How Long Does it Take to Publish a Book? Real Timelines

Posted on Aug 27, 2021

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Written by Sarah Rexford

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Writing a book was a massive undertaking. You were brave enough to take it from idea to draft, through countless edits, and now you’re happy with your final product. Now it’s time to take the next big step and publish it

As we work through answering these questions, remember that just as writing is subjective, so is the publishing process. There are almost always exceptions to the norm, but hopefully this overview will give you a better understanding of what it may look like for you and your book. 

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How Long Does It Take To Publish A Book?

The duration of time it will take from deciding to publish your book to holding it in your hands is largely dependent on the which publishing option is right for you. 

How do you choose what type of publishing avenue to take? Ultimately that’s up to you as the writer. However, in this article we will cover different aspects of two publishing routes so you have a better idea which will work best for you.


Write and Publish A Book in HALF the Time!

Learn how 100 people finished and published their books in the last 60 days and how you can do it, too! Choose a time below to join the online class!

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Self – Publishing Timeline

If you have some form of a large platform already (you already speak to large audiences, or you have thousands of social media followers, or you are connected with well-known people) self-publishing can be an excellent fit for you. If not you’ll need to think like a literary agent to gain leverage.

Don’t have an audience built yet?

No worries. You can still self-publish your book and make an impact. How much impact, will be up to you.

In self-publishing you are both the writer and the publisher. This means you have full control over your marketing plan, editing, and any other type of promotional material you want to create and put into the world. 

You choose how much you want to invest, and reap 100% of the profits from your book royalties from Amazon. There is a cost to publishing that should be considered

You also get to decide the release date for your book, if you want a book launch team (as well as who is on your team), and are responsible for working as your own public relations manager. This means if you want an interview with a certain radio or television station, you set it up. 

Self-publishing brings a lot of freedom to publishing. With freedom comes the full responsibility for your book, and every part of publishing. If this excites you and you feel confident to move forward, self-publishing may be the right fit for you!

You may have to do a bit more work than say, someone with an established audience, but it is doable with a little perseverance and a desire to learn.

Here at Self-Publishing School, when we take our authors through our publishing process, it can take as little as 90 days. 

(We also have new, advanced courses for authors that tackle topics like how to gain promotion for your book through public relations and speaking gigs, how to sell more books on Amazon through advanced marketing tactics, and even help you build and launch an online course that’s connected to your book and mission.)

If you are on the fast track to publishing your book and have time to book a call today, you could start your publishing journey and have a complete book in your hands in less than three months. 

Traditional – Publishing Timeline

Traditional publishing is a way for you to get your book out into the world without taking any financial risk but instead swapping that for a time risk. When you traditionally publish, a publisher offers you a contract, usually pays you an advance, pays for a professional editor to edit your manuscript and get it formatted correctly, a graphic designer to design a book cover, and usually works on some of the marketing.

You don’t pay a cent, but get to be part of the journey. 

However, most traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means that unless you are signed with a literary agent, you will not be able to pitch your manuscript to an acquisitions editor unless you meet one at a writing conference. 

While signing with a literary agent is an extra step in your publishing journey, agents are a big help when it comes to reviewing book contracts, pitching to big publishing houses, and efficiently getting your work in front of industry professionals. 

In traditional publishing, because the publisher takes all the risk, usually the publisher makes the last call on choices like your book cover, title, and the marketing plan. Of course, as the writer, you are an essential part of the process. 

As the writer, you are likely aware that your sweet spot is writing. The publisher hires professionals in marketing, graphic design, and editing to help you with the rest of the process. In traditional publishing you get to mostly focus on the writing, some marketing and promotion, while the publisher focuses on and finances the rest. 

What Is The Process Of Publishing A Book?

The process for publishing your book will vary depending on which avenue you take. Self-publishing will take as long or as little as you like, depending on how much time you want to put in upfront.

If you are eager to get your book out into the world and feel that you’re ready to do so, your process will be relatively quick. 

However, let’s chat through all the steps so whatever stage you’re at, you know how to move forward: 

1. Book Editing 

Self-publishing a book is a process in which you, the writer, are in complete control. You get the idea for your book, choose to create it into a book format, and edit as you see fit. You can be your own editor. 

However, if you want to hire a professional editor to find those mistakes you missed, help you with characterization, plot, or for nonfiction, overall storytelling, you will need to add time to your process. 

self-publishing compared to traditional publishing is different in that the publishing house will hire a professional editor for you and the professional editor will edit your book. Often they format it so it is ready to be typeset as well.

2. Cover Design

Once your manuscript is edited, it’s time to create a book. This is where cover design comes in. Again, in self-publishing you are in complete control. You decide whether to design your own cover (Canva can be a helpful place to start) or if you hire a professional designer. 

Traditional publishing is different in that the publisher hires a professional designer for you. In traditional publishing, the publisher, not you, will have the final say on the cover design. 

3. Book Marketing 

In self-publishing, if you feel your manuscript is already edited well and don’t plan to do much marketing or promotion before your release date, your process will be much quicker. You can put your book out into the world, and then start marketing on platforms such as Amazon

The freedom with self-publish is you can decide when you want to market, how you want to market, and who you want to market to. However, you will be at risk of making marketing mistakes.

If you want to start marketing as you’re writing your book, you can do so!

If you want to wait to market until potential readers can purchase your book, you can wait!

If you want to do something in between, that’s up to you as well! 

When it comes to traditional publishing, the process follows a particular format:

In traditional publishing, acquisitions editors are the gatekeepers. If an acquisitions editor likes your book proposal and sample chapters, he or she will ask your agent for your full manuscript. They will read it until they either 1) don’t think it’s a good fit for their publishing house or 2) love it and read to the end. Then it’s time for them to research you, the writer, and how your book will bring in a good return on their investment. 

Once they do this research (this may include researching aspects from your current platform to finding comparable books that have done well in the past), they will then organize a publishing board (pub board) meeting. 

At this point, the acquisitions editor may contact your agent and tell them they’re taking your manuscript to the pub board. In this meeting, the acquisitions editor presents their research to all the big heads in the publishing house: Head of marketing, editing, sales, etc., and it will come to a vote. Some pub boards need all yeses for a book to go on to publication, some only need a majority vote. 

If your book makes it past the pub board, then it’s time to start working on marketing. 


As you can see, both processes take a manuscript and end with that manuscript in book form. 

Self-publishing has much more freedom and risk, but also the guarantee of earning 100% of the profits from your book royalties.

Traditional publishing has more steps, and little to zero financial risk, but you split royalties with the publisher, and allow them to have the final say on aspects such as cover design and title. 

As you work to take your project from idea to book, consider which route is best for you. 

And remember, it takes a certain level of bravery to put your book into the world. If you want 100% say over what your final project looks like, self-publishing is the route for you. 


Write and Publish A Book in HALF the Time!

Learn how 100 people finished and published their books in the last 60 days and how you can do it, too! Choose a time below to join the online class!

Sps Embedded Webinar Form Image V1
Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.
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