Writing a book takes as long as the author needs to finish the manuscript. But another question that begs an answer is: How long does it take to publish a book?
If you’re curious about the average time it takes to publish a book; this article is for you. We’ll cover:
- How long does it take to publish a book?
- Timelines – self-publishing vs. traditional publishing
- How hard is it to get a book published?
- Why is it hard to get a book published?
- What is a literary agent?
- How much can you make writing a book?
- Should I self-publish or traditionally publish?
Below we’ll explore timelines involved, the challenges and difficulties of publishing a book, and how much authors can expect to earn from their published work.
How long does it take to publish a book?
First, there is no standard length of time for how long it should take to publish a book.
Many variables are involved in the process and progress of publishing a book.
One of the most significant variables is how you publish. Your two main options are:
- Traditional publishing
How long does it take to self-publish online?
When you self-publish with online publishing platforms such as Amazon KDP or Apple Books, you can upload your manuscript and hit publish on your book in a matter of minutes.
Before you hit publish, you need a completed manuscript featuring good formatting, appealing cover design, author details, and a well-written, optimized book description.
From the moment you hit publish, you can see your work available online for the public within 24 to 72 hours. This is an incredibly short time to publish a book, which is why self-publishing is so popular.
Other reasons include complete creative control over one’s work, time flexibility, and higher royalty rates. However, self-publishing also has its drawbacks, which is why many authors still take the traditional route, but more on that later.
Now, just because the book goes live within 24 to 72 hours of hitting publish, the actual publishing process involves all the stages before you hit the button.
Even when you’ve got a manuscript, you still need to hire editors and proofreaders (if you decide to delegate those tasks), a designer for design and formatting, and an illustrator if necessary.
If you hire freelancers to help you with these tasks, you’ll need to consider the time they can work and the time it takes to find them in the first place.
How long does it take to publish traditionally?
Traditional publishing means you submit your manuscript to an established publishing house, which will evaluate your work and decide if they want to publish it.
If they decide that your work aligns with their company’s overall theme, the process of submission to publication can take up to two years, though it often takes less.
You can expect your work to be available to the public sometime within nine months to two years.
Stages and timeline of the publishing process
One of the reasons why authors still choose to publish the traditional way is that the publishing house will take over the complicated and laborious tasks that self-published authors often take on themselves or hire freelancers to help.
From the time of initial submission to the publication date, your book goes through the following stages:
- A literary agent sends your manuscript to a publisher
- Editors peruse through submissions and may find yours
- The company evaluates the quality of your work and its degree of alignment with their overall theme
- If successful, the company offers the author/agent a book contract
- The book manuscript is passed through several hands, from editors to proofreaders to designers
- Marketing strategy considered and created
- Deals made with bookstores
As you can see, your book goes through many stages before it gets on shelves.
Considering that publishing companies receive thousands of submissions per day, and the same applies to the work involved for editorial staff and designers, it makes sense that a given book would take a long time (1-2 years) to publish.
How hard is it to get a book published?
These days, many first-time and even seasoned authors opt for self-publishing with online publishing platforms rather than going the traditional route.
But why? Why the significant shift in publishing preferences?
One of the biggest reasons for the shift is that online self-publishing is incredibly easy. With a well-edited and formatted manuscript and an appealing cover, authors can upload their work to Amazon, Apple Books, or other online retailers and see their work go live on these sites in a matter of days or the same day.
Such a quick publishing process is satisfying for authors who want to see their hard work out there and available to the public.
However, self-publishing online has its drawbacks, as mentioned earlier. Much more labor is required to finalize your manuscript and get your book formatted, edited, designed, and marketed.
That’s why many authors still opt for the traditional publishing route. Publishing this way is by no means easy, and many submitted manuscripts get rejected.
So, the simple answer? It’s hard to get a book published by a traditional publisher. Let’s take a look at why.
Why is it hard to get a book published?
There are so many aspiring writers worldwide that publishing companies are often overloaded with submissions.
Thousands of manuscripts are submitted to publishers in a week but ultimately rejected.
Most reputable and established publishing houses only take proposals and manuscripts from known agents with whom they’ve worked in the past.
Taking and evaluating every unsolicited manuscript will take an unreasonable amount of time. As such, there is always the chance that a publisher will not see your manuscript.
A staff member may peruse through submitted manuscripts; if yours doesn’t stand out, it might not even be read.
Now, don’t let that dishearten you. You can increase your chances of making an impact with a publisher by working with an agent.
What is a literary agent?
It’s much wiser to approach a literary agent to help you publish your book than to approach a publishing firm yourself. Literary agents are those who mediate between authors and publishing houses, helping those authors get their work seen and published.
The most significant benefit of having an agent is that they already have an established working relationship with several publishing houses. As such, your agent helps you get noticed and clinch that book deal.
If you were to submit an unsolicited manuscript to a publishing company without the aid of an agent, it’s improbable that your manuscript would even get read.
How much can you make writing a book?
Potential earnings from writing a book vary widely. Like other artistic pursuits, there is no standard fee or income an author can expect for their work.
Factors that determine your potential earnings include:
- Your reputation as an author
- The type of book you write/popularity of the genre
- The publishing route you take (self-publishing vs. traditional)
- Established royalty rates
- The reach and reputation of a given publishing house
- Quality of marketing strategy
Royalty rates are one of the biggest deciding factors regarding your earning potential. The difference in earnings based on royalty rates between self- and traditional publishing can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
On average, royalty rates for authors who work with an established publishing company range from 7 to 15 percent of each book sale.
If your book falls under a popular niche and is marketed well, you may sell thousands of copies. That number is vague, as all factors above influence your book’s success.
Still, if your book is listed at the average book price of around $15, and you manage to sell a thousand copies, your earnings will reach about $2,250 at a 15 percent royalty rate.
A thousand copies is a small number and can be boosted significantly with the right marketing efforts. Traditional publishers will market your book for you, so the bulk of your work is over once it’s in their hands.
A self-published book can reap significantly higher royalty rates per sale.
Let’s use a popular online self-publishing platform as a framework – Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). With KDP, self-published authors earn between 35 and 70 percent of royalties from book sales.
Similar royalty rates apply to established online self-publishing platforms such as Apple Books and Barnes and Noble Press.
Should I self-publish or traditionally publish?
Self-publishing is an increasingly popular publishing option for new and seasoned writers. Still, traditional publishing remains popular and lucrative.
There is no black and white answer regarding which one is better. It depends on your needs, preferences, and niche as a writer.
Below we’ve listed some of the main pros and cons of both publishing routes to help you make a more informed decision.
Pros of self-publishing
- Full creative control over your work. You don’t have to eliminate sections or alter the story to align with a publishing company’s brand.
- Higher royalty rates when you use online publishing platforms
- Indefinite shelf life
Cons of self-publishing
- More author-labor requirements than the traditional route. Traditionally, a publisher covers editing, designing, and marketing. These are your responsibilities when you self-publish.
- Harder to become a bestseller
- Less acclaim. Traditional publishers have an established reputation that improves public opinion of your work.
Pros of traditional publishing
- Prestige. Having your work published by an established house improves how the public and critics view your work.
- Low-cost. Traditional publishers offer a book contract that covers publication costs, unlike self-publishing, in which authors must invest more time and money across the entire process.
- Large-scale print distribution
Cons of traditional publishing
- Rejection. First-time authors are likely to face several rejections before finally having a manuscript accepted for publishing.
- Less creative control. Traditional publishers set rules and requirements around the content they publish.
- Time-consuming. The traditional publishing process can take up to two years, unlike self-publishing which can start and finish in a matter of days.
Patience is key if you want to publish your book via the traditional route.
It’s normal to want to see your book available in bookstores or online as soon as you finish your manuscript, but there are many stages after the initial writing process that require a lot of time.
It’s up to you as an author to decide which publishing route works best for you. To determine your best way, weigh the pros and cons, such as publishing time, potential earnings, and your preferences regarding creative control.
Finally, when the challenges of publishing become frustrating, remind yourself of your passion for writing in the first place.
Writing is not an easy career. It’s full of ups and downs, hope, rejections, and success. Continue cultivating and maintaining your passion for your work to help you keep your head up through challenging times.