A couple of weeks ago we took our son and his friend to lunch at Sam’s Anchor Cafe in lovely downtown Tiburon, a tony suburb of San Francisco that sticks out into the Bay. It’s a popular spot and attracts a lot of people coming from San Francisco on the delightful ferries that ply the bay. Bicyclists abound, dog walkers stroll, and there are numerous eateries to provide for people’s appetites.
Walking toward Sam’s, which features dining on its deck over the water amid sailboats moored along the piers and marinas, we spotted this parking sign: “3 Minutes Only Anytime.” Three minutes? Holy cow. There isn’t much on-street parking in Tiburon, but I was left puzzled.
What exactly can you get done in three minutes? It seems to take me about three minutes just to collect myself and get out of my car these days.
I wonder if this is just the latest sign of our rush-rush, Twitter-enabled life. Is three minute parking like microblogging for parking lot attendants? Is it just right for the ADD crowd?
We Have Slow Food, What About Slow Books?
This hurried aspect to life often collides with the realities of publishing. One of the common complaints about traditional publishing, with its seasonal lists, long response times, and endless editorial meetings is that it can take a long time to get into print. From acceptance of your manuscript it’s not unusual for a book to take 1.5 years to appear in bookstores.
Self-publishing cheerleaders often trumpets its ability to be more responsive, and to get to market much faster than the big guys, and that’s certainly true. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Books, by their nature, take time. Sometimes a long time. It’s understandable that an author, after spending months or years researching, writing, and re-writing their manuscript, will want to get the book to print as soon as feasible.
Taking the Time to Do It Right
But there’s no good reason to short-change the time it takes to properly edit, design, layout, and proof the book. Up front it may also take time to find a good match with an editor, to contract with a designer who can execute the right kind of design for your genre, to assemble the entire team that will be needed to produce a high quality book.
Once in motion, the team you’ve assembled will work together to produce a quality product. But this also takes time. Editing a 300-page history book, checking references, making sure citations are accurate and uniform, making style sheets to guide editors and proofreaders to the usages that occur in the book—all essential tasks that are time comsuming.
On the design side, giving your designer time to get familiar with your material, to scope out other books in your genre against which you may be competing, or with which you may be cross-selling, is time well spent. Then your designer is going to need time to come up with her unique vision for your book. In my case, I usually present three distinct and different solutions to the communication challenge that’s presented by your book. More time.
Illustrators, cover designers, indexers, proofreaders all need time to do their job properly. As publisher, it’s up to you to make sure you have the time in your schedule to allow your team to do its best work.
Having a Plan Makes Sense
You need a plan that’s based on your strategy for your book. For instance:
- If you plan to sell through nationwide bookstore distribution, you will probably try to get prepublication reviews from the major prepub reviewers: Publishers Weekly, Libarary Journal, School Library Journal, Kirkus Review, and Foreword Magazine. You could add in the New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, BookPage, Quality Books and any book clubs you are thinking of soliciting.
Since these review sources need Advance Review Copies with promotional material a good 4 months before your official publication date, their schedule may well dictate your publishing schedule.
- If you would like to get corporate sponsorship or a promotional tie-in for the launch of your book, you will need sufficient time to pitch your proposal and sign partners before going to press. Many of these arrangements require the sponsor’s branding on the books themselves, so you need to have this in place before going to press.
- If your book is tied to a holiday or other special event, you will need quite a bit of advance time to make absolutely certain you have your book in hand well before you need it. You don’t want to be sitting with 3,000 copies of your book that arrived right after the special event.
So although we live in a “hurry-up” world, taking the time to plan thoughtfully will go a long way to reducing the stress new publishers experience. Bring your “team” into your planning as soon as possible. Their experiences with previous projects will be available to you, an invaluable aid as you get ready to launch your book.
And a tip from me: that errand will take longer than 3 minutes. Pull around the corner and park somewhere else.