Publishing is in many respects an anachronistic business. The self-publishing zealots will berate the industry for this (because the turnaround time for a book seems pretty long, and they're not embracing new technologies as fast as they might and blah blah blah). But there are many ways in which the anachronistic nature of publishing is quite charming and awesome.
To wit: writers are generally treated fairly well by publishers. First of all: We get to keep the entire advance even if we don't earn out. (2 of my 13 published books have earned out, so I'm a particular fan of this one). Name me another industry that does that for creators. Secondly: business is really done with a handshake. Yes, there are written contracts, but if a publisher says they are going to publish your book and then names the advance, you can pretty much count on the fact that the contract will reflect the verbal offer. Sure, the agents and publishers go back and forth on the details of the contract, but, by and large, the contract will reflect what was said to you. I have actually had the experience of turning in revisions before the contract was signed. Because in publishing, as in essentially no other industry I can think of, your word is basically bond. Weird, right?
So all these anachronisms benefit writers, but there's another one that can initially be kind of frustrating. I've come to find it charming and even enviable, but if you're new to the game, you may find it a bit frustrating. I'm talking about the calendar.
Publishing runs on a calendar that is, as near as I can tell, unique. Now, sales are tracked and royalties are paid and such on a year-round basis, but new business, like deciding whether they want to publish your book, or approving your cover, requires input from a lot of people.
And a publishing house can convene a lot of people and make a big decision pretty much year round, with the following exceptions:
2 business days before and after any holiday.
August, where August can be understood to mean the beginning of the week containing August 1 through 2 days after Labor Day. So in 2012, that's July 30th through September 6th.
December, where December can be understood to mean the week of Thanksgiving through two days after New Year's day is observed. So in 2012-13, that's November 19th through January 4th. Which is a Friday, so you can probably write that whole week off, actually. Better say January 7th just to be safe.
The week of any major conference, such as BEA, ALA, ALA Midwinter, and Frankfurt.
The week of many minor conferences.
So, by my calculations, this leaves as many as 26 weeks a year where something new might happen at a publishing house.
"What kind of business runs on this kind of calendar in 2012?" you might well ask. The kind that offers you an advance you don't have to pay back. So keep in mind that this anachronistic calendar that causes you the author to wait a lot (and Tom Petty was right about the waiting) goes hand in hand with anachronistic business practices that benefit you enormously. Take a deep breath, take a walk, and use the time you might spend waiting anxiously for the phone to ring to do some more writing.