First, it takes a long time to get a book from manuscript to publication. About 18 months in total is perfectly reasonable for a large, mainstream publisher.
Secondly, an author is a very small link in the large and complex network of people who are involved in the publishing process. I have probably worked with 30 people, from cover designers to copy editors, on each volume of The Last Descendants. Multiply that by all my publishers around the world and that's around 540 people directly involved with the fate of a single book.
I don't think I am the only author whose first encounter with the publication process was a surprising one. For some reason, publishing is an industry surrounded in mystery. When I talk to people about my job they are shocked by how long it takes to get a book to publication, how many other people work on it, how far ahead my publishers think. There's still a tendency to see a book as something that springs into the world fully-formed, its birth shrouded in darkness (much as I think of a CD, or a film, or a piece of art). The finished nature of the product belies the very serious construction work that has gone into it, and the intricate scaffolding under its surface. A lot of that scaffolding comes from the writer, but they couldn't do it without the expertise of many others.
As The Heart at War has just begun the publication process, I thought it would be interesting to record its progress right up to the day of its publication. So I've decided to create a series of blogs on how a manuscript becomes a book. Over the next few months, I'll try to share each episode in the story. This is of course only a single perspective. My books are published by a mainstream publisher, Random House; many authors are published by small presses or get their work into the hands of their readers independently. I have an agent; some authors represent themselves. This book is my third and I was contracted to write it; the experience of submitting a debut novel is very different, as will be the process of submitting my own next book. I hope, either way, that there will be some useful insights for readers who are interested in looking behind the scenes at what it takes to create a book. It's a process I've been fascinated and often humbled by, involving as it does so many people who are just as expert at their craft as the most dedicated of writers, and many different processes without which the book couldn't exist.
I'll begin with #1 in this series, 'Delivering the manuscript'. If there's anything you want to see included over the next few months, just let me know.