Friday, 17 January 2014

Creating a children’s picture book. How long does it take?

Once my manuscript had been accepted by a publisher, I was keen to find out how long it would take to get it into the bookshops. To my astonishment, the answer was about 14-18 months!

I understood that getting all the illustrations completed was likely to be a time-consuming process, but I had no idea it would take so long.

However, once I found out exactly what was involved, and how much effort the publisher (Maverick Books) were going to put into promoting it, I could see why.

Here’s a brief rundown of what’s involved:

1. Initial manuscript editing – these are edits requested by Maverick and completed by me.

2. Layout – the text is laid out into a 32-page book format. Maverick takes care of this, using their experience of what makes a good spread.

3. Choosing an illustrator – this is where Maverick use their expertise to match my story with a suitable illustrator. Their approach is to ask two or three illustrators to do a test spread, from which they (taking into account my opinions) choose the preferred artist.

4. Sketches – the illustrator completes sketches for each spread in the book. Maverick and I comment on these and make suggestions and amendments.

5. Final text editing – to get the story just right, the text is sent to an external copy-editor, highly experienced in children’s book publishing, who makes comments and recommendations.

6. Illustrations – work on the illustrations progresses while the text is being finalised. This is a lengthy process, since each spread is a work of art.

7. Front cover design – once the internal spreads are completed, attention turns to the all-important front cover. This is a vital sales tool for the book, so it takes a while to get it just right.

8. Sales – once the book is at the print-ready stage, it’s time to start generating some interest among book buyers. At this stage Maverick starts really promoting the book to its buyers, agents and sales teams, and sends it out to as many reviewers as possible. The intention is to generate as much interest in the book as possible before it is released for sale. By building up this momentum, the publisher hopes to generate plenty of pre-release orders.

This is the stage we are at now, as I write this blog. Unfortunately my blog has fallen behind real time, but I’ll catch up soon!

9. Launch – finally, after several months of sales efforts, the book is released to the world (well, the UK at least). The first few weeks after publication are crucial to the success of any new title.

So, it’s easy to see why it takes up to 18 months to get a picture book from initial manuscript through to final publication. I don’t know if this is typical of all publishers, but I imagine that a larger publisher with more resources may be able to rattle through the process more quickly. However, I also doubt that larger publishers would lavish so much time and attention on a single title, especially one from a first-time author.

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