Last Argument of Kings by Joe AbercrombieJoe Abercrombie’s upcoming novel, Best Served Cold has been delayed.

Now that your dismay has had some time to run its course, you’ll be happy to know that it’s by only about two months or so, which ( still having about a year to wait) doesn’t make a huge difference, all things told. What is interesting, however, is Abercrombie’s post on the delay and his ideas on book delays in general. Abercrombie’s known for being candid, with a no bullshit style of telling it like it is, so his take on it is worth reading:

“I’d got used to the pace I was working at with Last Argument of Kings, and foolishly extrapolated my likely writing pace from there. That was pretty damn fast, took about 14 months including all the editing. But that was writing the third in a trilogy, the characters, plots, endings long established in my mind and ready to be vomited out onto the page. This new project has proved more difficult. In a sense, since the trilogy was one long story, this book has felt much more like my “difficult second album” than the second book did, which was only really a continuation of the first. I am beginning to understand why people end up writing endless series…

Then there are the distractions and pressures that come with having books out there in the marketplace and (relatively) successful. Interviews, blogging, responding to email, endlessly searching for anyone talking about you, checking your amazon sales ranks every hour in four different countries, etc. That vital work all takes up time and energy one could have expended writing. And though I’m doing a lot less of the day job these days, it’s funny how the pace of writing doesn’t necessarily increase to match (more on this in due course, perhaps).

So cut the sh*t, Joe, can you just tell us what authors will never bloody tell us, and say where are you actually up to with this book? Well, er, yes, thanks for asking. It’s in seven parts, and I’m just finishing the first draft of the fifth part, so about three quarters of the way through. Well, that doesn’t seem so bad, it’s only May, a whole eleven months before the original pub date! True, I still hope to have the first draft finished and then thoroughly revised to my own satisfaction maybe end of August.

But I know what you’re thinking now. If it’s all finished before the end of the year, why the f*ck does anyone need to move the pub date from April to June?

There’s a lot more to it than just getting it typeset, proof-reading for errors, then boshing it off to the printers and counting the cash. For one thing the production department of a big publisher may have dozens of books going through at a time, from many different imprints, and everything has to take its place in the queue. They can’t just be twiddling their thumbs waiting for that one author you like to finish their manuscript. These things can take some time.

But there are much more time-consuming processes than the obvious ones of physically producing the product. If you’re going to give a book the best chance of selling well then booksellers need to know when it’s going to appear some time in advance. The more warning they get, the further in advance they can plan their buying, the better chance of getting better display space and support. Editors need some time to get folks in their own company enthused about a book – the publicists, the reps who will try to sell books on to booksellers, the rights department who may be trying to sell the book to other markets. The longer you have and the firmer the date, the better chance of prising some marketing cash from the gripping fingers of the soul-less money men (I don’t mean it, I really don’t). The more time you have between finishing the final edit and publishing the book means more time to get proofs out to reviewers and more time for them to read the book, which means more chance of it getting reviews, of there being some buzz, or at least some awareness of the existence of a book before it comes out. All of this is going to help sales.

Then there is the question of scheduling. A publisher doesn’t want to be releasing two similar books too close together, because they’ll end up competing with each other, not only for the generous cash of the book-buying public, but also for the attention of the marketing within their own organisation, the reps who go out and try and sell the books to booksellers, and the booksellers themselves who need to fill their shelves. They don’t want to be saying, “this book is the most important epic fantasy released anywhere this month … apart from this one which we also have, which is just as good if not better, well, not better, but … where are you going?” Schedules get filled up, books have to be moved around other books, and the later the delay occurs the worse the problem, which is why sometimes a small delay in delivery can mean publication has to be shifted months later, into the next free slot.

So you can see there are a compelling stack of reasons why it’s in the best interests of a book to have 9-12 months between delivery of a first draft and publication. With the really big, well-established authors it’s less important. Booksellers, reps and readers aren’t going to say no to A Dance With Dragons because it doesn’t turn up on time, for example, but if you push it down to less than six months you’re limiting editing time, proof-reading time, putting added pressure on everyone involved and taking some risks with the quality of the output. Ever wondered why books that are long-delayed may seem sloppily edited? Wonder no longer…”

Interesting indeed. You can find the whole article HERE.