A large yellow envelope was delivered to my home. It was heavy—New York return address. Inside was a stack of 8.5 x 11 inch pages wrapped by multiple crossing rubber bands. A sliver of cardboard was added to provide a bit of stability to the base. The stack was easily seven inches tall—over eight hundred pages—the Rise of Empire printer proofs had arrived.
These are the finished pages of the book laid out exactly how they will be seen when printed and is the last chance for authors, editors, and proofreaders to see it before hitting the press. The printer proofs arrived about two weeks ago, and I’ve spent the better part of that time reading and scouring it for errors. I’ll be sending it back soon (Robin still wants to look over it). Orbit likes a hard copy of the final changes. If anyone over there is reading this, I made very few changes. We are in very good shape.
Yesterday I got a call from Devi (my editor at Orbit) saying that she has a even larger stack that has just been delivered to her from the layout department. The Heir of Novron printer proof is also ready. The stack for that book was so large (almost 1,000 pages) that she asked if I would take it via PDF. As I prefer to proof on my iPad that was just fine by me.
I mention this because it shows that things are progressing nicely toward the November, December, and January releases. I’ve received a number of emails recently from people impatient for the book’s release and some have even questioned if Orbit is artificially holding off on publication. It is an easy conclusion to make given that all my books were already “done”. So people are wondering why Orbit just doesn’t release them?
The truth of the matter is there are a huge number of things that are going on behind the scenes. And being exposed to just a fraction of the information can lead to incorrect conclusions. I experienced this first hand years ago.
When we first moved to Vermont, my wife took a job at a software company. She started as a grunt programmer. Every day employees complained about management and in particular the owner and operator of the company. His nutty decisions and refusal to explain them led to suspicions that he was making poor choices and from their perspective their concerns seemed justified. Then through some very interesting events Robin rose through the ranks and eventually became the new president of that company, and the owner left to live in California leaving her in full control. Everyone cheered her appointment. Finally someone sane was at the helm.
As president, Robin was now privy to all the information and realized the owner wasn’t crazy, he was a very smart businessman. He had extremely good reasons for all the decisions he made and for not making those reasons public. It wasn’t long before people became disillusioned about Robin. They began to ask, “What happened to her?” saying “She’s changed—why would she do something so stupid.” Once again they were making their assessments based on a lack of information.
So back to Orbit and the books…For those that think there is some “marketing stunt” for “delaying the release” I want to give you a peek behind the scenes so you don’t operate from the same lack of information.
Some writers (usually aspiring ones) are shocked to see that their newly signed book won’t hit the market for eighteen months or two years. And no, the publisher is not working on their books that whole time. The reason for such a long lead time is because they aren’t just working on your book, and there is a lot to do.
As to my books, Orbit is actually releasing Riyria on an insanely accelerated schedule. Unlike most books that are placed into the “next available spot in the queue” (and the queue is usually full for six-months to a year when the book is signed) mine were “fast tracked”. They actually were placed in the “next catalog” as soon as we shook hands (even before the contracts were signed). Whether they bumped other books, or simply opened up a slot, I don’t know but I’m fortunate to be placed at the head of the line as it were. The fact that they were willing to do the books in three consecutive months is HUGE (and one of the reasons we went with Orbit). It’s not an easy task to pull off. Getting one book fast tracked is difficult, getting three means a lot of heavy lifting by some pretty dedicated people.
“Okay, great, so if that is the case why don’t I have the books yet?” an anxious reader might say. Well there’s much to do between deciding to publish a book and getting them on the shelves. There are only so many people available to do the work, and they like to do crazy things like sleep, eat, and take vacations. For instance, the first milestone is getting the books into the catalogs (which only come out a few times a year). These are used by book buyers and come out many months before the actual release dates. Then the sales team needs to work on pre-orders to know how large of a print run to do. Then there are advanced reading copies to get reviews from places like Publisher's Weekly and BookList (who have schedules that require submissions 4 - 6 months before release date to even look at them.) It all takes time.
The above doesn’t even take into consideration book production issues. In Riyria’s case, Orbit and I spent the winter and spring re-editing the books. This summer we’ve been proofing them. We’ve added glossaries, interviews, a new chapter for the first book, and I’ve touched up the maps. And then of course there were the covers designs. There were several iterations of this. The ones in the catalog don’t even match what the offical ones will be.
The final tasks will be related to promotion, which will start in earnest a few months before the books are released but the planning starts long before that. When I was in New York for Book Expo I met with Alex, the head of marketing and I’m excited about some of the things he has planned. The series launch is like setting up an intricate Domino fall, or a fireworks display. You need to get everything in position before the show begins in order to make magic happen.
So no, Orbit isn’t dragging their feet. You might not see all that is going on, but they are working hard to get the books out on time and on schedule. And the first few fruits of their sowing have begun to sprout. This last week saw the release of a Publisher’sWeekly review, and a Suite 101 review of Theft of Swords.
For those of you impatient to read the final book, just be glad you didn’t start reading as I first wrote them. I finished The Crown Conspiracy back in 2004 so you would have been waiting a VERY long time for the final installment in January 2012.