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 printed?’ The answer we usually give them is: ‘Probably longer than you’d ideally like it to!’
While it’s understandable that you’re excited to have completed your manuscript after dedicating weeks, months or even years to the writing process, this is just the starting point. There are still numerous steps involved until your book is ready to be released out into the world. Of course, if you are impatient to get your book published quickly, it is possible to simply upload a Word file to Amazon KDP and then press the print button. However, if you are serious about attracting a large audience and selling your book, it’s a good idea to invest in the self-publishing process. This involves engaging industry professionals such as editors, proofreaders, typesetters and book cover designers to work with you and guide you through the publishing process. Regardless of how important the subject matter of your book 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 and, like any form of creativity, it takes time to produce a high-quality outcome. Is it possible for you to write your manuscript in a few weeks? Probably, but the end result will most likely be a reflection of that pressure you’ve put yourself under to produce your manuscript within a very contracted timeframe. So why would you spend months (or sometimes years) working hard on perfecting your writing and then not take the necessary time to have your manuscript properly edited, designed and proofread prior to having your book printed?
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 a very collaborative process so 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 of 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 book design professional will be able to advise you about effective imagery and typography to use 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 by a professional proofreader. Approximately 1–2 weeks should be factored in to the overall publication timeline for the proofreading stage. Any last-minute changes that are required at this point in the project will be sent back to the designer in order for them to make the necessary amendments (which will then require further checking).
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 usually provide either hard-copy or soft-copy (digital) proofs to the publisher or author for checking. 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. In the case of ebook conversion projects, the timeline to produce EPUB and Mobi files is usually around 1–3 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 2–7 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. In an increasingly competitive world where everybody is in a position to produce a book, it’s even more critical that your self-published book is perceived as 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.