Self-Publishing Part 3: How Long Now?

This is the third week of the self-publishing series! Read the first two posts if you haven’t yet: 

Now it’s time to get into the gritty details about how self-publishing actually goes. Caity asks:

I’m just wondering how long the self-publishing process takes, roughly?

Good question- by which I mean that the answer is a tricky thing. The time can vary hugely, depending on the length of your book, how much work you do as opposed to outsourcing, what kind of self-publishing you choose, etc.

Fortunately, I can help you form a fair estimate by giving you a fairly typical picture of the process in ten not-so-easy steps. For the sake of demonstration, I’ll estimate longer rather than shorter as far as time is concerned.

1: Write a book.

Maybe it goes without saying.

This step can take any amount of time: something between one NaNo competition to a lifetime of edits. However, for the student or working adult who writes for a few hours every day, it usually takes no more than a few years.

Estimated time: 3 years.

2: Decide which way to publish.

We covered this one last week. Choose whether you will use true self-publishing, print-on-demand, ebook, online, or a combination of them. You know, this is one of the hardest step, at least for us perfectionists; making a final decision is never quite easy. Taking a few months to research and consider is a good idea.

Estimated time: 2 months.

3: Get a cover.

We’ll talk about this all-important component next week. However, you ought to start thinking about covers as soon as possible, preferably while you’re editing your novel. Covers take no less than three or four weeks in most cases, and probably longer, even if you don’t want to make changes to the first version.

Estimated time: 2 months.

4: Learn about the publishing process.

Read articles and tutorials, seek out insider tips, learn about possible problems and solutions… in short, become an expert on self-publishing. And hey, you’re already off to a good start. The best advice? Don’t ever stop researching until you are ready to stop publishing books. The more you know, the better.

Estimated time: 2 weeks.

5: Format your manuscript according to the guidelines.

This is another easy step- unless, of course, Google Drive is giving you trouble about italics and headings. I underwent this nightmare with Alen’s War and… well, I got very good at italicizing things. But, all formatting nightmares aside, it only takes a few weeks at most to search out the guidelines for your publishing house or printer and make your manuscript fit (see my collection of links at the bottom).

Estimated time: 2 weeks.

6: Set up your title information, get an ISBN, etc.

This one is pretty easy, at least with CreateSpace. You only need an ISBN if you want your book to be sold in regular bookstores or purchased by libraries, therefore online publishing and Kindle don’t require ISBNs. This only takes as long as you need to click a few buttons or make phone calls (see the links for more ISBN help).

Estimated time: 1 day if you’re lazy.

7: Upload or submit your files.

Pretty straightforward in most cases. CreateSpace, for example, requires a Word (.docx) file or something like it, and most other publishers stick to straightforward formats. This takes just a few minutes for online upload, a few days for package mailing (if your publisher even does that).

Estimated time: the rest of aforementioned 1 day.

8: Proofread, final review, proofread again, approve for publishing.

This is the craziest part. You proofread your document and get other people to help you. In CreateSpace’s case, you have to submit your files for them to review for potential issues. Once you are satisfied, you approve the book for publishing/printing. I’ve found that a few weeks to a month is an ideal slot of time for proofing.

Estimated time: 3 weeks for a print book; a day or so for an ebook.

9: Go a little loco.

Comedian Tim Hawkins expressed this step pretty well.

Estimated time: 2 weeks.

10: Enjoy your book.

Estimated time: a lifetime of satisfaction in your creation.

So how long does self-publishing take? As I said, it’s a hard thing to estimate, and some people take more or less time than the average. For example, Alen’s War took me less than a year, plus pre-writing development. Son of Ren was longer; that little thing was in idea development for at least three years before I actually wrote anything.

That said, though, according to my rough estimate, the time it takes a non-vocational writer to produce a novel is approximately 3 years and 6 months.

And there you have it, Caity.

What self-publishing questions do you have left? I want to help you answer them, so ask away in the comments!

Want to know more?

WritersServices gives some details on how long publishing takes

Hubspot’s guide to making an ebook. It’s not a writing curriculum by any means, but it has good formatting tips and templates.

CreateSpace’s cryptic formatting rules

General guidelines to formatting manuscripts. Self-publishers usually follow the same rules, except that they don’t put their name on every single page.

Publishing on CreateSpace, step-by-step

Lulu: should you get an ISBN?


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