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.