something that could make it even better, and I would integrate it into the novel. Next the manuscript went to a copy editor, who read with an eye toward the tiniest detail – grammar, punctuation, spelling, factual consistency. It came back to me with red marks. I went over each edit to decide whether to accept the change or find some other solution. It took me about three weeks to go over my copy edit. On my final read-through, I read the entire manuscript out loud. Last week I returned the manuscript to the publisher with my own marks and comments. And we’re not done yet. I think there are still some proofing steps ahead.
- Cover art — I was fortunate to have an editor with a vision. She had a specific artist in mind, the Italian illustrator Alessandro Gottardo, also known as Shout. She knew he could capture the mood and story of THE SNOW CHILD. Little, Brown & Co. commissioned him to do my cover. The publisher’s art department worked with my editor and the artist to come up with the final version you see on my website.
- Design — The font. The small graphic details throughout the book (hint – snowflakes). The publisher’s design team chooses each of these elements and pulls them all together.
- Catalogs — Publishers send catalogs to bookstores and libraries so they can decide what to order for their stock. These catalogs advertise books months before they are available, to give bookstores time to budget and plan for their orders and events. Earlier this summer at Fireside Books, we received the Little, Brown & Co. catalog that includes my novel. I plan to bring it home when we’re done with it at work, so I can casually leave it on the counter when visitors come over.
- Marketing — People can’t read a book they don’t know exists. We are working as a team – my editor, my publisher, my agent and myself – to find as many different ways as possible to get the word out. Unlike some Alaskans who I have vowed to never name on my blog, I’m not a celebrity. I’ll be attending book fairs and other events to introduce myself to potential readers, and my publisher will advertise THE SNOW CHILD in national venues. The publisher’s sales representatives, some of whom I got to meet while in New York City recently, are spreading the news. We’re also distributing advance reader copies to reviewers, bloggers, bookstores and other people who can help us reach more readers.
- Other books — I know. It’s shocking, but my novel isn’t the only one being released by a major publisher this year. Little, Brown & Co. alone has dozens of books each year. In the coming months, they will publish several wonderful novels, books that I’m honored to see THE SNOW CHILD next to in the catalog. Each of these books is going through the same process as mine, and that takes time, effort, and planning on the part of the publisher.
- The season — It’s pretty evident by the cover and title – THE SNOW CHILD isn’t really a July book. It was meant to be published in the winter. Just as some babies are meant to be born in February, which coincidentally happens to be my birthday month.
This is a snapshot of what I’ve learned since my book was acquired by Little, Brown & Co. It’s a surprising, complicated, and yes, sometimes agonizingly slow process, but I know the due date is bound to arrive eventually.