Fast-Track Publishing: The Pros and Cons of Expediting the Publishing Process

14 May 2021

FAST-TRACK PUBLISHING: THE PROS AND CONS OF EXPEDITING THE PUBLISHING PROCESS

“Publishing success isn’t about how talented you are; rather, it’s about what you do with how talented you are.” — Writing coach, Christina Katz

Taking a book idea from concept to print can be a long and arduous process. In some cases, it may take years for a book to reach the shelves. After all, the publishing industry has never been synonymous with speed.

However, for those looking to accelerate the process, there are options to consider.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of expediting the publishing process and will shed some light on the feasibility of “fast-track” publishing.

What Does Publishing Entail?

In a broad sense, publishing encompasses the issuance of books, journals, magazines, guides, and any other text-based material for distribution.

Traditionally, the publishing industry has focused on producing these text-based print materials. But with the advent of the digital age, publishing has slowly migrated to electronic formats as well.

The process of publishing a high-quality text is very meticulous and time consuming. As such, there are no pre-determined time blocks for each step. In some cases, the text can make it to publication in weeks. In other cases, the entire process can take years.

But what are these steps that cause the process to take so much time?

Acquisition

The first stage of the publishing process begins with an acquisition.

An acquisition occurs when a literary agent or book publisher agrees to sign an author or purchase a manuscript. In some instances, it may be a one-and-done deal. In others, a promising author may get a three-book deal.

At this point, there may or may not be a manuscript already written. In many cases, the only product is a concept for an unwritten book.

Editorial Review

The next step consists of meeting with the editorial team.

The editorial team will go over whatever the writer has produced. If it is only an outline, the editorial team will suggest changes and edits. In this situation, the writer would most likely need to pitch their idea to the editorial team.

If there is a manuscript, the editorial team might make an “editorial assessment” to refine it. Fiction works often see changes to plots and storylines, whereas nonfiction works may see structural changes related to topics and content.

Production

The production stage encompasses the entire writing, editing, and publication process. This stage is the longest and can take years, depending on the writer’s speed and dedication.

More often than not, publishers acquire finished manuscripts. Therefore, structural edits are minimal. In this case, the bulk of the editing boils down to copyediting and proofreading.

In short, the more polished a manuscript is, the less time it will take to pass this stage.

Marketing and Distribution

Lastly, the distribution and marketing stage drives book sales.

While there is no specific timeframe for this stage, promoting a book typically ranges from several weeks to a few months. Best-selling authors generally do not require extensive marketing. However, up-and-coming authors usually need more exposure.

Overall, a book’s lifecycle depends almost entirely on its sales.

Publishers constantly seek the next bestseller. Thus, authors should understand that the publishing industry is a profit-driven one that prioritizes books that are most likely to bring in the most money.

“Fast-Track” Publishing

Considering that the publishing process may become extensive, writers and publishers may choose to engage in so-called “fast-track” publishing.

Fast-track publishing is a practice in which the overall publishing process happens at a much faster tempo.

The main question surrounding fast-track publication lies in establishing why authors, in particular, seek to reduce the publishing cycle’s timeframe.

For many, it is a matter of “publish or perish.”  Shortening the publishing cycle’s lifetime allows authors to get their work out there faster, thereby increasing their exposure.

In addition, publishers may seek to shrink the publishing cycle’s span as a means of improving profits. This assumption is valid when publishers seek to maximize their profits by flooding their respective markets with as many publications as possible.

Additionally, there are extenuating circumstances in which time is of the essence. For example, an urgent matter or event captures the public’s attention. Consequently, authors and publishers must hasten to get their works to print in as little time as reasonably possible, in order to capitalize on the event at hand.

Tools for “Fast-Tracking”

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Photo by Daniel from Pexels

For authors or publishers looking to “fast-track” publishing, there are tools available to help. The following tools can reduce the time needed to publish content without compromising quality.

Artificial Intelligence

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) through programs such as Autocrit and Grammarly can significantly reduce the time needed to edit documents.

These programs have advanced AI algorithms that can go through a manuscript and find errors in much less time than human eyes, thus allowing human time to be allocated to other tasks.

Ghostwriting Companies

The writing process itself can become the most time-consuming portion of the entire publishing cycle. To help with this issue, some publishers hire professional ghostwriters to produce content.

And, in some cases, publishers will hire a whole team of professional ghostwriters. After all, a team of ghostwriters can increase output in much less time than a single one.

Self-Publishing

Some authors go the self-publishing route to bypass the traditional publishing process. Self-publishing cuts publishing time down significantly, as it removes many of the usual barriers.

This route enables authors to take a finished manuscript to publication in short order. Often, self-publishing can shorten the process from weeks or years to mere hours or days.

Additionally, self-publishing facilitates getting both digital and print publications to a mass audience quickly and at a fraction of the cost.

Pros of Fast-Track Publishing

Fast-tracking the publication process has its pros. Mainly, fast-track publishing cuts down the publishing cycle’s timeframe significantly. Consequently, this time reduction impacts cost. As a result, a publisher’s bottom line will also see a positive improvement.

In addition, expediting the writing process by hiring a ghostwriting company drastically cuts writing time.

As such, publishers can employ full-time, professional ghostwriters instead of waiting on regular writers to get through a manuscript.

Moreover, hiring dedicated ghostwriters allows publishers to order books on specific topics as opposed to scouring the landscape for viable proposals.

Also, using automated tools can drastically cut the editing process.

While AI cannot substitute an editorial assessment, it can cut down the copyediting and proofreading process. Therefore, publishers can employ an algorithm to go over grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes in minutes as opposed to days or even weeks.

The marriage between ghostwriters and automated tools can make self-publishing a feasible alternative and can help authors save time and money to polish up their manuscripts.

Indeed, saving time and money is at the forefront of fast-track publishing. Nevertheless, fast-track publishing’s upsides go beyond saving time and money.

Publishers seeking to expand their scope can utilize fast-tracking to test the market. Since fast-track publishing tools reduce time and cost, testing new markets is no longer a prohibitive endeavor. Publishers can test new niches without making a significant upfront investment.

Also, authors save a considerable amount of time in preparing a manuscript.

While a solid editorial assessment may still be necessary, the copyediting and proofreading process can take hours instead of weeks. Moreover, authors will not need to employ an editor to review the mechanical aspects of language (spelling, punctuation, and grammar). As a result, authors can submit highly polished manuscripts for consideration.

Fast-track publishing allows publishers to capitalize on emerging trends. Often, publishers miss these trends, as getting useful content to the public can take a long time. Publishers can profit from trends as they emerge.

Consequently, fast-tracking the publishing process allows authors and publishers to adapt to readers’ shifting preferences quickly. Ultimately, this increased flexibility has a profound impact on the bottom line.

Cons of Fast-Track Publishing

While fast-tracking the publishing process has its upside, there is a downside that authors and publishers must be cognizant of before implementing fast-track publishing as a standard practice.

First, the use of automation comes with its share of risks. Particularly, automated AI-based tools are far from perfect. Therefore, blind faith in these tools may lead to unwanted mistakes.

As such, it is necessary to have a human go through a finished text prior to its publication. After all, AI cannot interpret an author’s intent and feelings.

Second, all content creators are not equal. Some are extremely good at producing a specific type of content but may not be as adept at producing all types of content.

Moreover, some content creators (particularly those offering rock-bottom costs) produce low-quality materials.

Mainly, low-quality content is due to the speed at which they work. Hence, unreasonably short turnaround times should be a major red flag to keep in mind.

Thirdly, self-publishing is not a common practice in all areas. For example, academic publishing largely hinges on becoming featured in respected journals and magazines. So, self-publishing is not really an option in those cases.

Also, nonfiction writers may find skepticism if their work is self-published. After all, having the support of a mainstream publisher helps boost visibility and reader engagement.

Publishers should be wary of using fast-track publishing to produce content en masse. Even though publishing is very much a numbers game, flooding the market with content does not always represent the most effective profit-driving approach.

Above all, publishers should strive to produce high-quality materials at regular intervals. Setting up a publishing schedule, and sticking to it, can drive profits far more than merely inundating the market. Maintaining a consistent tempo creates a sense of expectation in readers.

Is Fast-Track Publishing Worth It?

In short, the time that can be saved by fast-track publishing can be worth the effort.

The drastic reduction in time and cost can greatly enhance profit margins while allowing more publications to reach the market within a reasonable timeframe.

Fast-tracking the publishing process yields a number of benefits for readers as well. Readers can improve the scope and quality of their selections while receiving a constant flow of fresh content. Therefore, publishers can certainly take advantage of this approach.

As for authors, there is a new sense of hope in seeing their work reach publication. Whether authors choose to go the traditional or self-publishing route, they now have improved chances of achieving their goals.

That being said, the potential pitfalls with fast-track publishing still do require attention.

Both publishers and authors must pay close attention to the risks of fast-tracking the publishing process.

Publishers may choose to prioritize speed over quality. In such circumstances, publishers may harm their brand more than benefitting it.

Writers may also wish to expand their output by employing automated tools. However, automation has its limitations.

Ultimately, maintaining an adequate balance is the most important factor in fast-track publishing. While the goal may be to maximize profits, publishers and authors should endeavor to balance quality with speed. Good-quality content with a reasonable publication schedule will always beat a glacial tempo.

Author
Zach Richter 

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