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How long does it take to publish a book?

WritersServices Self-publishing

From first draft to finished book

There is no easy answer to this question. One book might take a year to produce while another is designed and printed in three weeks. It is sensible to allow at least three months for the process – six months is even better. And before all that, you need to write the book!

These are some of the steps involved in producing a book, which will give you an idea of how long the process is likely to take from start to finish. 


  • Most novelists reckon to complete the first draft within a year. After that, there is rewriting to take into account. Non-fiction can take even longer, especially when it is based on research or investigation.
Allow at least a year, perhaps nearer eighteen months, for writing/rewriting a manuscript

Editorial - Part 1

  • Writers need criticism as well as encouragement. This can be tough but most writers agree that impartial feedback really helps to improve a novel.
  • WritersServices offers a simple Reader's report or an Editor's report. There is no need to wait until the book is fully polished before getting a report.
  • Every piece of work needs some reworking. It takes courage to do a rewrite but without it a book can seem uneven to a reader.
  • Most writers suggest that this is best done as one big project if at all possible rather than piecemeal in evenings and at weekends.
Allow at least a month for this, perhaps two, depending on your situation.

Editorial - Part 2

  • Once a manuscript is complete it needs polishing. Copy editing will make sure that spelling, grammar and proper names are correct and ensure that the novel is consistent in other ways.
  • To tackle this task yourself, put the manuscript away for some weeks so that you will come to it with fresh eyes. Reading aloud helps to spot errors and can also highlight places where the style is clumsy. WritersServices has a copy editing service if you need professional help.
  • Think about preparing a style sheet and check your text against it.
  • It's also worth thinking about the  preliminaries at this stage. Does the manuscript need a contents page or a foreword? What about an index?

Allow 4-8 weeks for this, depending on who is undertaking the work, and allow extra time to check the changes.

  • If you are going to look for a publisher you want to make sure the package you send does your hard work justice. WritersServices offers a submission critique service where an editor comments on the letter and material you plan to send.
  • If it is non-fiction you might be talking to a publisher already and they will be setting the pace.
  • Fiction is hard to sell direct to publishers so think about finding an agent who will present it for you.
  • Agents and publishers can take several months to respond. Be prepared to contact several, though you normally have to do this only when one has turned you down. It will save time if you check that the agent or publisher you have contacted is  looking for your sort of work. Study the market carefully. In the meantime, don't stop writing. Many 'first novels' are not actually the first thing someone wrote.


    Publishing yourself

  • The text needs to be prepared for the designer.
    • It will help if you produce a design brief.
    • We need a clean script to work with. Making sure you have the correct version of the manuscript, properly set out, saves time and money. Increasingly, writers ask for their work to be copy-edited before it is typeset. Giving the designer messy text will dramatically slow the project and cost more money.
    • It can take a month or more to get the text checked and in the right form for the designer if the layout is complex.
  • You need to inspect and approve the page look. This could go through several cycles but we have some excellent designers so we normally get it right first time.
  • If you need an index then you need to book an indexer. If you do it yourself, allow at least a month.
  • The cover has to be prepared, and approved by you.
    • It is important that you prepare a cover design brief.  It can take a few attempts to get the cover exactly right.
  • Along with the main text other details are required, including a dedication, acknowledgments and much else There is often a hold-up at this stage while we wait for the material.
  • Bear in mind that other books are also flowing through the system so it may take a few days before the studio can work on your book. 

    • Once we have the designs we can draw up a contract.
      • We need the book's format and page count to calculate the production cost.
      • Each contract is different and depends on the marketing support planned.
    • While the contract is being signed, the design is finalised. If the writer requested a lot of changes this means another set of proofs to check. This typically takes 3-6 weeks. SO ...
    • It is very important to check page-proofs carefully. In spite of all your efforts so far, and the work of any copy-editor, there will still be errors.
    • Once the material is ready, it is converted into files for submission to the printer. This can take a week or two but depends on the workload at the printer.
      • The printer has to check the files which are submitted electronically.
      • The printer then has to make up their digital 'printing plates'.
    • We then ask for a printed proof to check that everything looks right. This copy goes through 3 stages of inspection before it goes to the writer.
      • If the printed proof has to be corrected and the changes are significant, the pages might have to be remade. You will probably be charged for any changes you make at this stage.
      • In the build-up to some holidays, printers can be very busy so there are few gaps to run off a set of proofs. It is impossible to fit in proof printing in November or December.
    • Most first-time proofs are approved without changes. The book can be 'published' as soon as the writer gives approval.
      • It takes 2 to 8 weeks for the retail chain to hear about a new book through the Nielsen system, which provides book information to the book trade.
      • We have known books to be available through our partner Amazon within 24 hours but it can take up to 3 weeks. With some books we make it available before it is actually approved.
      • With 'Print on Demand', for a modest cost changes can be made to produce an updated or corrected edition for guide books and similar. 

    What might I earn? Some sample costings Business planning Estimating



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