Monday, October 24, 2016

How Long Does It Take to Write/Publish a Book?

It occurred to me recently that it might be helpful--at least for readers who aren't authors or involved with publishing--to outline my process for going from a story idea to a finished book. This process is most certainly different for authors working with publishers, since they're not involved with the actual publishing.

1. Preplanning--Once I get the initial idea for a story, I typically let it incubate for a while to develop it. I may need to come up with several different ideas to develop the plot or characters. I may even write notes on how I expect the plot to proceed or my initial character concepts. There may be research involved at this stage too. Time for this stage varies.

2. Writing--When I feel ready, I start the rough draft. Although I try to write a thousand words a day, I often don't reach that goal due to other demands (both writing-related and non-writing related) on my time. Sometimes I have to split my time between two writing projects, or sometimes I need to catch up on my blog or do other things. The rough draft for a novel can take several months; for example, I'm on the climax of Summon the Seasons. I started that back in April, so it will take about 6-7 months for the rough draft (currently about 80,000 words and expected to go for another 10,000-20,000).

3. Resting--In order to revise the rough draft with fresh eyes, I set it aside for a month or so while I work on other projects.

4. 1st Read-Through--I upload the file to my Kindle and read it through, taking notes. This usually takes a couple of days.

5. Outline--Sometimes at this stage I create a rough outline of the scenes to see how the story develops overall. This helps me determine if I need to add or move scenes. Again, this only take a few days.

6. Revise--There's no fixed length of time for revising the story; it depends on how extensive the changes are.

7. Review--Once I finish the second draft, I might feel ready to get feedback on it. Depending how how busy my beta readers are, it could take four to six weeks.

8. Formatting--If necessary, I prepare the document for CreateSpace while I'm waiting for comments. This may only take a few days, depending on if I used a template or not.

9. Cover Design--At this stage, I also contact my cover artist. Time for cover creation can vary, but it's usually only a couple of weeks.

10. Upload--By this point, even if I don't have final edits done yet, I can prepare the book for preorder on Amazon and Draft2Digital. All I need is the rough draft, the e-book cover, the blurb, and the rest of the metadata. I can accomplish this step in a single night. I make sure to pick a publication date that at least two months away so I have time to make the final edits.

11. Paper Proof--Once I'm sure of the final page length and get the full cover, I can upload the paper version to Createspace. (Some preliminary information can be filled out before this step.) Even though I've created several books by this point and am familiar with the process, it usually takes me several tries to get the document tweaked enough to make it approvable by CreateSpace. This may take a few evenings before I'm able to order the proof, which typically takes another ten days or so to arrive.

12. Proof Review--This is where I'm currently at for Fifth Season. It will take me about a week or so to go through it and mark everything I want to change. I catch a lot of typos and layout issues, but in addition, I may also do some last-minute sentence revisions. By this stage, most of the changes will be minor. However, I'm still glad I can make as many changes as I do without upsetting another publisher!

13. Final upload and approval--Amazon requires a final version of the book ten days before the official publication date. Sometimes after I order the initial paper proof, I get a second one to check layout and formatting. If not, then I scrutinize the electronic proof before approving it. Once that's done, Createspace starts distributing it.

14. Promotion--I have to decide if I'll run ads, offer giveaways, go on a blog tour, or perform other promotion. If possible, I set this up before publication or for shortly after the eBook goes live.

So, that's what I do--beside work, chores, and raise my son, of course. The whole process can take at least a year, so books I draft this year won't be ready until next year. I think I can manage that with Summon the Seasons, but the next series is still in the preplanning stage and may take longer. We'll see how it goes and adapt accordingly.

If you're a writer, how long does it take you to get your manuscript ready? If you're not, does this process surprise you? Let me know in the comments.


Pat Dilloway said...

A couple weeks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Doesn't surprise me. The writing part from concept to polished draft is six months, and then my publisher will take another nine to twelve months to publish.

Sandra Almazan said...

That's a very fast turnaround, Pat!

Sounds like you have a relatively speedy publisher, Alex!

Maria Zannini said...

You're very meticulous, Sandra.

Re: 3. Resting--In order to revise the rough draft with fresh eyes, I set it aside for a month or so while I work on other projects.

This is the smartest thing I've ever heard anyone saying about the process. Brava!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you for taking your time to do it right. So many rush their works out to market, giving little time for editing and promoting. In my seminars, I teach that once a book hits your editor, plan on 4-8 months before its release.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It takes me from a few months to longer depending on how many other things I have going. I like your steps and the way your broke down the process.

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