Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The time it takes to publish a book

Most writers know the difference between paying to get your book published and getting a publisher to invest in your work. The publishers who do the latter are called traditional publishers. But people don't always know the difference.

This didn't matter to me until I got into the game. Now that I've been telling people about my soon-to-be-published novel for over a year...two years, people ask questions. The novel is still not published (although it will be at the end of the year) and people want to know why.

Every time I meet someone who knows I have written a book, I get asked the same questions again and again, in different ways.

What? Your book is still not published?
Why is your book taking so long?
Where is this book you've been talking about? 
When will your book be published?

All they know is that their old aunt, the neighbour's son or first cousin has just published a book...and they did it so quickly! How come I was finding it difficult to get a publisher? They look at me sympathetically. I know the unasked questions running through their mind.

Has she really written a book? If yes, isn't it good enough?

I try to explain the difference between publishing the traditional way and doing it yourself. I tell them it can take a year or more to get a traditional publisher's attention. If a publisher accepts your book, they could take another year to publish it. Because obviously, traditional publishers don't just publish at any random time...they have their seasons, their lists, and they have deals with distributors. There is a method and there is a schedule. Naturally.

A person who wants to self-publish can do it the very next day, as soon as the book is ready. All that is needed is a printing press. These presses are more than eager for business. You don't have to try to get them to publish your book. They try to get you to publish with them. Try making just one call, and they will hound you.

So why bother with traditional publishers who treat you like a speck of dirt most of the time (unless you are a celebrity or they think you are a genius). Well, it's not because you need their stamp of approval but because you need their marketing and distribution muscle. Bookshops rarely stock self-published books. And self-published books are banned from many reputed competitions.

I have nothing against self-publishing or some type of hybrid publishing where authors pay for publishing their book. But it should be the author's last, desperate choice.

Sure, there are some very good self-published books. But I have seen plenty with bad covers and grammatical errors. Poor sentence construction is also common.

One self-published author had the temerity to tell me: What does it matter if there are grammatical mistakes...as long as the book is interesting! 

That's one argument I cannot quite digest.

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