Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time - how long from idea to publication

I read a review of my book the other day that found it "strangely similar" to another book that came out six months before mine. I have another friend who got a similar review -- comparing her book to another one that came out six months before hers (and in that one flat out accusing her of writing a "knock-off"). And another friend who's asked if she wrote about unicorns in her books to escape the current trend of "vampire, faeries, and zombies."

This got me thinking -- being surrounded by writers and the writing industry there's a lot that I take for granted about how things work. And I suspect that most of my readers know all of this too, but I figured there's no harm in writing up a short little post talking about how long this process really takes.

I know the exact moment I got the idea for The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Sure JP, my fiance, and I had been talking about a forest filled with zombies but I hadn't really planned about writing anything in that world. It was more of a thought exercise more than anything else because I'd become obsessed with zombies after he took me to the opening night of the Dawn of the Dead remake.

Anyway, on my way home from work one night a first line popped into my head and I emailed it to myself. It was Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 7:38PM. The subject line was "Meh" and the email said only: "My mother used to tell me about the ocean. She said there was a place where there was nothing but water"

Funny to see how during the whole process, that never changed! So yeah, my idea for a zombie book came late in 2006 and believe me, there was no zombie trend at the time. Trust me, I love zombies and had been scrambling for a long time to get my hands on any book or movie I could (as I've mentioned before, I was actually convinced FHT would never sell simply because it had zombies and who would want a book like that?).

So the long and short of the timeline is this:

November 2006: Start writing rough draft of FHT
April-ish 2007: Finish rough draft, start revising
August 2007: Start querying
September 2007: Sign with Jim McCarthy, my agent
October 2007: Sell FHT
January 2008: Final draft of FHT approved and sent to copy-editing
June 2008: ARCs arrive (and start getting mailed out)
March 10, 2009: FHT release date

Time from start of FHT until the book hit the shelves? 859 days or 2 years, 4 months, 8 days.

It's a long process (and I know that Diana began the preliminaries of working on her unicorn book in 2005). I've always been amazed by the synergy of the writing world. How we can go from almost no zombie YA books to a shelf of them in a year because that means that there were quite a few authors out there two years ago who almost all in a vacuum decided "hey, I'll write about zombies!" It's like how I know of about 5 authors out there -- none of them connected in any way -- writing about mermaids/sirens. It feels like there's this sudden zeitgeist where people are similarly inspired. And it's not just in writing that this happens -- huge discoveries in our world happen the same way. It's pretty amazing!


Empress Awesome said...

That's a freakin' long time. Time machine, anyone? Or carbon freeze? Let's just all sleep through it.

Anonymous said...

It's insane how that works. Four or five books with similar ideas all coming to fruition independently of each other.

For what it's worth, I loved the Forest of Hands and Teeth and found it to be fabulous and wonderfully original.

ALSO, the first line is what really stuck with me. I read that and bought the book without hesitation.

Beth F said...

The stars and planets align perfectly and suddenly zombies pop into everyone's mind! Odd.

Well I loved Forest, and gave it a high rating on my blog. Can't wait for the next book.

Lisa Aldin said...

What book is similar to yours? I haven't run across it.

And it is strange how that all works. Books takes time. It's funny how all vampire books are being compared to Twilight, but they came out before that series. Like the Vampire Diaries.

Just goes to show. A new hit can revive an old classic.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

thanks for sharing this - its interesting. you must be patient - over 2 years - i would die of impatience. (of course then I would be a zombie :)

Tyhitia Green said...

Wow, thanks for sharing that, Carrie. very good to know. :-)

I cannot wait to see the movie for TFHT! I loved your book. :-) What's funny is that I never really read YA before that---except when I was a tween. :-)

Kari said...

I've had that same argument with a friend of mine, particularly in reference to all the vampire books out there-- I keep reminding her that those books were started well before there was a huge vampire trend, plus vampires have always been popular. Vampire Lestat anyone?

Just because the shelves are lined with them doesn't mean an author is riding the tide of it. If anything, it might almost make it more challenging because starting a vampire novel now isn't going to guarantee it to be popular by the time it gets bought, edited and published to the shelves. But hearing all this from a published author will help cement that idea into people's heads who aren't in the business.

Also, FHT was a fantastic novel-- I will admit, my initial thought just reading the book cover summary was that it sounded a lot like The Village, only because of the whole what is outside of our little world, only some people know thing. But, I am definitely glad I did read it. The character development and interactions were great- and the action points kicked in at great times without being overbearing and constant.