Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's What Year?

It seems to be the standard among big trade publishers that it takes a full year from the time the art is finished for a picture book to be published. Why is that? What's happening during that time?
So the art comes in (after rounds of sketches) usually somewhere in the middle of the galley process. The designer has too much to do, and it takes her a week or two to scan the art and put it into galleys. Galleys route past the editor, the copyeditor, the production manager maybe, and perhaps a couple other people (like a proofreader or the author), and that takes a week or two or three to pass from desk to desk, gathering comments and waiting for people to have time.

After that round of galleys, there's another couple of rounds of galleys, and each takes three weeks to a month. And then the files are sent to the printer, and you get into proofs, which also have to route. Maybe three rounds of proofs.
The proofs are approved, and the printer takes about three months. The books spend a month (ish) en route via ship from printer to warehouse, and starts shipping. Warehouse to store (or warehouse to wholesaler to store) takes a couple weeks at least and then the larger stores let incoming shipments sit in their backroom for a while before they get around to shelving them.

It's a long damn process. (By the time you see a book in the stores, you have the hardest time remembering that it's new to anybody. And your head is lost in 2010-2011, or maybe the emergencies of 2009.)
The thing that everybody in publishing can remember from when they started in the industry is the surprise they felt as just how much work a simple picture book is to create. Nobody smart enough to last in the industry comes in with the idea that a picture book is easy. But you wouldn't believe how far from "easy" the truth is.

17 comments:

Vodka Mom said...

I'm still getting used to the idea of waiting for rejections, and editing more, and re-sending, etc. I am realizing what a long grueling process it is. But, worth it, I'm sure.

literaticat said...

the other day i was complaining about some books. so boring, so old, i'm done with them, bah!

then my colleague reminded me -- they haven't even shipped yet.

I LIVE IN THE FUTURE!

christine tripp said...

The proofs are approved, and the printer takes about three months.

The really sad part about the above is, the printer gets more time then I, to create the illustrations:)

Sarah Laurenson said...

And then there's the 8 year wait for the chosen illustrator to be available. I'm glad I don't write picture books.

ae said...

Gosh. I love writing and illustrating picture books and hope that I won't have to wait eight years for myself to become available. What?

"The proofs are approved, and the printer takes about three months.

The really sad part about the above is, the printer gets more time than I, to create the illustrations:)

(Drawn and quartered);)

Will Entrekin said...

I wonder if this might perhaps be why so many authors have begun to use POD. It's well known enough that publishing's pace is rather glacial, but mightn't it be the fault of publishing and its own bureaucracy? And like vodka mom notes, it's rejections, and editing more, and re-sending.

She's sure it's worth it, but many aren't so optimistic.

Sarah Laurenson said...

One of the writers I know has to wait 8 years for the illustrator of choice to be available, so her PB is on the list 9 years from contract signing. I think it's due out in 2015 or some such ridiculous future list.

ae said...

I believe William Steig (Bill or Billy or Willy to some) was in his mid-sixties when Shrek and Pebbles were born. We know that he missed out on the movie, but did he live to see his books in print...hmmm? Hmmm?

Anonymous said...

Some smaller publishers turn them around faster. The mid-sized (50-60 books/year, backlist of 500) publisher of my most recently illustrated book cranked it out in under two months--and the end result looks it. (See my anonymous comment under EA's 9/6 post, "The Difference Between 'Well, I Want to Be Published" and "I Want to Be Published Well'). So be grateful for publishers willing to invest the time it takes to create a good quality product.

Jill Corcoran said...

I have a 4 year wait from acceptance to published to see my words in print. But, getting the RIGHT illustrator is worth the wait!

moonrat said...

hi my dear fellow editor,

i blogged today about what a successful sale number is for a literary novel. now people are asking me questions i just can't answer about children's/middle grade etc.

i know you might not feel comfortable with this question, but if you do and you don't mind stopping by, <3 etc.

Bibibi no Bobobó said...

So you have NO idea about what is to make happen an illustrated book here, in Brasil, fellow... :)

Daisy said...

Useful insights into your industry...pretty scary stuff!

Oberon said...

....i do not need approval....but i do like it.

Robert Girandola said...

What an interesting process - thank you for sharing. I am going to direct my mother and father to this site as they are both writers.

Anonymous said...

probably supply and demand. picture books last a really long time and get passed down or saved

Art said...

Did you mean to say galleys or gallows. It is true that when you submit works that include pictures it can take much much longer to get the results and often times, you're not happy with the outcome!
Sometimes it is worth all the effort and other times you wished that you had your own factory set up so that you could bypass all the anticipation and anxiety that comes with having to be accepted by the aristocratical hierarchy of publishing work. I can't believe I just wrote that, but I did!
Good Article, thanks.