This is a post I wrote in early 2017 – as I am still often asked this question, I thought it might be good to post it again.
I’m often asked how long the writing and self-publishing process take. Let’s find out!
There is no one answer to this question. I’ve been around books and writing my whole life and I’ve seen it all. Some people take six months, or a year, or two, or three… And I know one author who has written four or five books: she goes away for two weeks, locks herself in and finishes her first draft in that time. I know people who say they wrote their first draft in a week!
So, if there’s no one answer, what’s the average? Most of the authors we work with take a couple of months to write a first draft, and then another month or two to revise, perhaps get some feedback, and do another couple of drafts.
- Scheduling writing time every day will speed up the process.
- Aim to finish your first draft, even if it’s a bit rough. Then you can go back and revise. Some authors become too concerned about making their first draft awesome and so writing takes them ages – or worse, they never finish. Your subsequent drafts and the editing process are where your book becomes fantastic.
- While you are still writing, start contacting self-publishing companies, editors, designers, printers – whoever you need to help publish your book. It can take a number of weeks – or even months – to sort this stuff out, so if you leave it until after you have finished writing, you’ll lose momentum on your book. This is a trap authors sometimes fall into, and as a result their book is never published.
Here are some general guidelines for how long you can expect each step to take, based on a 30,000 to 40,000 word book:
- Developmental edit (if required): two to four weeks.
- First edit: three to four weeks.
- Internal design and layout: two to three weeks.
- Second edit (if required): one to two weeks.
- Cover design: two to four weeks (alongside edit and layout).
- Proofreading: one to two weeks.
– Black-only interior printed in Australia: two to three weeks.
– Full-colour interior printed offshore: two to three months.
- Ebook and print on demand formatting: one to two weeks.
- Ebook and print on demand uploading: one to two weeks.
- Discuss your schedule with the self-publishing companies or other providers you talk to before signing up with them, to make sure they can meet your needs. Ask them to confirm in writing.
- If you are using individual suppliers rather than a one-stop self-publishing service, make sure your schedule is coordinated and confirmed with all suppliers, and inform them all immediately if there are any delays.
- A heavily compressed timeframe will increase the risk of problems, and could compromise the quality of your book. To produce a first-class book you must give your publishing team the time they need to do their jobs properly.
- Often the best way to work out a schedule for your book is to work out when you need books by and then work backwards.
- Factor in time for any delays, either with the project itself or for when you become side-tracked by other commitments. (We all wish it didn’t happen, but we all know it does.) You may wish to work out your desired schedule, and then add an extra couple of weeks.
And so the answer is …
As a guide, six months is a reasonable timeframe from the start of the writing process to having printed books in your hands. Or, if you want to be ambitious, you could aim for five or even four months. It’s very difficult to write and self-publish a high-quality book in less time than this.
So, what are you waiting for? Time to get writing …