On Publishing Working Differently

Ah, back from a long and glorious weekend vacation. Sailor Boy’s family took a house down the shore, as they say, and we spent the weekend fishing, boating, eating crabs, looking at the horses and chickens in the nearby barn (that was mostly Q and my nephew), throwing endless tennis balls for Rio (who had the best time of the bunch), playing board games, and reading lots and lots and lots of books. Oh, finally. Books. How I missed you!

This was the view from the front porch down to the marina.
That little orange-brown dot on the right is Rio, having the time of her life.

I’ve gotten a few questions on last week’s post about how publishers work differently and what I meant by that, so I thought I’d clarify, and I thought, also, that I’d point out that it’s not just publishers who work differently, but also markets and imprints and genres and even particular books that do. So you might be a very experienced author who starts writing for a new market (like going from adult to children’s, for example) and all of a sudden things may feel very alien.

Actually, Justine kind of already beat me to the punch on this topic, what with the time difference between Sydney and DC. Read what she said, too. Justine had a a few surprises when she moved from a University press to a Big Six Publisher, and then also when she went from Penguin to Bloomsbury.

When I moved from writing adult to writing children’s books, I was very surprised by the long, long lead times. I’d done three books with my adult house and imprint, and I was used to turning in drafts about 11-12 months out. Well, in YA, it’s closer to 18-24 months. That’s a huge difference. Books go into copyediting in children’s fiction before I’d turned in a draft of an adult book.

Unless they don’t. I know other authors who have had “crash” books that are rushed to market, or whose houses bend space and time to fit their books into a schedule, or who wait for a good four years for a book to come out (I know one author who sold her first book, then, while waiting the 42 months it took for it to be released, sold and published, very well, three other books to an entirely different publisher.)

Covers are treated very differently, depending on the house, the genre, the author, and especially the art department’s vision for the cover. I know some authors in some genres at some houses fill out “art fact sheets” where they describe scenes from the book and major characters. I have never filled out an art fact sheet. I know some authors who have chosen among a variety of potential models to pose for their cover, or who have attended the photoshoots. I have never done that, either. (In fact, my last photo shoot happened in Australia, so no one from the publisher was even there.) I know some authors who have received “cast off” covers from other photo shoots, who have never seen their covers until some blogger posted it online, who have been presented their covers as a fait accompli, and many, many other variations. So just because an author tells a story about how their cover was made, do not expect that to be a universal experience.

Neither is the whole production experience. I’ve seen some authors post online a “timeline” of “what to expect” which is utterly alien to my experience. These sorts of things are especially humorous when they come from an author with the same publisher as me. Because the thing is: it’s all different.

Some people go through one round of edits. Some go through six. Some have two or three rounds of copyedits, or a round of copyedits and line edits mixed into one. Sometimes authors are sent their second page proofs, but sometimes not, or sometimes only the pages the publisher thinks they need to review. Sometimes galleys are made from copyedited books or sometimes not or sometimes from page proofs, or even from a mix. Sometimes authors get conference calls or in person meetings with marketing teams. Sometimes not. Sometimes there are pre publication tours or post publication tours or both — but more often there aren’t any of those things.

And honestly, it’s better to know now. Before I was published, I read all these how-to articles and went to all these workshops so that I was prepared for How It Would All Be. And I made up the worksheets and met with the publishers and that Wasn’t How It Was At All. I think I could have saved myself a whole lot of trouble and frustration if I’d realized sooner that some of the advice I was getting from other authors about what your publisher likes you to do and doesn’t like you to do and will help you with or appreciate (or not) is specific to that person’s experience and publisher and book.

Talk to twenty authors — even twenty authors at the same publishing house–and they’ll tell you twenty different stories. The publisher is supportive of all their ideas; the publisher dismisses everything they come up with. The publisher bends over backwards to help them; the publisher seems hell bent on burying the book. The publisher wants them involved in every single aspect of design and cover creation, they discover the cover up on Amazon one day and email their editor to find out what’s going on.

And this is not exclusive to publishers. One thing I’ve discovered in this wild and woolly world of self publishing is that it works EXACTLY THE SAME WAY — that is, it doesn’t ever work the same way. I know a lot of people who are self-publishing and they are all doing the same things with cover and genre and pricing and promotion and trying to get assistance from websites and distributors and Amazon and etc etc etc, and they are working (or not) in wildly different ways. So the guys out there telling you to do exactly what they did and you’ll achieve self publishing success? Eh.

It’s all different.

So that’s why I’m not out there saying “Oh, this is how a book gets published.” I mean, I can tell you how each of the nine books I’ve had published got published, and having done three books with my single editor at my single imprint in my single genre, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how my fourth will go (and hey, the sky could still fall on that one), but that’s about all. I can’t even tell you how anyone else’s experience with that editor at that house at that imprint will go.

This is what is happening for me, right now. I have just turned in the final draft of my fall-’13-release to Balzer+Bray (which is Harper Collins Children’s). I have seen a comp of the cover (lovelovelove). I can’t show that comp to anyone (boobooboo). In a month or two, I should get copyedits. After I do those (and how long I have depends on how the manuscript moves through both the copyeditor and the editorial staff), the book will be typeset. Sometime next spring, we’ll do galleys and have a final cover. I think. I hope. As for marketing, it’s a bit early for all of that.

And meanwhile, I write. Because I’m already thinking about the next book.

Posted in writing industry

One Response to On Publishing Working Differently

  1. Aurelia Blue says:

    Two years ago, when I began my own book with some fuzzy white Unicorns, my sister the librarian, handed me Rampant. I had no idea how much I would love that series and subsequently fall in love with FDSTS. But I have to say, Diana, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. I truly hope we’ll both be “some place writers hang out some day,” so I can give you a great big {{{{{{{{{SISTERMAMAWRITERHUGS}}}}}}}}}} in person. This blog, your chats on Twitter, all of it have given me such a sense of calm and hope and encouragement. I think I write better because I’ve had you there to quietly share and show the way.