I’m back! Thank you to everyone who came to see me in Nebraska. I had a great time. It was surreal to visit my old high school and elementary school as an author, presenting for the students. At East, I was given a distinguished alumnus award, which was very humbling. Pemberly should have pictures for me to post here soon, mostly just pictures of me doing nostalgic Nebraska things, like eating at Runza.
Anyway, I wanted to do a good post for you all today, so I thought I’d answer an interesting Reader Mail piece. I’m still working on a post talking about AMOL: Book Two and THE WAY OF KINGS. I hope to have a draft of that I;’m satisfied with here soon. Anyway, the reader mail:
I know that you have all but finished TGS, and this may sound like a stupid question, but will it really take until November for TOR to finalize, print and publish this book? Could TOR release it earlier or is November a set timetable? Thank you for your time.
Well, Jeffrey, I can understand where you’re coming from. It does seem like a very long time, particularly when you hear that for most books, it’s far, far longer. What’s happening during all of that time? Well, a number of things.
First off, the books have to get printed. Often, this is done overseas and shipped here—and usually that shipping has to be a slow method for cost reasons. Tor can’t really afford to airlift all of those thick WoT books from China, not unless they want to charge and extra twenty bucks per book. . . .
I honestly don’t know if Tor prints these specific books overseas. Some big houses have their own printers, but a lot do it this way. Either way, keep the printing in mind when you consider the time it takes to publish. Even if the printing is done here, it takes time—imagine printing a million copies of a hardcover book. It’s not something that happens overnight.
However, before the book can be printed, time needs to be copyedited. A copyeditor is a person who reads through the entire book in very minute detail, making certain all of the proper terms are italicized, making certain the names are all spelled right, and that the book is consistent with itself and others in the series. This takes a while. Plus, once the copyeditor has made all of these changes and fixes, someone needs to go through them (usually, it’s the author, though in many WoT books it’s Maria) and make certain that they are all good changes. Together, this can take several months. I don’t know if the WoT book will be faster; we’ll see.
After that, there’s proofreading. We have to allocate time for the proofreaders to go through and do their job. That adds on another few weeks. Trust me. You don’t want an unproofed book. Some might complain about the number of typos in the books that get printed; imagine how it would be if you had to read one that hadn’t gone through this process.
So, we’ve got copyediting and proofreading. Let’s say that takes us two months, since we’re rushing things. And let’s say, for sake of argument, that printing takes one month. The book was turned in mid April, so why not release the book in July? Well, that would probably be the absolute fastest Tor could get the book out, but there are a lot of other factors to consider.
One is the bookstores. You see, with books like this, bookstores tend to be timid because they’ve often been promised books that never materialize. (Or ones that take years past when they were promised to actually get published.) And so, booksellers aren’t going to make any orders on the book until they’re sure that the book will be published. Now that the book is in, the Tor sales force has to go to the big chains and the independents and say “It’s coming out! For real this time! So . . . how many copies do you want to order?”
This is very important. You see, no book gets printed until the publisher knows how many are being ordered. In general, announced ‘print runs’ in publicity materials are a fancy, impressive, yet very imaginary numbers. Nobody knows how big the print run will ACTUALLY be until the bookstores all put in their orders. The publisher will look at those orders and extrapolate sales. THEN they’ll print. So we have to wait for the big chains, at least, to commit to ordering the book, see how many they order, then print somewhere around twice that number. (From what I’ve seen, printing double the number ordered is the rule of thumb, though the WoT book may be different.)
I should give the caveat that I’m not an expert on any of this. What I’m writing is not, by any means, meant to be a detailed exploration of the publishing industry. It’s just what I’ve noticed (perhaps inaccurately at points) from watching on the sidelines.
Okay, so let’s add on a month for the bookstores. We’re now in August (best case.) That’s still three months off of October. What’s the hold up?
First off, there’s the fact that Tor announced that date—trying to be conservative—not knowing for certain if I’d even turn the book in on time. There’s a lot of momentum behind that announcement, and changing it would take a lot of effort. It can—and does—happen. But in this case, it’s good to have those extra months. You see, we haven’t even talked about publicity and marketing. Only now (with the book in) will it be safe for Tor to start spending marketing and publicity money. Those of you checking these websites and watching Dragonmount are the ‘in the know’ readers—the hardcore. However, the vast majority of readers don’t do that. They don’t know that the WoT book is coming out this year. It’s time for Tor to start publicizing that it IS coming out. And they don’t have very long to do it.
Beyond that, when Tor announced and ‘staked claim’ to November 3rd, you can bet that other publishers made certain to stay away from releasing other big books that day. Just like movies try not to compete with others that are too similar, moving their release dates around, books try to keep from competing too directly. So if Tor began shuffling now, it would cause a lot of people to get very angry.
There are other factors too. November is the biggest month for a book release, as it maximizes on the holiday season. Also, we’d like time for people in-house at Tor to read the book and see if they catch any errors or continuity problems that we didn’t spot. There has to be time for the publicist to set up a book tour. There has to be time to get the interior art (maps, chapter ornaments) finished. The cover art isn’t done yet either. All of these things take time.
The WoT book COULD probably come out as soon as August, but it would be a big rush job. Better to give Tor the extra few months to make the book as good as possible. I know it’s hard to wait, but at least you can rest easily that the book IS coming, and from here, there’s virtually no chance of it being delayed past November. Here, that publicity, marketing, and bookstore momentum will work in your favor to keep the pressure on Tor and keep any delays from getting the book pushed back.