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How long does it take to self-publish a book?

One common question we’ve received is how long does it take to self-publish a book? This is usually tied into another question—what’s the process of self-publishing a book?

Here’s a very rough guide to the process of self-publishing a book, including the estimated time each stage would take.

1. Writing
Some writers can finish writing a novel in a month, some take months, even years. To make a meaningful estimate of the length of time it takes to self-publish a book, we won’t include the initial writing phase of the book in this estimate, assuming that the process we’re looking at will start at the point where the manuscript is finished and ready to be sent for editing.

2. Editing
Depending on the wordcount and the editor’s schedule, a full edit can take anything from a week to a month, maybe more. A good estimate for a 50,000-word book would probably be one to two weeks for the initial edit. After that, it would be wise to budget a week for writer’s meltdown and wallowing in self-pity, another two weeks for rewrites, clarifications, arguments over what to change and whether to change them, and maybe a fourth week for finalisation of the manuscript.
Best estimate: one month.

3. Cover design
Cover design can be done concurrent with editing, assuming you’re pretty sure you aren’t going to rewrite the whole book or give up on the project altogether. It also assumes that you’ve already decided on your title.
This stage really depends on your artist so this is something you’ll need to discuss with them. You could get a premade cover online which would probably be updated in three days OR you could get an artist to conceptualise something specific for you, which could take anything from one week to three months. Remember: the more customised and the more handmade/hand-drawn it is, the more time it will take.
Best estimate: one month, possibly concurrent to editing.

4. Formatting
Layout and formatting for a text-only book should only take two to three days per format. A manuscript with pictures, graphs, or diagrams would take longer to format.
Best estimate: three days.

5. a) Online publishing
Publishing online will only take a few hours of your time, assuming you have all the required materials ready (price, categories, back cover description, cover, formatted manuscript, ISBN, etc). Do also budget some time to review the converted file to make sure it’s up to standard before publishing. This is the best time to catch overlooked errors, typos, or formatting glitches, which would need a quick fix.
Best estimate: one to two days.

5. b) Printing
Budget in at least two to three weeks for the printing process as the printer you send it to would have to review the files and get everything in order before starting the print run. If they need to send the files back to you for revisions, that would extend the time as well.
Best estimate: three days.

Total time: two-and-a-half to three months.

Do remember the time estimates noted here would vary for each writer and each contributor at every stage, and some stages may cycle back and forth several times. This estimate is also created assuming that the publishing of this novel is the sole priority of every contributor. This isn’t the case in the real world. Sending your novel to an editor doesn’t mean that they will be able to work on it right away. They may have other jobs they are currently working on that needs to be completed prior to yours, or they could be juggling multiple projects at the same time. The same goes for all the other stages, unless you’ve already booked their time in advance.

All in all, really proficient self-published writers can publish a new book every 3 months whilst traditional publishing generally takes 2 years from acceptance of the manuscript to final print. Our advice is to not rush the process as rushing may lead to sloppiness and more errors in your final book. You want a product that you can be proud of—and that takes time.


At Teaspoon Publishing, we believe in empowering authors to take control of their career. If you need a boost on your journey, check out our Publishing Hub to see how we can help!

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