This is an excellent question and a perfect blog topic :) The short answer: with all the different aspects involved in how a book if published, it just takes a long time. When I first sold The Forest of Hands and Teeth (October 2007) and learned it wouldn't be coming out for 17 months (March 2009) I was surprised. Now I understand how it all works...
So I thought I'd write out the steps involved in getting a book from the author's head into the reader's hands. This is all from my perspective and if I've gotten something wrong please leave a comment correcting me and I'll make the change!
|draft of DTW, ready for work|
Step two: editor reads and sends edit letter. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for an editor to put together a round of edits. These days editors often handle lots and lots of authors and they tend to focus on the closest season (i.e. they'll generally edit a Fall 2010 book before a Spring 2011 book because it's more pressing).
Step three: author revises based on editorial letter. Again this can take days, weeks or months depending on the deadlines and extent of revisions needed.
Step four: repeat. Sometimes the editor and author might go through several rounds of revisions.
|Sam likes to sleep on edits|
Step six: copy-edits. The manuscript is then sent to copy-editors who pour over the pages with a fine-toothed comb marking inconsistencies, grammar and punctuation errors, flow, etc. Sometimes a book will be sent to a second copy-editor and then to the editor for review. Then it's sent to the author to review and then back to the editor to check the author's comments.
|copyedits! (each person|
uses a diff color)
Step eight: proofreading. The typeset pages (first pass pages) are sent to proofreaders to make sure everything from the manuscript made it into the typeset pages correctly. Sometimes errors will be typos, strange formatting, etc. Then the pages go to the editor for review, to the author, back to the editor.
Step nine: Advanced Reader Copies. Generally I think the ARCs are created from the initial type-set pages BEFORE they've been proofed by anyone. This is why there can be so many errors in ARCs and also why the ARC isn't always the same as the final book (I rewrote part of the ending of The Dead-Tossed Waves at this stage which is why the end in the ARC isn't the same in the final book).
|first pass pages|
Updated to add: as Melissa Marr points out in the comments, the "marketing and publicity plans are created, implemented, etc" phase of the process happens throughout all of these steps, not just at the end.
So there's a fairly lengthy process involved in each book which is why, even though The Dark and Hollow Places is written, it's not nearly close to being ready for publication. But I'm super stoked y'all are excited about reading it!
* I read every email I receive but am behind on responding - sorry!