How Long Does It Take to Self-Publish a Book?

how long does it take to self-publish a book

How Long Does it Take to Self-Publish a Book?

Want to know how long it takes to self-publish a book? The process is getting faster and faster.

After you click the publish button, your book usually goes on sale within 3 to 5 hours. The time it takes varies from one platform to the next, but 3 to 5 hours is a good rule of thumb. This is especially true at Amazon KDP, the number one self-publishing platform worldwide.

However, there are several crucial steps you should complete ahead of time to ensure your book is a success. 

Goodbye Gatekeepers and Traditional Publishing

Believe it or not, publishing a book with a traditional publisher often takes much longer than writing and editing the book. In some cases, the publishing process takes two years or longer. This is one of the many reasons authors embraced self-publishing over a decade ago and said goodbye to publishing houses forever.

Self-published authors enjoy higher commissions as well. A typical commission is in the 60 to 70 percent range, whereas traditionally published authors only take about 10 to 30 percent of the pie.

So how long does the publishing process take? Let’s assume you haven’t written your book and want an estimate of when the finished product will go online.

The Self-Publishing Timeline

1. Market Research

Before beginning the writing process, authors should conduct market research to understand their target audience and the current market trends. This includes identifying the genre, understanding reader preferences, and analyzing what works well in the market. This step is crucial for tailoring the content, cover design, and marketing strategies.

Time: 7 days


2. Writing the Book

Authors write at different speeds, and books vary in length from genre to genre. For the record, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association defines a novel as a book with a word count of 40,000 words or higher. A novella’s word count falls between 17,500 and 40,000 words, and anything shorter than that qualifies as a novelette or a short story.

Each page holds about 250 words, depending on the font and physical size of the pages. If you aim to write a 200-page novel, your total word count should be 50,000 words.

If you write 1,000 words per day, you can complete your manuscript in 50 days.

Time: 50 days

3. Developmental Editing

Developmental editing involves working with an editor who finds holes in your plot, helps you flesh out characters, and aids you with story arcs. Developmental editing is crucial for new authors and still important for experienced writers.

We believe the developmental process should occur before any other editing takes place. 

Time: about 30 days

4. Copyediting or Line Editing

Copyediting, often referred to as line editing, is another important step in the book creation process. If you want to ensure a quality book, you must use a copyeditor. 

The copyeditor catches grammatical errors, typos, and clunky prose. No author should skip this step.

Time: about 21 days

5. Proofreading

While proofreading is a huge part of the copyediting process, it is essential to hire a proofreader or employ beta readers with eyes for detail.

Inevitably, several errors will slip past the copyeditor. This is why a fresh set of eyes helps; your last proofreader shouldn’t be your copyeditor.

Time: about 14 days

6. Cover Design

Always hire a professional designer to create your book cover. We recommend working with designers who have a track record of success in your book’s genre. In other words, it makes little sense to hire a terrific thriller designer to handle your romance novel.

Time: about 30 days

7. Paperback and eBook formatting

With the right book formatting software, this process only takes seconds. Getting the interior design right makes the book easier to read, whether you’re publishing a print book, Kindle book, eBook, or hardcover.

We encourage Mac users to format their eBooks and paperbacks with Vellum, the gold standard in book formatting software. Windows PC users should consider Atticus.

Time: 1 day

8. Copyrighting

We can’t forget this last step. United States authors can copyright their books through the U.S. Copyright Office.

Time: 14 days

8. Optional: Marketing and Prelaunch 

Marketing and Pre-Launch Activities play a pivotal role in the success of a self-published book. Social media platforms such as X (Twitter), Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn offer avenues for authors to connect with their audience, share updates, and generate excitement about their upcoming book.

A dedicated website or landing page acts as the central hub for all information regarding the book. It should ideally include the book’s synopsis, author biography, publication date, and links to pre-order options. 

Pre-launch drum up anticipation and interest. One of the most effective strategies is the distribution of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) to reviewers. These early copies go to book bloggers, reviewers, and industry influencers who can provide valuable feedback and generate buzz through reviews.

Authors can also organize virtual or in-person book launch events, engaging in discussions, readings, and Q&A sessions with potential readers. 

Time: varies

Add these steps together, and it takes about 167 days from market research to copyrighting the final product to self-publish a book. 

Beginning at step one (market research)? Add 167 days to today’s date. That’s your book’s release date!

If you have already completed these steps, great! Once you press the publish button, it generally takes 3 to 5 hours for your book to go on sale.

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