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The length of time it takes to self-publish, from finished manuscript to finished book, depends largely on three factors:
1. The state of your manuscript
2. How quickly you can make decisions
3. The process you choose to self-publish your book.
At 1106 Design, books are usually finished within 90 days if the editorial evaluation done at the beginning of the process recommends only a typical copyedit for the manuscript. That estimate includes the needed time to pause and reflect, but assumes that decisions will be made by the author in a timely fashion. Some steps can overlap; for example, editing and cover design can be done at the same time, as can the design samples for the book’s interior. Some steps must follow the other; for example, proofreading should take place only after the book has been typeset.
An Incomplete Manuscript Can Add Weeks or Months
However, if your manuscript is incomplete or if the editorial evaluation recommends a rewrite or substantive edit, the book may take weeks or even months longer to self-publish. A substantive edit, also known as a developmental edit, involves the assistance of an experienced editor who will hold your hand as together you identify and fix the issues in your book. The editing process may involve the editor, yourself, or both of you rewriting portions of the book or writing new material. Once the manuscript is complete, the editor will copyedit the book and the rest of the self-publishing process moves forward as outlined above. Should you decide to rewrite the book on your own without the assistance of a professional editor, we suggest that you ask for a second editorial evaluation when you are done.
In either case, while an editorial evaluation may delay your project or even cost you more money should you choose a substantive edit, you will ultimately save money by not investing your dollars in an unmarketable book.
Decision-making can also add days or weeks to the self-publishing process. Do you trust your designer to know what’s best? Is an honest line of respectful communication open between you both? Do you disagree with much of what your editor is telling you? Be realistic about the type of feedback you’re providing your editor and designer (read our recent blog post on this topic), and understand that while the timeline for self-publishing allows for a reasonable amount of reflection, additional time spent waffling will delay the launch date of your book.
The Long and Winding Road of Self-Publishing
Finally, the route you choose to self-publish will also impact the timeline. You may have read blogs by other authors in which they were able to quickly turn their Word documents into PDFs and upload them to the POD printer without anyone’s assistance. I guess it all depends on your own definition of a quality book and your personal tolerance level for errors or book covers that scream “self-published.” Adding a professional designer and editor to the mix will cost you more money upfront, and may even add a little time to the process.
On the other hand, you have to think about what your own time is worth; if you are a perfectionist (which every author should be when it comes to their book), you could spend hours or days figuring out the software to make your book look “just right,” and even then, without the training required to understand book design, you may never be entirely happy with the results. Book designers understand what book buyers look for in a cover; they know what sells, and ultimately that’s what matters.
Be Realistic About Your Launch Date
It’s important to be realistic about your book launch date as you need to start marketing your book well ahead of time. Starting a marketing effort based on a launch date that gets delayed time and time again can be detrimental; it’s hard to maintain your audience’s interest if they never get the promised book!
The Best Approach
As always, start with a plan, do your research, and understand what you are getting yourself into. Ask for an editorial evaluation of your manuscript as the first step, or for some honest feedback, preferably not from family and friends who are prone to telling you what they think you want to hear.
Once you know whether or not you have a marketable product, go ahead with the “product design” phase, where the book is edited and the cover and interior are designed. Build a realistic amount of time into your plan for reviews and approvals, and have an honest discussion ahead of time with your designer about the type of feedback they are looking for. Understand the costs of hiring a professional designer versus doing the book design yourself, and adjust your timeline based on the route you decide to take.
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