How long does it take to publish my book?

Book Publishing Timeline

Starting from the writer’s words to the printed book, a publishing professional offers a nonfiction trade book timeline that summarizes book publishing steps for authors.

Writers dream of having their name on a published book. So of course they are eager to know how soon they’ll be able to hold a copy of their book—their book—in their hands.

The short answer is up to 1-2 years.

That’s the time it generally takes to publication with a legitimate trade publisher. And that’s after you’ve delivered the completed manuscript and it has been accepted, not when you sign the publishing contract. (NOTE: There are some publishers who manage to get the book in print in less than 6 months, but it’s not the norm.)

The timeline grows longer if you consider the whole series of steps necessary to get from your great idea to a published book.

It works like this:

* The author develops the idea into a book proposal, taking a few days or weeks. (NOTE: Nonfiction books are sold before they are written.)

* It takes days, weeks, or months to get an agent to onboard to represent your proposal to publishers. (You can skip this step if you already have an agent or you are selling to the smaller presses without an agent.)

* The marketing process can take weeks or months, sometimes even years to completion. (I have sold projects within 24 hours, sometimes even 2 hours after offering them, but this is unusual.)

* The publisher typically needs days or maybe weeks for in-house consideration, which involves many steps before making an offer.

* The offer is negotiated; the publisher draws up the contract; the contracts are issued, sent and signed. It can take days or (rarely) weeks to come to terms, perhaps longer if the publisher has to get their attorney’s approval.

* Now it’s time to write the book, meeting the contracted deadlines for delivery. The writer has weeks or months, or sometimes a year or more to finish the text.

* The publisher edits the text, returns it to the author to review, answer questions, incorporate suggestions, respond to comments, etc—all of this takes a few more weeks or months.

* The publisher has more work to do, such as: laying out the book text, arranging for the indexing, designing the covers, writing jacket blurbs and catalogue copy, scheduling the print run, taking pre-pub book orders, consulting the PR department, shipping the printed books and more, taking additional weeks or months.

* The publisher sends the galleys (page proofs) to the author for final read-through of the text exactly as it will appear in print, usually allowing 7-10 days. Then the publisher tweaks any last-minute typos or other minor corrections and the book goes to press.

As you can see, book publication is a multi-step process involving a myriad of details, each important to the quality of the book.

So, I guess the complete answer to how long it takes to publish a book is: it depends. Plug the above steps into a schedule (which, incidentally, is exactly what a book publisher does) and you’ll have a more precise answer.

The exception: Crash books.

Learn why a book might be published in mere days or weeks in Crash Books: Extreme Publishing.

Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

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