“Hey, what’s taking so long?” The Delays in Publishing
In the publishing world, there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes even when it may not look like it. In fact, the bulk of a publisher’s (or agent’s or writer’s) efforts aren’t publicly broadcasted. When an announcement is made or a book is released, it comes on the heels of weeks, or even months, of behind-the-scenes teamwork. Because we like full transparency and providing an inside look into how we do what we do, I wanted to touch on delays; why they happen, and why they aren’t always a bad thing. So in a fashion similar to Editorial Dir. Kisa Whipkey’s What Not to Do When Querying article, here’s:
“Hey, what’s taking so long?”
The Delays in Publishing.
For organizational means, I’m going to break down “publishing” into the main phases an author and publisher go through. Please note this is specific to REUTS and how we move through these individual phases. Though other pubs may have similar processes, there isn’t a “one size fits all” method to publishing.
Number one delay: Slush.
Now, don’t assume that’s bad. Slush is just a term to describe all the submissions we receive. Some are good, and some are not so good. Kind of like snow—you’ve got the pristine, fresh snow, and then the mucky, brown snow. Mix them together, and you have slush. Not bad, just how it goes. Every publisher or agency has slush, and everyone has their own method of trudging through it.
Delay’s happen here from an overwhelming number of submissions. If you have 100 submissions looming in the slush pile, and each includes a query/synopsis and the first ten pages of the manuscript, there’s quite a lot of reading involved at the very start of the process. And, in order to make the most informed decision on whether or not to request the full manuscript, we read them all. This causes a delay at REUTS because of the unique method we’ve adopted to handle submissions. Instead of submitting to one Acquisitions Editor who then decides yay or nay (and if yay, has to convince the rest of the team to feel the same way), we have a panel consisting of the four REUTS directors. Each of our directors reads through each submission, provides their thoughts, and submits a decision. It then comes down to a majority vote. Only after a majority vote has been decided can we respond to an author regarding their submission. And at REUTS we provide a unique response email to all of our submitting authors, regardless if it’s good news or bad news.
Only then can we move a manuscript out of the “submitting” phase, and into the “reviewing” phase.
Remember, requesting an update only delays us further, since the time it takes to look up your manuscript, track down the email with any discussion, and respond back takes precious time away from actually reading your submission. Here are REUTS we always respond to a submission made. No exceptions. So if you haven’t heard from us, that’s actually better than if you had and received a rejection.
Number one delay: Reading.
If a submission makes it to the “reviewing” phase that means we’ve requested a full manuscript for further . . . review. Makes sense! This is, without a doubt, the longest part on your journey toward receiving that beloved contract offer. In requesting manuscripts with a minimum word count of 50,000 (and many times a story is well over that), it means an acquisitions team has to read a full-length book before making a decision. Just like in the “submitting” phase, our panel of four REUTS directors are involved in reviewing the full manuscript. Each director reads the manuscript, and then there’s the discussion. Since people read at different speeds, with their own set of different delays (remember: our directors have responsibilities to already signed authors outside of their acquisitions duties) there’s no way to accurately gauge how long it will take all four team members to read a manuscript. Then there’s the discussion, which is absolutely necessary, as each of our directors brings a different perspective to the table. Editorial Director Kisa Whipkey weighs in on the amount of work involved in bringing a manuscript up to publication standards. Marketing Director Summer Wier weighs in on how marketable the title would be in the current—and future—marketplace trends. This method, along with many other factors, allows us to determine whether a title will work within our collection or whether it isn’t a good fit.
We take our job very seriously, as I’m sure all Acquisitions Editors do, and that means taking our time to make sure our accrual of a new title will benefit both REUTS and—most importantly—the author.
(editing, cover design, marketing, etc…)
Number one delay: Life.
Your editor won’t be your cover artist. Your cover artist won’t be your marketer. That right there means there are at least four people working together to produce your novel. And, guess what, those four people all have lives independent of each other, independent of REUTS. Yes, you’re included in that four, too. We don’t expect an author to focus on their manuscript 24/7, just as we don’t expect our production team to focus solely on your manuscript 24/7. It’s a fact many tend to ignore: life gets in the way. Sometimes you can’t control it. Sickness, death, children, leisure . . . delays sometimes happen because of the things you can’t plan for. It doesn’t mean your editor/cover artist/etc . . . isn’t fully vested in your project. It doesn’t mean you’re not a priority in the eyes of the publisher. It just . . . happens. As much as we try to account for life-based delays, let’s face it, they’re unavoidable.
In addition, on top of those life delays each team member involved in the production of your title has at least a handful of other books they’re also working on, simultaneously, and trying to make sure all authors receive the same amount of attention, especially if one of the authors has a book release looming sooner than another.
Sometimes this means we miss the original publication date, and it has to be pushed back (trust me, this happens a lot in publishing, and not just to independent presses). Many times that means scrambling until the very last second before a release day, making sure everything is set and ready to go. But always this means we’re working our very hardest for you and your manuscript. A delay doesn’t mean otherwise.
So you see, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that come together, from start to finish, to produce a book. Delays aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We’d much rather delay any phase of the process in order to give your story the time of day it deserves. In the “Submitting” phase, that means actually reading through your submission, and determining if we’re the best fit as a publisher or not. In the “Reviewing” phase, that means reading every word of that 50,000+ word story, becoming emotionally invested in your characters/world/etc… and trying to find a place for it in our collection. And then finally, in “Production”, where if everything wasn’t done digitally, our blood, sweat, and tears would stain your pages because we want to put out the very best product possible.
Publishing is largely a waiting game. That should come as no surprise. But just remember what they say:
Patience is a virtue.
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