My chaotic publishing timeline (behind the scenes with a professional author)

by Gigi Griffis
The Wicked Unseen books

Publishing is a long process.

It’s what everyone tells you before you get into the industry. But what exactly does it mean? How long do things really take?

Obviously, experiences vary. But with four books sold to traditional publishers, I decided to map my own timeline. When did I finish writing these books? When did they go on submission? When did they sell?

If you’ve ever wanted to get really nitty gritty behind the scenes, here’s your chance. (Detailed breakdown included below the visual timeline!)

Notes: I’ve ignored my agent journey for the purposes of this post (which was with two books and over 100 queries on the second book, if you wanted to know) and only included the books that have sold and announced already. The timeline also extends into the future to include the release dates of my 2024 and 2025 titles.

Jargon note: for those not in the industry, submission is when your agent starts sending the manuscript (or proposal) to editors at the publishing houses for consideration. It could mean sending to a single editor (an exclusive submission, often done when you have a preexisting relationship with that editor or publisher), multiple editors at different publishers, or even multiple rounds of editors (if a dozen say no, it goes to a dozen more, for example).

(Screen reader users, note that all timeline data is also in the text below. Timelines are simply used as a visual representation of the same data found in this blog post. You aren’t missing any context.)

Let’s go!

There are a few things I find fascinating about this chart. The first is how much things cluster. For months, nothing will happen, and then suddenly 230 things happen at once. This is why all your writer friends are either stressed that nothing is happening or chaotically attempting to get everything done in a week. There is no in between.

In my case, this means that (ignoring all books written before AND THE TREES STARE BACK and my submission and agent search journeys before August 2020) in August 2020 I completed a draft of TREES, which went on submission about six months later in February 2021. Nothing happens on the publishing side, but I keep writing, completing THE WICKED UNSEEN in July 2021. It goes on sub in September and almost immediately we get the first inkling that I might get to audition for a mysterious historical project for a streaming service, which will turn out to be THE EMPRESS. In October, I’m officially asked to audition.

Note that even with all that busy work, nothing is really happening yet on the publishing side. It’s all just work me and my agent are doing. Writing. Submitting. Putting my name out there for IP projects like EMPRESS. Throwing lots of stuff at the wall.

Then December 2021 hits and BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. WICKED sells to Underlined at Penguin Random House. I officially get the EMPRESS job with Zando and Netflix. And then I go on to write the rest of EMPRESS by the end of the year.

Fast-forward to May when WICKED finally announces, then July when EMPRESS finally announces and reveals its very rad cover and Netflix tie-in. By September, EMPRESS (which is a crashed book and not on normal publishing timelines) releases into the world.

When October hits, it is another one-two punch of good news: WICKED has its cover reveal and WE ARE THE BEASTS sells on proposal to my editor at Penguin Random House (for their Delacorte imprint). A short few weeks later (in November) BEASTS announces.

More crickets from publishing while I work on drafting BEASTS, which is ready in February 2023. And the crickets continue until May, when TREES (remember TREES? You thought that guy was dead, didn’t ya?) FINALLY gets a phone call then an offer from Holiday House almost three years after it was drafted.

June comes in hot with more good news: WICKED is released into the world much like a Kraken (and proceeds to sell over 2,000 copies in the first 10 days, according to the royalty statement!).

I go back to the heavy blanket of publishing silence while I draft things and throw more things at the wall until TREES finally announces in January 2024 and BEASTS has its cover reveal in March.

Now, from this point on, there are lots of possibilities (after all, I’ve still been throwing things at the wall behind the scenes), but two more things we know for sure on the timeline. One is that BEASTS releases in November this year (unless they change the date, which does sometimes happen) and the second is that my love, my heart book, the thing that took goddamn forever to find its home, TREES is out summer 2025.

In case you weren’t keeping track, the above is a five-year spread of time covering four books (if we include all the way up to TREES’s release in summer 2025). From finishing TREES to now, we’ve clocked three years and seven months.

It’s also worth noting that there are many things I haven’t shown on that chart (because I’m only charting books that have already sold and announced). Other things I’ve written/partially written/am working on include: three adult projects, one young adult project, and a movie script (yes! I wrote a movie script!) all in various stages of their own journeys.

In case you’re interested in each book’s individual journey, here they are split out:

The Wicked Unseen

July 2021: draft complete
[2-month gap]
September 2021: on submission
[3-month gap]
December 2021: sold!
[5-month gap]
May 2022: announced
[5-month gap]
October 2022: cover reveal
[8-month gap]
June 2023: released!

We Are the Beasts

October 2022: sold on proposal!
[1-month gap]
November 2022: announced
[3 months]
February 2023: draft complete
[1-year+ gap]
March 2024: cover reveal
[8-month gap]
November 2024: publication!

And the Trees Stare Back (the slowest)

August 2020: draft complete
[6-month gap]
February 2021: on submission
May 2023: sold!
[8-month gap]
January 2024: announced
[1.5 years]
Summer 2025: publication!

The Empress (the fastest)

September 2021: mysterious audition comes up and I sign the Scary NDAs
[~1 month]
October 2021: audition officially offered
[~2 months]
December 2021: hired!
December 2021: draft complete
[7 months]
July 2022: announced and cover revealed
[2 months]
September 2022: published!

So, there you have it. If you’ve ever wanted to see the nitty gritty timeline details of the author journey, here you go. And if you are an author yourself, I’m curious: what have your timelines looked like?


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