One of my favorite authors, Veronica Roth, blogged about this very subject and I will use her post (click here to see the full post) to represent traditionally published authors and will write in red for the indie side.
1. Author writes rough draft. This can take anywhere from a few months to over a year, depending on how fast the writer writes and what the publishing timeline is. For example, Insurgent is coming out a year after Divergent, but some authors have more time between books and some have less time.
2. Author gets editorial feedback on rough draft. This can take awhile, because it takes a long time to read and analyze a book carefully, and also, editors work on more than one book at a time.
Author uses critique group to get feedback.3. Author writes second draft, gets more feedback, sometimes author writes next draft and gets more feedback...depends on the book.
Author uses either a second critique group and possibly a third for feedback on revised draft.(Some authors resubmit to their first critique group) 4. Author gets line edits. These are editorial notes that are on a line by line level, like "this sentence, as written, is confusing" and "doesn't this contradict what you said five pages ago?"
Author uses critique group for line edits or hires an editor then makes changes
5. Author turns in line-edited draft
Author sends book out to 5-8 beta-readers (People who read for enjoyment)
Author makes necessary changes then sends to 8-12 beta-readers
Author hopes the only critique they are getting at this point are copy and line-edit problems-no plot problems
Author has 2 people who are excellent in English to do a copyedit.
Author creates cover or hires someone to do it.6. Author gets copyedits. These are editorial notes that are super nitpicky, like "no comma here, per rule 238923598B in the Chicago Manual of Style" and "this should be in italics, not quotes." (I used to do this as a job. I really liked it, actually.)
Author gets copyedits and makes the changes
7. Author turns in copyedited draft
Author hires a copy editor and makes the changes
Author has 3-5 friends who are good in English read through the manuscript looking for anything she missed
Author sends the cover out to get opinions8. Author gets first pass pages. These are a copy of what the text looks like when it's in "book form," that is, in a PDF document, with the right font and chapter headings etc. This is the one of the last chances an author gets to make changes to the book.
Author formats book for print and ebook or hires a formatter to do it
9. Author turns in first pass pages, with notes.
Author creates all promotional materials and sends out Arc copies to reviewers. (eARCs and print)
Author goes through the formatted pages of her book with a fine-toothed comb.
Author finds a distributor or chooses a POD and may use a POD to create ARC copies for reviewers
Author goes through all eformats of her book with a fine-toothed comb and then sends out ARCs
10. Many more passes between Editorial, Copyediting, and Design occur, as they make sure every piece of punctuation is in the right place, and that there aren't lines where the text is too tight liketherearenospacesbetween words or too loose l i k e t h e r e a r e t o o m a n y, or pages with just one line of text (that's called a widow, by the way). Their job is basically to make the formatting, font, and overall look of the text invisible so that all you notice are the words.
Author sends out more copies for review
Author writes back copy and collects blurbs to put on the back of the cover.
Cover is finalized
11. Author and editor work on flap copy, tagline, etc., that will be used in marketing, advertising, and talking about the book.
Promotional material is checked and proof copy of book with final edits and back copy is approved with printer and you print a short run of books as arcs or use a POD again. Send out
12. Somewhere in here, I get an author photo taken.
Author did this a long time ago
13. ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are printed and distributed to book reviewers and bloggers and teachers and librarians and booksellers and the like.
More ARCs are sent out for review to all the above places
14. Time is allowed for ARCs to be read and reviewed, as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Sometimes there are no ARCs. There are many reasons that might be the case.
Author gives 2 1/2 months for this (before the launch)
15. Sales Reps chat with bookstores all over the country once they've had a chance to read the ARC. Together, each bookstore and his or her Sales Rep determine exactly how many copies of every book being published that season they should order, based on past books written by the author, or other books of a similar nature.
Author's distributor finds your book homes.
If you don't have a distributor, author finds it homes.
16. Paper is ordered for that print run, several months or weeks in advance. That much paper is heavy, and takes up a lot of space to store, so the publisher has to put the order in with the printer in advance, since every book is printed on slightly different paper (or stock) and the printer has to have time to get shipped from the papermaking plant to the printing location.
If Author is using a POD, she uploads to the site she is using
If Author is printing own copies, she submits the cover art and interior file to the printer and he sends a finished proof copy for you to approve.
17. Other marketing things also happen in the midst of this. Sometimes a book trailer is outlined, worked on, and produced. Sometimes facebook pages with special fun things like faction quizzes are created. Sometimes articles are written, interviews are done, and guest blogs occur. Sometimes it's the author who does all this stuff, while working on the book at the same time and possibly raising three small children and working part time. It all depends on the book, and generally, all these things need to be spaced out.
18. Sometimes Publicity and Sales decide to send the author on tour. If so, they have to set up events that work with each bookstore's calendar. They also have to work out how to get author from City A to City B most effectively in a short span of time, and with as few crazy-early-morning flights as possible. If the author goes on a group tour with other authors, this becomes another one of those crazy word problems of juggling schedules, calendars, hometown cities, and flights schedules. 19. The final book is sent to the printer
If author is doing a paper book, they will set up signings/readings 2-3 months in advance.
Author creates or pays someone to create a blog tour.
Author creates buzz on all social media for 2 months prior to release.
20. Books can take months to print and put into cartons-- and even stickered, if the book has won an award or something. Sometimes books are printed overseas, and after they're printed, they have to be put on boats (boats!) to ship back from the overseas printers to the warehouses in the US. This is because thousands of books are heavy and the publisher has to look for the most cost-effective method, so that book prices don't have to be raised.
Books take 5-7 days to print and ship unless it is near Christmas-then good luck-send it early
21. Once the books arrive at the US port, they have to go through customs. And then they have to be shipped to warehouses in different parts of the country. At the warehouse, they go through quality checking to make sure pages aren't printed upside down or backwards, etc., before any books can be released. Meanwhile, bookstores and sales reps have to transmit their final orders.
Author delivers books to distributor or stores them herself-Most printers offer delivery, too.22. Each bookstore's shipment of books gets shipped (again, slowly, to minimize cost) out to the bookstore's own warehouse or processing area.
Distributor or author delivers books to stores
23. Then bookstores put books on shelves!
If the author has a distributor, not a POD, her books will be on store shelves. Otherwise, it will be available through online retailers
This is not an exhaustive list, just one using the traditional model as a jump-off point.
What do you think? Does indie publishing look good to you, yet or are you salivating to be traditionally published?