One of most common questions we’re asked by authors who have written a manuscript and are keen to get their book published is: ‘How long will it take until my book is ready to be launched out into the world?’ Our answer typically is: ‘Probably longer than you’d ideally like it to!’

After having dedicated weeks, months or even years to the writing process, it’s understandable that you’re excited to have completed your manuscript. However, it’s important you’re aware that this is just the starting point. There are still lots of steps to be undertaken until your book is ready to for publication. Of course, if you are impatient to get your book published quickly, you can simply upload a Word file to Amazon KDP and then press the ‘Print’ button. However, if you’re serious about attracting a large audience and selling your book, it’s a good idea to invest time and money into your self-publishing book. This involves engaging industry professionals such as editors, proofreaders, typesetters and cover designers to work with you throughout the book publishing process.

Regardless of how significant you think your book’s content may be, it’s a waste of time and effort if the quality of the writing and the design aesthetics of your book are sub-standard.

Book publishing is a creative process

Publishing a book is a creative process. As a result, like any form of creativity, it takes time to produce a high-quality result. Is it possible for you to write your manuscript in a few weeks? Probably, but the outcome will most likely reflect the pressure you’ve put on yourself to write the text within a very contracted timeframe. So, why would you spend months (or sometimes even years) working hard on perfecting your writing and then not spend the necessary time to have your manuscript properly edited, designed and proofread prior to self-publishing your book?

Engage book publishing professionals to assist you

Editing your book

All book manuscripts require professional editing (and unless your friend, your mother or your secretary is a professional editor, they don’t count!). An editor will dedicate time to thinking about what you are trying to say and then work with you to express it in the best possible way.

Depending on the overall word count of your book and the level of complexity of your text, this process can often take 6–12 weeks (and sometimes longer) as the edited (marked-up) Word manuscript moves back and forth between you and the editor. This is usually a collaborative process. As a result, you need to factor in ‘thinking’ time for both you and your editor to carefully consider the narrative arc of your storyline or the optimal structure for your written content.

Typesetting and book cover design

Within the book publication schedule, time also needs to be allocated for a professional typesetter/book designer to create a page layout design that will showcase your words to best advantage. Also, a professional book designer can advise you about using imagery and typography for the front and back covers of your book that suit your particular genre and will appeal to your readers.

Complex manuscripts with numerous elements such as graphics, charts, diagrams, tables and footnotes take longer to format than plain text.

Once the formatting process has been completed, the typeset interior pages should be proofread by the author and also by a professional proofreader.

Approximately 1–2 weeks need to be allocated within the overall publication timeline for the proofreading stage. Any last-minute revisions will then be given to the designer so they can to make the necessary changes to the page layout (which will then needed to be checked again).

Book printing (plus ebook conversion)

After the proofreading stage has been finalised, your book is ready to be printed. The print-ready PDF files are sent to a book printer who will provide either hard-copy or soft-copy (digital) proofs to the publisher or author for review.

For books which are printed locally via digital printing, the printing process usually takes 1–3 weeks while, in the case of offshore printing, this process can take between 8–12 weeks.

For ebook conversion projects, the production timeline is usually around 1–2 weeks.

Average timeframe to publish a book

So what is the average timeframe involved in publishing a book? Depending on the length and complexity of your manuscript, it can take between 2–6 months from start (the editing stage) to finish (printing and/or conversion to ebook). However, this is simply a ballpark estimate and it can sometimes take longer than that.

In an increasingly competitive world where everybody can become an author, it’s even more critical that your self-published book is considered a professional-quality item. For this reason, you must be willing to invest in your book – which means allocating sufficient time, as well as money, to the publication process. Your readers (and, ultimately, your bank balance!) will thank you if you do.