The publication timeline for most projects is not a swift affair, although it can be expedited relatively easily if the author puts in more work in the early stages.
The project timeline is usually as follows:
- Pitch the project to us.
- Receive our confirmation that we will accept the project for publication.
- We issue the contracts for signing. These should be signed before work proceeds.
- Draft and edit the manuscript.
- Author drafts the manuscript, and submits a complete first draft, without any images.
- We make a first editing pass and send it back to the author for improvements.
- Author improves the manuscript according to the edits, and submits the next draft.
- We make another editing pass, and may send it back to the author for further improvements. This may happen as many times as required to produce a manuscript of acceptable quality; we will not compromise on the quality of the written language.
- Deal with images and layout.
- Author submits any internal images.
- We take the images and place them into the manuscript, and work on layout. A first draft of the final layout is produced, and sent to the author.
- The author makes suggestions to improve the layout according to their wishes and ideas of what it should look like.
- We make another draft with improved layout, and send it to the author for further comments or for approval. This may happen as many times as necessary.
- Deal with the cover.
- Now that we have the manuscript in its final laid-out form, we can find out exactly what the cover dimensions should be, down to the pixel. We allocate the ISBN and create the barcode. The cover must now be designed by the cover designer; we have people we might ask to do this, but we are more than happy (and in fact prefer it!) if the author has a cover designer in mind already. The necessary information should be turned over to the cover designer for the cover to be created.
- While the cover designer is working on this stage, the author should create a synopsis of the book for the back cover. This should be sent to us for editing, and there may need to be several passes before the synopsis is complete. Once this is complete, the synopsis should be sent to the cover designer for inclusion.
- Once the first draft of the cover is finished, it should be submitted to us, for editing and commentary. It should then be redrafted, as many times as necessary, until the final cover design is ready.
- We then put the whole book together and order a proof copy to ensure that the cover prints as we imagine it should, and that the layout of the inside of the book is correct. If the proof copy contains only minor errors (such as a typo here, or an incorrect styling there) then we will correct the errors and will not need another proof copy. However, if there are significant errors, or if the printed copy looks unacceptably different to what we expected, then we will correct the errors and will order another proof copy.
- Once we are at long last happy with the proof copy, we will order in stock and open the title for pre-orders. The book can now be considered published.
So, how long will this take?
It is impossible to say for certain just how long the process will take. If you already have a complete (or nearly complete) draft of the manuscript before pitching it to us, then that obviously makes it faster from the moment of pitching until the conclusion of the project. If the pitch occurs first, and then you must go and write the manuscript from scratch, this will of course take significantly longer.
What can I do to speed up the process?
If you take more care when writing the manuscript in the first place, then it will reduce the need for additional editing passes. Generally speaking, when you take care to write well, only one or two editing passes are required; when the quality of the language is poor, then it might take five or six editing passes, or even more! Furthermore, each editing pass takes longer when less care has been taken over the initial draft, and your own edits and improvements will take longer too. The best way to speed up the publication process is to write a good first draft and not rely on our editors to sort out your basic written language.
Another common problem that slows down the process is with inadequate referencing. If you make assertions, then we will probably ask for footnotes to cite your sources. If you provide some citations but not others, or if you mangle your attempts to make citations, then it will take longer to sort it all out. If you need help with referencing, then we are more than happy to help by providing advice and examples. We would definitely prefer that you ask for advice in advance, rather than making a half-hearted attempt and doing a terrible job that will take weeks to sort at the editing stage.
How long does it take to receive the proof copy?
It usually takes up to 5 working days for the proof copy to be printed and dispatched, then perhaps another 5 working days for it to reach us. It can happen much faster than that, but two weeks is a good rule of thumb.
This clearly slows down the project significantly if two or three proof copies are required, as well as adding to the expense. It is sensible to make the final draft as correct as possible, and then the proof copy should be simply a validation that everything was correct, rather than a method for catching yet more errors.
So, I have a manuscript – when can you publish it?
If you have your first draft already completed, then there is a good chance that we can publish it within 12 months of receiving it. If it has been written well, and requires relatively little editing, we may even be able to publish it within 6 months. If the first draft is full of problems, then it may take the full 12 months, or maybe even longer.
If you are quick and on the ball with making edits when we return the manuscript to you, then this will help to move the estimated time closer to 6 months. If you are busy, and can devote relatively little time to editing your work, then it will probably be more than 12 months.
We have been able to bring projects from manuscript submission to printed publication within 2 months, when the first draft has been excellent and when the author has been quick to make any edits requested. We have also had projects linger for more than a year when the drafts had many problems and when the author was less swift to perform corrections.
So, as a rough rule of thumb, expect publication within 12 months, although you will need to take responsibility for how swiftly the corrections occur and for the quality of the initial draft.