|“Vanitas” – Adriaan Coorte|
Originally published March 6, 2008. The end of this post is not what I’d say today because you do have a choice. Self-publishing is easier than ever if you don’t want to wait for the submission process.
How long does it take to sell a novel?
About that long.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Image by zullie via Creative Commons