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02 March 2010

Sherrilyn Kenyon: Why does it take so long for a book to be published?

I follow Sherrilyn Kenyon on facebook, as well as twitter, myspace etc, and she has the most interesting blog entries some times. Here she answers the age old question on why it takes so long to get the books we crush after...


Why do I have to wait so long for the next installment? These are questions I get a lot and so I thought I'd answer them in one long post :)

The short answer is: Sometimes it's the publisher ie it takes a bit to get a book out. Sometimes it's not ie it takes a long time for the author to write the book.

The long answer:

How a book is written. The author gets an idea for the next book in the series and writes it. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years depending on things I'll discuss in a moment. But let's say it's a typical book that takes the average 4-9 months to write.

Book is then handed in to editor. Editor then needs time to read the book. It's a myth that big writers aren't edited. They're actually edited a lot more stringently than other authors because the publishing house has invested a lot more money in their careers. Instead of just an editor reading the book, it's also read by the marketing director, the publisher and others who can weigh in on it in addition to the editor. What a big name author gets is the ability to have more pages and to take more chances with the plot and to veer from popular categories. The content is always fully scrutinized and I can tell you from personal experience that some of the chances I've taken have made many people at my houses sweat bullets :)

Editor passes book back to author and author needs time to go in and make corrections. This can take a few days or a few weeks depending on the problems found and the solutions needed. Book goes back to editor.

Copy-editor now reads the book and makes stylistic changes and locates (hopefully) factual and time line errors as well as logic errors missed by all previous parties. Again, none of these steps are truncated or omitted for big name authors and they all take time to do. Reading for mistakes is radically different than reading for pleasure and takes a lot more time. Everybody makes a flowchart :)

Book goes back to author who then has to go through and answer and fix, if necessary, every single comment made by the CE. Again can take days or weeks to do.

Book returns to publishing house where it is now reviewed by a production editor who often sends in queries about spellings and style issues that seem inconsistent. They can also point out additional mistakes in plot if they find them.

Book is now set and turned into galleys which are the printed page of the book before it's trimmed and bound into an actual book. These are sent to the editor who reviews them and then to the author who reviews them. I have three sets of galleys. 1 for me, 1 for Kim and 1 for hubby to review to see if any of us can find any last minute errors and fix them before the book is released. Believe it or not, mistakes still happen even though it's passed through that many hands. Again, this takes a few days or a couple of weeks.

Book goes back to publisher who then binds it into a final product. Now in addition to this, behind the scenes while it's being written, the publisher is having marketing meetings, art meetings, sales meetings, etc. All of which takes months to put together for every single book. Catalog and back cover copy must be written. Sales people have to pitch the book to their accounts and author and editor and art dept must fight tooth and nail over every cover (not always, but more times than not). Marketing, editor and author must fight over titles.

Also there is what's called a "lead time" which is the 4-6 months before a book comes out that it's presented to accounts to be ordered. You can't just drop a book in a month before it hits the shelves and expect it to be in stores on time. The buyers need time to place orders and those lead times are crucial (they are also what determine print runs). Additionally, you have lead times for advertising which varies by media and publication. You can't call up RT or the NYT and say that you want an ad in the next month's or tomorrow's issue. They work months ahead too with advertising. My walls are covered with advertising deadlines for various places. Then there's the time needed to plan and execute a tour which again takes months to put into place.

Then there's the time needed to ship the books to the warehouses and stores. Personnel need time to pack and unpack and shelve the books. All of this takes a lot of time and it's done for every book.

Now that is if everything goes well. Sometimes snafu's happen and can delay the books. A shipment is lost. A production error where books are found to be missing pages, etc.

Come with me now to what happens if there's a problem writing a book...

Unfortunately writers aren't machines. We all wish we were, but we're not and things happen to us that can delay books even more.

When you get a kernel of an idea for a book, you think you know how it'll lay out. Writers are usually surprised at how little control they have over their characters and the plots. They take directions you never see coming and sometimes they hit brick walls. I can't begin to catalog how many times I've thrown a book out and started it over on deadline.

I have one basic philosophy that will never change and it's this: I will never, ever put a book on the market that I think isn't my best work. I will never, ever ask a reader to pay for something I rushed or something I do not believe is 150% my best work. For whatever reason, you may not like the book when you read it, but I can look all of you in the face and say I did my absolute best and I'm sorry you weren't happy. But I thought it was great otherwise I wouldn't have handed it in. I look at it this way: My name on a book is a personal guarantee between me and you that it is the best book I can write.

I will not rush a book. I won't. I don't have deadlines. Yes, I have times when the publisher needs the book turned in, but every publisher I have will tell you that I don't write to those. I would rather have a book pushed back and delayed than put something on the market that isn't my best work. I don't think it's fair to the readers or my characters and I will never give any of you anything but my full attention and my hardest work.

Therefore, I tell my publisher when I "think" a book will go in. Sometimes I'm right. Sometimes I'm terribly wrong. Ash's book was one example. That sucker took a lot longer to write than I anticipated it would. Darkness Within is another one. The BAD series is a huge one. With BAD, I knew what I wanted to do with the series, but I couldn't get the books there on my own. I can't tell you how many times I started Phantom and threw it out. It was such a frustration and as I was plotting with Dianna, trying to come up with new ideas I realized that she had the missing ingredient that I wanted and couldn't do on my own. Since her ideas were so fresh and perfect, I asked her to help me write the series and I wanted her name on the books because I didn't think it fair to her or you guys that she contribute to the books and not get credit. Now we're a team for both BAD and Belador which was her "BAD" experience. Her strength is suspense and mine is paranormal. So for those two series, we've combined our strengths and our voices into a unique blending of the two.

I don't know why some books come fast such as Dance with the Devil which was written in less than three weeks and others such as Ash take years. I wish I did. I wish they all came fast and furious. But I do know this, you never know going in if the book will be fast or long to write. Some books and characters just take time for whatever reason. It's as frustrating for me as it is for the fans who are waiting.

Likewise some series take longer to manifest ideas. I don't know why and it frustrates me. I've had the partial book for the Scot for sometime, but I can't get the book to finish. No idea why. Nevermore is another example of this. But rather than wait on the ideas, I move on to other series and ideas so that you guys don't have to wait years between all my books. What's weird is that I actually have 4 more series than you guys have heard about. Will I ever write them? I don't know.

I don't know how my brain works or even where ideas come from. I just know that in order to write and finish a book, I have to be enthralled with it. It has to burn inside me like a fury. I have to live it, feel it, breathe it, need it. If I don't, I know it's not a great book and I won't work on it until I have that fever inside me for it. I think that's why so many of you tell me that the characters seem so real to you- because when I'm writing it, they are real to me.

So to make a long answer even longer, in the case of Darkness Within, I am at fault for it taking so long to come out. I have thrown out two fully completed versions of the book and started over because in my opinion, it wasn't good enough for you guys to read. I'm very sorry. In addition to that, I got really, really sick which has interfered with my normal writing schedule. I didn't realize that an infection was leaking poison into my body. All I knew was that I wasn't feeling good. This led to surgery and it will take me months to recuperate from start to finish. I'm told 8-9 months if everything goes well. Longer if it doesn't. Right now everything is going well and there's no sign of further infection. Everything seems to be healing well. 6 months to go, fingers crossed.

Other things that interfere with writing: Twitter, FB, MySpace and emails. Even something as simple as answering when is such and such book coming out will take a couple of minutes to write. It's why there are long periods of me being quiet. I'm not ignoring you guys, I'm trying to work :) And I get a lot of questions from you guys. Not that I'm complaining, I'm only explaining things that take time away from writing that are work related and need to be done. Likewise appearances and tours. It's hard to write on the road and there are times such as while I'm at appearances where I can't write at all. A lot of appearances means fewer books I love spending time with you guys, but I do have to have time to write :)

In the case of the League books, I switched publishers for that series and because of their lead times, they couldn't get it into their process any sooner. April 2011 was the earliest date they could manage. For that too, I'm sorry, but there was nothing I could do about it.

For all of you writing in to tell me that your saddened by the delays, I feel your frustration. I'm grateful you're so desperate to read the books and I beg your understanding as to why it's taking so long for some of them to come out. I write absolutely every single day- 365 days a year. Anywhere from 10-50 pages depending on the day. Unfortunately, not all of the pages are worth keeping. As I love to say just because it's written in blood doesn't mean it's carved in stone and not everything I write is gold. Most times I have to pan the nuggets out of a lot of dirt :)

I've always wondered, not getting narky, just extremely frustrated because it takes so long to get the next book. I tend to read voraciously, so it is quite frustrating to finish a new release and wait a year for the next installment in a series. Add to all that, I don't read hardcovers, so have to wait for the paperback to hit the shelf *sigh*

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