Publishing Quality Quickly: Fast to Market Does Not Need to Sacrifice Quality

One reason authors choose a hybrid publisher is control, especially control over when they will be able to publish and start selling their book. Either from having experienced the publishing process with a traditional publisher, or from hearing horror stories from other authors, a lot of authors find it incomprehensible that it can take twelve to eighteen months to publish a book.

So How Soon?

It is no surprise, then, that authors want to know how soon Radius Book Group can publish their book. After all, they’ve been thinking about, writing, revising, and living with their book for who knows how long before they contact me.

“If I go with Radius,” they ask, “how soon will I see my book in bookstores?

“We can produce a standard nonfiction book in about four months,” I answer. But four months isn’t really the time to market, which depends on many factors, such as

  • the author’s publishing goals
  • how close the manuscript is to being ready for production
  • what types of content the book includes
  • the complexity of page design and layout
  • the size of the manuscript
  • the formats the author wants to produce
  • the book’s markets and target audience
  • where the author wants to sell the book, and so forth

Short vs. Long

Traditional publishers are slaves to a system of their own devising. When it comes to the time it takes to go to market with a book, the time frame can seem never ending. On the simple financial level, they have a huge incentive to start selling a book as quickly as possible. The longer it takes to get to market, the longer they have to carry a debt. They are fronting the advance paid to the author, the investment in editorial and production work, the expense of marketing and publicity, and printing costs. That does not even include overhead costs, such as employee salaries and benefits, infrastructure and equipment costs, the cost of borrowing money, and so forth. It is in their interest to start selling books as soon as possible after they acquire a title.

Pulling in the opposite direction, though, is the cumbersome and complex publishing industry. It requires coordination and a ton of lead time to make sure they put in place all the different parts that will maximize sales. If you start at the end and work backward to the beginning of the process, account for the myriad things that have to happen to publish a book, and recognize all the different players involved, you start to see why it takes traditional publishers so long to go to market. (See my two-part blog posts, “Why Does It Take So Long?” which summarizes the numerous activities.)

Tradeoffs

If authors want to play the publishing game by the rules of traditional publishing, then they too will be bound by a system that requires a year or more of lead time. If speed to market is a priority, they will need to break those rules and live with the consequences of not playing by them. Tradeoffs between all the factors involved will determine whether you end up with a short or long time to market. Simply put, authors can tip the balance of the scales one way or the other, based on what’s most important to them and what they are willing to sacrifice to reach their goals.

A simple answer to the time-to-market question (i.e., 4 months), ignores the complexity of the real publishing process and the numerous factors that an author needs to weigh. Wise authors will ask that question and parse the answer they receive with clear goals and priorities in mind. Either way, shortening time to market does not involve a tradeoff of time versus quality.

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