I'm in the home stretch with my new mystery, Ground for Death. These last few months have been an eye-opening experience, all in a good way, of course. My editor has completed her work, and so have the cover illustrator and the cover designer. The cover file and book text file are both with the e-book formatter, which is the final step before the files are uploaded to the various book sellers. The false start I had with the original cover illustrator cost me two months and will cause the entire project to squeak in just before Christmas (fingers crossed).
You may think that a launch at this late juncture spells disaster for Christmas sales, but I don't see it that way. I expect that a ton of people will receive e-readers and gift cards on December 25. My blog tour will have just finished (it runs from Dec 18 - 22), and people will be looking at their favorite book bloggers' websites to see what new books are out there to read. And voila, Grounds for Death will be right there for hungry readers to read about.
In addition to the great learning this activity has provided, I've made one significant observation. To explain, I need to outline this book's timeline. I finished writing Grounds for Death at the end of July 2011. By mid August I had found an editor and finalized the editorial contract. She took about six weeks to complete the edit (to end September), which is well worth the time spent. During this time I researched other resources I would need to bring this project to completion. Now that the cover design and illustration process is complete, I have learned that it takes about 2 months for the detailed type of illustration I wanted. The cover designer worked simultaneously, and once the final illustration file was in her hands, it took mere days to finalize the cover design. All of this to say: next time I will start the illustration process much earlier in the process. Makes sense. All you need is an idea of what the cover should be about - you don't need to have a completed entire manuscript in your hands! This accelerates the time to market immensely; if the illustration is ready when the editing is complete, you're days from launching. Ignoring the illustration problem, it took about three and a half months from manuscript to published novel. And now that my learning curve is complete and I have a great team to work with, I think this can be reduced to at most 2 months.