History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

The Timing from Idea to Book

How long does it take between when an author gets an idea for a novel and when it comes out? That depends on a number of factors, including the author and their publication process. But the short answer is “longer than you’d think.”

Between Facebook memories and archived emails, I’ve determined that the novel I just published (Promise Me Nothing) and the novella I have coming out in April (Barren) have been about five or six years from idea to publication. This seemed really dramatic to me, so I looked at some of my other books.

Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering similarly took about five years from idea to publication. The sequels in that series took less time, but that was largely because they were sequels, and I wanted to keep the series fresh in peoples’ minds. Still, we were in the early stages of getting the first Brass and Glass book into the world when my publishers asked me about sequels and I worked up the outlines for those sequels. So The Long-Cursed Map was about a year and a half in the works, while The Boiling Sea took almost three years from the idea to publication (though I was also writing book 2 during that period, and my original publisher closed when we were partway through the process on that book).

For authors pursuing traditional publication, it may take even longer from when they start writing the book to the point where they 1) find an agent and 2) find an editor. And then it’s even more time before a book is published, as there are additional edits and proofreading and publicity that are all scheduled in advance of the book’s release date. However, if they sell the first book in a series, and the editor wants the additional books in the series, they may have a similar compressed time frame like I did for my sequels.

It should also be noted that different people write at different speeds. It takes me a little over two months to write the first draft of a novel. Then it takes another couple of months for me to make my initial edits to it. Then it goes out to beta readers for a month or two, and then there are more rounds of revisions, which can vary in number and length depending on what the book needs.

But I also work on a schedule that lets me alternate between books, so that while one book is in between stages or out of my hands, I can be working on the next thing. I could hypothetically write about four or five books a year, but in practice, that’s a hugely draining marathon, so two or three per year is much more common. And it’s theoretically possible for me to start a book on January 1st and have it published by the end of the year, but the reality is that because of the staggered schedule, it’s less likely that I could publish multiple novels in the same year. (Especially because I also publish things like collections or shorter works.)

The takeaway from all of this is that publishing takes a while, whether traditional or indie/self publishing. And while it may be agonizing to have to wait for your book to be ready for readers, putting in the time and effort to make your book great is important, no matter how you’re publishing.


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