How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book?Jun 09, 2021
I've talked about this extensively but it takes a long time to get a traditionally published book released—often two years between acquisition and release. You're competing against all the other books on their slate. Of course, publishers can rush highly anticipated books, which is why you see some come out quickly.
So Let's Talk About You Doing It Yourself
Okay, first things first: the writing. Oh yes, the writing. Of course, everyone varies; I know people who have written massively successful books in a weekend! But the rough statistic I've heard quoted is that if you’re going to write it yourself, expect to spend about 300 hours on the first draft. The reason many entrepreneurs look at that and then hire a ghostwriter is that they'll calculate what they make an hour, multiply it by 300 and then say, "Whoa! This is just not a good use of my time."
Obviously, this isn't true for people who have grown up always wanting to write a book; this is for people who want to use a book to grow their business.
Another number I've heard thrown around regarding the writing is to take a year writing a first draft and another year to polish. While I wrote my first book faster than that, I had a decade of journalism experience—writing quickly to make deadlines—which helped me prepare.
But the Time Frame is Different For Everyone
William Faulkner wrote Light in August in seven months and As I Lay Dying in less than six weeks (while working the night shift at a power plant, no less).
And then there's Anthony Burgess, who was diagnosed with a disease, told he was going to die soon and wanted to provide for his family so he wrote A Clockwork Orange in three weeks. (This story is widely debated.)
Then there's Junot Díaz and Margaret Mitchell, who each took a decade to write, respectively, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Gone With the Wind.
Once You're Done Writing
If you're publishing on your own, once you're done with your final draft, your book will need a developmental edit. How long that takes is entirely dependent on how busy your developmental editor is and how many other books they're juggling but plan for a month or two. You may be going back and forth with that editor or they may deliver a final product; clarify that upfront.
I would recommend researching cover designers once you've finished your first draft. Of course, any time before that that you see a cover you like, save it so you can give it to your designer for inspiration. Expect the cover to take a month at least. It depends on your designer's experience and how many other books they're working on (over designers range in cost—anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand but you can also create your cover yourself [see below for a link to my class that shows you how]).
The Bio and Book Description
It shouldn't take long to create a bio and book description (if you already have a bio, reframe it however you need to as a writer's bio). Book descriptions are an art form unto themselves (my course also gets into how to do those).
Blurbs and Feedback
Leave yourself plenty of time to get feedback from trusted friends and colleagues. And perhaps some of them will be providing your blurbs, or endorsements (a practice I heard about from Jay Abraham when I interviewed him.) Speaking of endorsements, give anyone you're asking plenty of time to read the book—at least a month or two. (My course also delves into blurbs, as does the episode I'm linking to below.)
You can put blurbs on the front or back cover but you don’t have to.
After your book has gotten a developmental edit, hire a copy editor to fix grammatical errors and typos—give them about two weeks. Then get a proofreader to scan for mistakes the copy editor missed—another two weeks. I highly recommend giving your book to about five trusted friends when the copy editor is working on your book because they can also help you catch typos. You can also use software to have your book read aloud to you and if you're recording an audiobook, now would be the time (so you can catch even more errors and bits you want to change). This continuous editing process can take a month or two. An audiobook is a whole other project unto itself, which I got into in another episode (link below).
Layout and Uploading
Layout designers can cost anywhere from $5 (on Fiverr) to thousands of dollars. If you're uploading directly to Amazon, they can lay it out for you for free. That is pretty instantaneous. Your layout designer will take at least a week, I would guess. There's also Vellum software (Mac only), which costs $249 for lifetime access for paperback and ebook. That's pretty instantaneous though you'll have to go in and make adjustments to spacing after. Once it's laid out, I would go through it again to scan for mistakes. Give that another week.
If you're publishing exclusively on Amazon, you'll load your book and description and cover and all the other elements into Kindle Direct Publishing. If you want to also have your book published on Barnes & Noble and other outlets, you'll also upload it to Ingram (Ingram also can distribute to Amazon so you can upload just to Ingram, though there are advantages to uploading to both). This should take a few weeks to figure out.
Then There's the Launch
Know this: none of what I'm about to suggest is required. I break down all of these strategies in my Launch Your Book class and in previous episodes but my main suggestions are: figure out the news hook for your book and contract press when you do. Scan Help a Reporter Out (HARO) for the months before your release so you know journalists and can be quoted as a source on your book topic. Put together an Advanced Reader Team that can read your book before it's released and post reviews during your launch. There are all sorts of other strategies—I broke down everything I did for Make Your Mess Your Memoir in the post I link to below. A launch can take anywhere from a year to a week to a day; it all depends on what you want to put into it.
If you publish traditionally, you’ll have to do all the same launch plans but they will take care of the editing, copy editing, cover design and release for you.
CLICK ON ANY OF THE LINKS BELOW TO HEAR THIS EPISODE!
QUOTE OF THE POD:
"I know people who have written massively successful books in a weekend. But the rough statistic I've heard quoted is that if you’re going to write it yourself, expect to spend about 300 hours on the first draft."