Publishing 101 : How Long Does It Take?

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Ever since I embarked on my publishing journey back in 2016, friends and family have been peppering me with questions about how my book came to be. Being the practical blogger I am, I’ve decided to turn these questions into a new series here on Raincity Librarian, which I am unimaginatively calling Publishing 101. Here I’ll be tackling some of the most common questions I’ve received, and share my own experiences as a first-time published author.

Now, let me repeat that – Publishing 101 will highlight my own personal experiences, which may not necessarily reflect the experiences of other writers. I am a Canadian first-time author publishing a picture book with a small, independent Canadian publishing house, so your experiences might be very different from mine!

Still, hopefully my little ramblings will help give prospective authors a bit of insight into some of the ways in which books come to be.

And so, Question #1!

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Alas, this is one of those questions where there really is no one answer.

From start to finish, my publishing journey has taken about two years. That might seem like a long time, but in the publishing world that’s actually a pretty quick turnaround. It’s not unusual for a picture book to take four or five years to make it to market, and when you think about all the components that are involved in making a picture book, it’s easy to see why.

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First of all, there’s the manuscript. A manuscript needs to be 100% perfected and finalised before it’s placed in the hands of an illustrator, and the editing process will vary from manuscript to manuscript. My editor suggested several changes that really helped smooth out my story’s flow, and we worked closely to make the text the very best it could be. A manuscript might already be close to perfection by the time it lands on an editor’s desk, or it might need a lot of finessing, which will impact the publishing timeline.

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Once the text has been finalised, the illustration process can begin. Again, this timeline can vary wildly. A publisher might have the perfect illustrator in mind from the very beginning of a project, but often the process of selecting an illustrator can be more complicated. Illustrations are absolutely critical to the success of a picture book, and it’s vital that an artist’s aesthetic complement the spirit of a text.  It can be better to wait for just the right illustrator than to rush a project through with illustrations that just don’t quite mesh with the text.

Just as a manuscript often needs to be edited and refined through a back-and-forth process, so do illustrations, as the editor, art director and illustrator work collaboratively to create just the right artwork. The illustrations for a longer or more complex story can take considerably longer to perfect than those for a board book, for example, so there’s no gauging just how long the art process might take.

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So, once the text is finished and the illustrations are edited to perfection, it’s time to publish, right? Well, not necessarily. What font should be used for the text? Where should it be placed? What should the end papers look like? It’s time to pull in art directors, designers and all sorts of other professionals who help turn illustrations and text into beautiful, cohesive picture books. Again, depending on the complexity of the book, this process will vary.

The long and short of it is that there a number of factors that influence how long it takes for a book to be published. Some texts require very little editing, while others need a bit more finessing. Some illustrators work like lightening, others need more time to create just the right images. Some publishing houses might have heaps of staff, while others have to juggle a number of projects simultaneously.

As I first-time author I really had no idea how long my publishing journey would take, and as an impatient person, it’s been a period of personal growth, to say the least. My book has only take about two years to bring to life, which is very reasonable, but waiting to hold my book baby in my hands has been a challenge!

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I hope that this rambling post has been helpful in some way, and I look forward to tackling more “frequently asked questions” in future Publishing 101 posts.

Do you have any questions about the writing/publishing process? Let me know, and I’ll see what I can do!

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