The Book Publishing Timeline - WRITE | PUBLISH | SELL

Jan 27, 2018 | Publish

The Book Publishing Timeline

book publishing timeline

How long do I need to publish a book? How long does it take to publish a book? I get these questions all the time. The Book publishing timeline is going to vary depending on your project, so I’ll break it down by my recommendations for each type of project.

As we say over and over at Write|Publish|Sell – it all comes down to your why and your end goals.

  • Why are you writing the book?
  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How do you want to publish it? This is a huge question – because before you can establish any timelines, you really have to know the answers to these questions. Traditional publishing versus small press vs. hybrid vs. self/indie publishing will drastically change the timeline.
  • How big do you want your launch to be? (yes, this is a tremendous factor in your publishing timeline, especially if you’re starting with little to no platform).

I am not going to really speak to traditional timelines on this post, because quite simply, if you are picked up by a traditional publisher (see post on how to publish traditionally for more information) the publisher will set the timeline, deadlines, etc. You can expect it to take about 1-2 years.

book publishing timeline

So, let’s talk about the book publishing timeline!

  1. ebook only – 30-60 days;  you can do an ebook only in a far shorter timeframe than other mediums, certainly… however… there are still pieces of the puzzle that you need to make sure you don’t skip. Editing being the first part. Just because you’re ONLY publishing an ebook does not mean that it shouldn’t be edited. Quality over quantity every time. While you can find editors who work on a faster timeframe than others, you need to account for at least 2-4 weeks for a solid edit. If you’re not platform building, if you’re able to write your book quickly, if you find an editor that is available as soon as you’re done writing and if the book is fairly short, it can be done and published in 30-60 days.  This is an aggressive timeline and not one I generally recommend. But again… depends on your goals with the book.
  2. Print book – 120-180 days
    6 months is honestly the shortest time frame I recommend in NEARLY all circumstances. If the book launch goals are bigger, immediate sales goals bigger, and need for marketing much larger, if the book has not been written when you begin to plan out the process, I suggest 6 months to a year.
    Why? There is a LOT that needs to happen with the book. You can rush if you want, but you’ll be disappointed on launch day. I can almost guarantee it.
  3. Fiction vs. nonfiction. There IS a difference. The reality is, you probably can pump out an ebook in 30-60 days if it’s nonfiction. You’re usually teaching or sharing about something you already have vast knowledge about. Other nonfiction authors, due to the level of research required, have spent 2-3 years gathering data and compiling their book. For fiction – your timeline will depend on how much free time you have to write your book, but beyond that, the timeline will be similar to any other print book. It will need to go through editing, layout, publishing preparation, marketing, and all of those things.My overall recommendation for anyone trying to publish a book is a minimum of 120 days. 

What has to happen in the book publishing timeline?

  • You have to write a good book. Some people can do that in a jiffy. Most people need to put some time and effort. Generally plan for 60-90 days, but as many as 180+ days to write a book depending on the level of research required, the length, and how the book is being written.
  • The book needs to be edited. Already addressed above. In my experience with all of our clients, the editing process almost always takes longer than planned for, and 4-8 weeks is the norm. Once the editor goes through round 1, you have to make these changes, then another round and changes. It can take a bit.
  • Are you using beta readers? This really helps the editing process go more smoothly, but will add another 4-6 weeks to your timeline.
  • Formatting and layout – you need to plan for a solid month on this process. That is including the time to preview a print proof, which is a part of the required timeline for my clients. Too many things pop out or look different in the print version.
  • Marketing – you can never start early enough on this, but I guarantee you, you’ll want to start your efforts at least 90 days out. I prefer 120 or more. Ideally, you’ve allowed enough time for editorial reviews, endorsements, and advanced readers… so you need at least 30-60 days once you have a final copy for sending out to these people. Plus, if podcasts and blog posts, guests appearances are part of your launch strategy, they generally are booking months in advance. So you need to be pitching about 4 -6 months ahead of launch. Of course, the promo needs to continue well after launch to keep the momentum alive, so don’t beat yourself up too badly if you miss that window.
  • Book cover – generally doesn’t take very long, but need early in the process, at least a flat mockup for marketing purposes
  • All the other stuff – ISBN, filing copyright, PCIP block, etc, etc… they take time, but not that much and can be done throughout.

What should MY book publishing timeline be?

I want to take this opportunity to talk about book launch expectations. This is a huge element of what timeline you take. Many authors have the expectation that because they have written a phenomenal book and have some dedicated friends and family, they’re going to sell thousands of copies at launch.

The reality is, most indie and small press published authors sell less than 50 print books in their launch month and less than 200 print books in the lifetime of the book. But that doesn’t have to be you!

Approach it from a purely numbers standpoint. If you want to sell 100 books that first month, you need to have at least 1000 very engaged people on your email list. Not on social media. If you want 100 book sales from social media followings, I would increase that number to 10,000 or 25,000 followers. So, you’re going to need the time to build that following.

Or you can readjust your mindset. Realize that you can continue growing that audience and building those sales long after the book launches. You can implement marketing strategies that will allow you to reach beyond your current audience. You can still have a great launch even while building your platform.

But my answer to almost everyone, with the exception of the short ebook only publishing: 120-180 days.

What about children’s books?

They get their own special time line! You have to find a good editor specific to children’s books, an illustrator, someone to properly layout the book because you cannot mess that up or you’re in trouble… and so many other things. I’d say give yourself a year on a children’s book. The market is full and you’ll want to make sure you’re spending plenty of time growing your audience and preparing for a big launch.

If you’d like a basic checklist on the publishing timeline and activities you need to be doing from 120+ days prior to your book launch, I’ve created a special checklist just for you! Grab it below. And be sure to join our free Facebook group for writers. Write|Publish|Sell



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