Jane Austen’s two-month turnaround

Thinking today of the lovely Jane Austen on the 200th anniversary of her most popular novel’s publication. Her brother Henry acted as her literary agent, and Thomas Egerton paid her 110 pounds as an advance, just two months before Pride and Prejudice‘s release.

Today’s writers have it a bit different — not that you’re paid much more, since $175 in 1813 would be about $2,500 today — but you do have to wait a good while longer before holding a copy of your published book. If an agent made a deal in November 2012, it’s likely that by today the contract negotiation may be complete and signed by the author and publisher.

Months go by afterward as the editors edit, marketers market, and sales associates try to convince bookstores that your book is going to be a popular one, one that must have a place on their shelves! Designers whip up several cover options, trying to pin-point just the right image that might grab a passerby. As all this happens, you will wait, occasionally sending back revisions to your editor and hoping that all this waiting will pay off in the end.

Then the publishers wait as well, timing the release of your novel at the best possible moment — right before Christmas, or alongside a related historic event.

But I have to say, if I were around in January of 1813, I would have been ever so glad to obtain a copy of Pride and Prejudice to warm me through these long winter months. And perhaps, since she wrote the first draft, First Impressions, nearly 20 years earlier, Jane deserved her quick publication turnaround.


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