How Long Does it Take to Self-Publish: Launch Your Book in Time for Christmas

Want to get your book done in time for Christmas? At the time of releasing this article, there are only 61 days to go! Finishing your book in time for Christmas sounds like a plan. A great plan in fact, to get it done before the seasonal mayhem begins. But as seasoned authors will realise, it takes longer than two months to put together a high quality product - especially if you want printed copies.
Here we offer you a typical timeline for self-publishing your book in time for Christmas 2020, because the publishing process can take between three and six months. And that’s after you’ve reached the final draft. (Sorry; nobody enjoys a misleading headline.)

Here’s what you need to do and why it can take three months or more before your book is ready to launch:

1. Start writing now, finish by early spring


Whether your book is just an idea or 90% finished manuscript, give yourself plenty of time to plan the chapters, gather your ideas and write the draft. Writers are creative people, so it’s no surprise you can easily get distracted by new ideas popping up or bouts of self-doubt before finishing your first work. If you’ve hit roadblocks with your writing plan, please read our helpful blog, Hurdles for Publishing Your Book: How to Finish the Writing.

When your draft is complete and you feel ready to share it, let a few people read it through; choose friends who are close to you and interested in giving you their honest feedback. Or maybe you’ve worked with a writing coach and they can point you to experienced beta readers.

2. Beta readers - include their feedback


The role of the beta readers is to let you know whether your ideas hang together well - or whether as readers, they feel the work is complete. For fiction, you might want them to comment on the characters or storylines - although if you’ve left a cliff-hanger for a sequel or the next book in a series, this should be fairly obvious for them. For non-fiction, you could ask them to let you know what unanswered questions the book leaves them with. If you’re trusting the beta readers to play the role of a developmental editor, then it will benefit the book if you do take their feedback seriously and make edits before submitting to a publisher.

3. Sign up with an assisted publishing company or self-publishing service (if you’re not going DIY)


Once you sign up with a company, they should give you a timeline to plan the steps you need to take; some will require time and input from you. Others will require additional funds, depending on the publisher’s level of service and what’s included. The timeline that we’ve shared below relates to a text-only book of approximately 80,000 words. It can be faster for shorter books and it also depends on whether you’ve already used freelance editors to prepare your manuscript.

4. Copy-editing


Typically charged at a rate per thousand words, copy-editing isn’t usually included in self-publishing packages, but should be available as an add-on. You can find your own professional editors via the Society for Editors and Proofreaders or Alliance of Independent Authors they have a member services directory. SilverWood Books has a small team of trusted copy-editors with whom we work on a regular basis, and we always select the right editor for the genre we’re asked to copy-edit.

5. Proofreading


There are usually two stages when your book will need a proofreader. The first proofread takes place after the copy-edit, to ensure there are no technical errors in the spelling or clunky grammar. The second proofread, if it’s judged to be necessary, is done once the pages are typeset - because preparing the print layouts take a lot of detailed work, when errors can creep in unnoticed.

6. Prepare your ideas for the cover design


Finding images you like and describing the concepts you feel will work for the front cover is a creative process that needs a little time. Some publishers will have an in-house book cover designer (we do!) and others will expect you to own this stage yourself or find a freelance graphic designer willing to do it. Please heed our advice - readers do judge books by the cover. The front cover design and the book blurb on the back are both critical for achieving book sales. Read more about covers in our Learning Zone articles: this post discusses the importance of cover design, while this one examines the principles behind creating a good cover.

7. Plan your book marketing and events


Once the book is handed over to the printer, your primary role is to plan the marketing strategy, and your book launch. We have lots more articles in the SilverWood Learning Zone to help authors think about advertising, an online bloggers’ tour, and the book launch or other events. If you’re hoping to achieve a steady rate of book sales, you’ll need to put together a considered and strategic marketing plan with local bookshop signings or library talks to get more readers interested in buying your book.

In summary, here’s our typical publishing timetable:


  • The writing.
  • Completed final draft ready to show it to potential readers, whether that’s a writing coach or mentor, developmental editor, or experienced beta readers.
  • Editor/beta readers - time to read it.
  • Incorporate any editor or beta reader feedback.
  • Polish and refine the final publication-ready draft.
March
  • Copy-editing (allow 2-3 weeks depending on the copy-editor’s availability).
April
  • Time for author corrections, addressing copy-editor suggestions, possible rewriting. Time required will depend on the number and type of suggestions.
May
  • Professional proofreading can be undertaken at this stage, or later after the book has been professionally typeset.
  • Proofread of author biography and blurb for the back cover.
  • Preparation of written brief for the cover design team (some progress with the cover could be made while the interior is being typeset, and the cover finalised later when the final page count and thus spine width is known).
June
  • Page design and interior typesetting. (Allow 2-3 weeks, longer for a more complex layout with intricate chapter headings and subheadings.)
  • If not already done, professional proofreading of typeset PDF proofs. (Allow 2 weeks plus time for corrections to be implemented in the page layout artwork.)
July/Aug
  • Final publication-ready PDF page proofs to you; you will need to sign off the book interior for printing.
  • Final publication-ready PDF cover proof to you so you can sign off the book cover for printing.
  • Adjustments will be made to the front cover to prepare for ebook formatting.
  • Marketing images can now be created.
  • Preparation of marketing materials and dissemination of bibliographic data to retailers and wholesalers, and your publicist.
August
  • Begin a formal PR campaign in advance, especially if working with a publicist with good media contacts.
  • Journalists tend to plan their content weeks or even months ahead.
  • Final files of interior and cover sent to print.
  • Formatting of ebook edition, conversion to different file types ready for upload to a range of distribution sites.
  • Consider setting up ebook pre-order.
September
  • Receipt of printer’s proofs of interior and cover (or a sample book, depending on your chosen method of printing).
  • Check for accuracy of printing (the time has passed for making edits to the content).
October
  • Hold your official book launch event.
  • Plan local library or bookshop signing events for the pre-Christmas market.




If you would like to learn more about preparing your book and self-publishing in time for Christmas next year, please get in touch and see how we can help: contact us here.


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