How long does it take to sell a novel? About that long.
How long it takes to sell a novel
In the last couple of weeks I’ve received several distressed e-mails from authors who have reputable agents and who have novels out on submission to editors, and really they want to trust their agents and they’re trying to be good and non-high maintenance, but seriously could the submission process really take this long?
Yes, it can.
But what if, one of these authors asked, a publisher expressed interest several months ago and then nothing has happened at all. Could they really still be interested? And if they were interested a couple of months ago why in the heck haven’t they made an offer already?
Happens all the time.
I always assure these authors to just keep in touch with their agent, be patient, take up knitting, and go easy on the bourbon. Settle in for the long haul. A book might sell in a week or it might sell in a year. You never know.
Why it takes so long to sell a novel
So why does it take so long for an editor to make a decision anyway? Well, there are many reasons.
First of all, it takes a long time to read a book. 6 hours on average, if you are a speed reader (and you’d better be if you’re in publishing), and editors receive multiple submissions a day. Do the math and there just aren’t enough hours in the day, especially when you already have a full time job while you’re not reading.
The first major delay is the editor simply sitting down with the book in question for a six hour stretch.
But let’s say the editor does read the book, loves it, and wants to make an offer. What then?
Well, unless they are a serious publishing mucky muck, editors have to get approval to make an offer, a process similar to unlocking a nuclear bomb. They have to get it past editorial board, they have to get more reads, these reads have to be good, they have to unlock the failsafe and contact the president to press a button on the nuclear football, the sales team gets a look, some higher up has to sign off on it….. and all of these people have to read the book too.
Multiply those six hours by ten, and then maybe the editor gets approval to make an offer of a certain amount.
Slow then fast
Now, what’s funny about all this is that when there’s a hot project all of this goes out the window and people quickly lose their minds and the whole above process can be condensed to a couple of hours. Frankly it’s a good thing publishing companies don’t actually control our nuclear stockpile. One whiff of a rock star memoir and bye bye Uzbekistan.
So I know it’s terribly frustrating to go months and months looking for an agent and then FINALLY the book gets submitted……. and then wait months and months while you’re waiting for editors to read it.
Welcome to publishing. You have no choice but to stay a while.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: Vanitas – Still Life with Books and Manuscripts and a Skull by Evert Collier