Publishing Timeline

by Jan King

To give you an idea of how long it takes to create a book, here is a timeline for an average self published book, without color or many illustrations.  This is just an approximation for the publishing process and it assumes the author has a completed, but unedited manuscript.  The writing process itself generally takes from 6 months to 2 or more years.  It is best to work with an experienced book coach to walk you through the process since each book is different, but this will give you an idea of what to expect after the manuscript is completed.

If you work with an established commercial publisher from the time your contract is signed you can expect it will take 12 to 18 months to get your book printed and out.

Editing – The editor will take from 2-3 weeks to do a manuscript evaluation.  A manuscript evaluation is a document written after the editor reads the entire manuscripts and takes notes on suggested changes in structure, organization and overall readability.

Rewrites – The editor will send the manuscript evaluation to the author to decide whether the author will take on the necessary changes or ask the editor to do it. Rewriting can take from 2 weeks to months, depending on what changes are decided on.

Front Cover – While the manuscript is being worked on by the editor and the author, the author can choose a cover designer.  While eventually the designer will produce a front cover, back cover and spine for the book, the front cover is done first.  The designer and author need to talk about the physical size of the book and the look and feel desired by the author.  It will probably take the designer 2-3 weeks to present the initial comps (comprehensives – possible designs) to the author to review them.  The author will like some things and not others and will talk with the designer about what he or she wants the designer to change.  Selection and change may take another 2 weeks.

Website – As soon as the front cover is designed, the author can start to prepare a website.  Some authors do their own in WordPress and then hire a web designer to “skin” the site (add graphics, color, a masthead, etc.) or the author may decide to hire a web designer to do the whole thing.  It is important for the author to select the URL (  The author may also select to add pages about the book to an existing business or personal website.

Copywriter – This is a good time to consider hiring a copywriter to write the author’s bio, sales copy for the website and any flyers and copy for the back cover.  It can take many weeks to get all this prepared, but it can be done, like the website, once the front cover is complete.

Working with a Virtual Author’s Assistant - There are many services that can be performed by a VAA, both to free up the author’s time for work only he or she can do (like rewrites and selecting the cover design).  Some of the VAAs most important tasks are fact-checking, getting permissions, getting ISBN numbers, getting the LCCN and registering with printers and signing up for social networking. The VAA can also coordinate between the author and the editor and designers to make sure each gets what they need to keep the process moving.  One of the biggest advantages of working with a VAA is that he or she knows the process and the author won’t have to learn the process from scratch.  The VAA is the guide who knows what to do when.i

Directory of certified VAA professionals:

The VAA can also coordinate the peer and audience review process where the author locates experienced peers to review the book as well as potential readers to give feedback about what might not have been clear to them in the manuscript.  All of this can take place while the book is being edited and the cover is being designed.

Interior Design – The interior design can be started when the book is complete.  The author will need to select the look and feel of the interior and placement of photos, illustrations and call outs with the help of the interior designer who will know what professional standards are for margins, font type and size and more.  It will probably take about 3 to 4 weeks to lay out the book.

Indexing – Every professional-quality nonfiction book needs an index.  Depending on the size of the book this can take 2 to 4 weeks to do after the interior design is complete.

Proofreading – Proofreading can be done simultaneously with the indexing.

Back cover and spine – Hopefully the copywriter has worked his or her magic and copy is ready for the back cover.  The author (with the help of the VAA) should also have solicited testimonials for the back cover which can be done as soon as the interior design is complete.  The back cover and spine will take 1 to 2 weeks. You may also want to put your headshot on the back cover (recommended) and that will take 2 weeks after you visit a professional photographer.

Printing – When the book is ready to be printed it can be uploaded in two files (one for the cover, the other for the text) to printers and separately formatted and uploaded for an ebook. The designer should do this work and it should take no more than 2 days.

Proofreading the printer’s copy – Most printers will insist the author approves a proof copy before any quantity is printed.  Once approved, printed copies from 1 to as many as the author wants will take 2-3 weeks, but this can be rushed if needed.

It will take another week or so to receive printed copies because of shipping

It is possible to do all the work of the self-publishing process in 2 months, but if you can allow for it, a much more comfortable schedule is 3 to 4 months.

Book Publishing Costline