One of the things I’ve noticed lately is how much indie publishing is becoming similar to traditional publishing. You all know that I usually write in two subgenres, alternating between series. This helps me to see an ongoing series with a fresh perspective each time I come back to it. In an ideal universe, I’d write one book from idea to publication, then work on the next one.
It worked that way when I was unpublished. Ever since selling my first book in 1992, the process has been entirely different.
In traditional publishing, there are many people involved in the process of bringing a work to publication, and a lot of consensus needs to be built. That means stopping and starting, stopping and starting, stopping and starting. This was never my favorite part of the model, but it was how it was. For example, I would first talk to my editor about ideas for how to continue an established series. We would usually decide that we liked one or two particular ideas best (fortunately, I’ve been in agreement most of the time with my editors as to which ideas should be pursued next.) When we had agreed, I would write up a proposal. This could be a synopsis, but usually I wrote the first scene of the book, or even the first chapter. That gave me a better sense of the characters before writing the synopsis. I’d send that off to her and wait to hear back. The wait could be anywhere from two weeks to six months. If everyone in house agreed upon the idea, then she’d offer a contract, and we’d agree on a delivery date for the book manuscript. Sometimes this was right away and sometimes not. Sometimes I had other things to finish first.
Eventually, I’d get to sit down and write the book. With any luck, I’d be able to write it from start to finish, but invariably other things would pop up. The cover conference would always be held before the book was written, and quite often the cover copy would be written before the book was written. In a good editorial relationship, the author and editor discuss each at the appropriate time. When the book was finally done, I’d send it off to my editor. There would then be another wait which was never less than 60 days and could be a lot longer. If my editor had revisions or changes, we’d talk about that and I’d usually have to do them quickly. The book would leave my life again, for another 60 to 90 days while it was edited and copy edited. It would return to my desk for review, which usually had to be done immediately. Back it would go (off my desk!) for another 60 to 90 days while it was typeset, and finally, I’d get the page proofs to review before it was published. By this time, I’d be working with publicity and talking to reviewers and bloggers, setting up the promotion for the book’s on sale date.
If everything went very well (and the book was on the schedule) the elapsed time from my delivering the book manuscript to my editor and it being available for sale was usually 9 to 12 months. I’d be done with the page proofs about 90 days before publication.
You can imagine that with so many stops and starts – and many things popping up to be done immediately – it’s challenging for a writer to schedule his or her time. Working on two projects simultaneously can make for a nice balance, although as schedules became tighter, that was harder to manage. When I went indie, I was hoping for that ideal again, of working on a book from start to finish, then just having a bit of back and forth with editors and formatters immediately before publication.
The reality is that there is a great deal of stopping and starting, even in indie publishing. To be fair, I had more than many indie authors because I had so much backlist to package, edit, format and republish. This is all good, but has been pretty time consuming. I’ve re-published 16 novels and 4 boxed sets since the beginning of 2012, in addition to The Renegade’s Heart and two Dragon Legion novellas. I tend to look at those two novellas and one book and think I’ve been slacking off, but those 20 other titles can’t be left out of the equation. I wrote most of Ember’s Kiss in 2012, too.
The reversion of the Prometheus Project trilogy early this year put the release of Tupperman’s book on hold, but I was looking forward to getting those four books out into the world this fall and being (phew) caught up. I thought my stops were done, and I’d be able to juggle fewer projects at a time.
Now I don’t think that will happen. The strange thing is that those stops and starts are beginning to more clearly echo the pattern of traditional publishing. The pattern is so strong that I wonder whether there will soon be any difference at all. Everything takes longer than I expect, and seems to be taking longer with each go-round. Contractors are busier, which means they can’t always jump on a project immediately. I have to allow more time for each phase. I probably should leave 90 days for the editing process, for example, which is a whole lot like the timeline in traditional publishing for that phase.
I should leave 90 days between completion of the book and publication, in order to effectively promote it and make advance reading copies available to reviewers. A year ago, those opportunities didn’t exist, but now indie authors can sign up for Netgalley, for example, as well as other vehicles used by traditional publishing houses. 90 days to promo a completed book before it goes on sale is the same timeline as traditional publishing. Formatting remains quicker, but that too is becoming slower as formatters become busier and develop a queue. As the timeline extends, it starts to look more like the timeline in traditional publishing.
And as a result of that, the stopping and starting is multiplying, too. This week, for example, I am working on Kiss of Destiny, the third novella in the Dragon Legion trilogy of paranormal romance novellas and part of Dragonfire. The Highlander’s Curse is on my editor’s desk.
(I’m hoping to hear back from her around the end of the month. There will invariably be some questions, suggestions and changes, then I’ll get it to the formatter as quickly as possible. I really hope it will be published before I go to RWA National in July.)
I realized I needed to write the teaser for The Frost Maiden’s Kiss, so it could go in the back of The Highlander’s Curse, so I did that – and got all excited about Malcolm’s story, just in time to set it aside. Similarly, I’m working on the excerpt for Serpent’s Kiss, which is Thorolf’s story and Dragonfire #10, because it will go in the back of Kiss of Destiny. I’ll get all excited about that story, just in time to set it aside and go through Abyss one more time before it goes to my editor.
The Highlander’s Curse and The Dragon Legion Collection will need to be set up for their print editions ASAP in July, then Fallen, Rebel and Guardian need to be edited, proofed, and formatted for digital and print. I’ll be hearing back from my editor on Abyss, and probably have some changes to make there, as well. I need to do art fact sheets soon for The Frost Maiden’s Kiss and Serpent’s Kiss and send them off, to get a place in my cover artist’s line, too—especially as I want to buy exclusive images and she may need to shoot them. Finally, I have to decide if I’m going to do the 90 day review cycle before publication for either of these books, to add that time into the schedule. Meanwhile, there’s all the usual promotion stuff and conference preparation to manage for the books that are out there. This is exactly the same kind of stopping and starting I’ve been doing in traditional publishing for twenty years. (Just writing this list makes me realize why I’m sleeping so well!)
So, maybe, at the end of October after these seven titles are published, I’ll be able to sit down and write Thorolf’s story from start to finish. Maybe the ideal writing life scenario will happen. Either way, I’m not going to give you publication dates again until the book is at the formatter. Just as in traditional publishing, Murphy’s Law loves a book deadline, and you can only be sure when the book will be done when it is.