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iBook Lessons: The long and short of ebook submission review times


iBook Lessons is a continuing series about ebook writing and publishing.

Last Autumn, after Apple launched the iPhone 4S, Steve Sande and I wrote Talking to Siri. It took several weeks to move through Apple review. Throughout all that time, people kept asking us, "Aren't you going to offer an iBooks version?" and we were all, "Patience, all in the fullness of time." The fullness of time, in that case, was almost a month.

Since then, Apple has made major internal changes that have sped up the approval process for both books and applications. Last week, Steve and I submitted Pitch Perfect, our new book about communicating with blogs. It was greenlit in hours.


To get a sense of why we were so stunned by this, compare and contrast with another book we submitted several weeks ago: Getting Ready for Mountain Lion. It's a short how-to that discusses how to prepare your computer for the coming upgrade.

Our EPUB version went live just about the time Pitch Perfect did. (Yes, your votes did matter.) The iBooks Author version, the one with the video introduction and the pretty page layouts, is still in review, about three weeks after we first submitted it.

So what's an author to do? With Amazon, you can usually count on a book making it through review in a few days. Our quickest turn-around (for Pitch Perfect, incidentally) was several hours. We submitted midday, and it was live before we finished the workday. Our longest was over a weekend. I don't think we've ever exceeded 72 hours with Amazon review.

With iTunes, however, all you get is a status: "Not on 32 stores". As with application review, there's no indication that lets you know where the book is in its progress to the iBooks store and what might be holding it up.

Because we have the zen attitudes and relative attention span of three year olds, we decided to contact iTunes and submit a support query to a rep. We wanted to know how the book was doing and when we might expect it to be approved.

The problem with the "Contact us" option in iTunes Connect is that there are few ways to actually contact Apple. Most choices lead you to a FAQ page rather than a contact form. We discovered that obvious choices like "Manage Your Books > Book Status > Checking Status" got us nowhere.

After some digging, we finally discovered "Content Status Inquiries > Unknown Issue", which finally allowed us to submit a request about a "Content Status error". Our book had been in review for several weeks, which we felt was a reasonable "status error" as far as we're concerned. We filled out the form and shot it off. About a week later, we've still never heard back.

Now, be aware that working with iBooks Author material comes with a warning that quality assurance can take "up to 2 weeks" to process, depending on a book's complexity. Our Mountain Lion book isn't particularly complex and we exceeded that 2 week period early last week.

For now, we're repeating mantras like "It will pub when it pubs" and "Be a leaf in the Apple iBooks wind, traveling without complaint or direction", but it would be awfully nice if we had access to a little more feedback during the process.

Have you dealt with long review times with iBooks? How did things work out for you? Drop a comment and share your story.

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