by Nomsa Chirisa

Successfully writing and publishing a book is a tedious journey. A lot of factors are channelled towards a book project, time included. But, how long does it take to write and publish a book? I remember when the chief invigilator back in college would shout, “time up, you may stop writing,” at the end of the long three-hour exam writing sessions. It meant that we had to write the exam within the stipulated period.

Likewise, time is a factor that should never be miscalculated in the publishing business. While time can easily be consumed by things such as writers’ block, work, family, or life commitments among other things, your publishing schedule should not be caught in between these impediments.

As a writer, knowing the estimated timeframes of each stage of the book publishing process is prudent. In business they say, time is money, and it should be accounted for, wisely.

Five reasons why knowing the practical timelines for publishing your book is important

  1. It helps you to create realistic and time-bound writing goals
  2. It also allows the publisher to create a concrete publishing schedule
  3. It helps you to meet deadlines and avoid inconveniencing the next stage of book production
  4. It places you in a better position for decision-making regarding publishing your book
  5. It helps you to be spot on with your time to market – releasing the book into the market


Writing a book has no predetermined timelines in which it can be done. This is because writing depends on factors such as book-length, genre, your experience as a writer, whether writing is your immediate profession or you have a different occupation altogether, the writers’ block and how you beat it, the amount of research required, etc. However, if you are publishing with a traditional publisher, your contract will provide the deadlines by which you are supposed to abide by. With an independent publisher, or if you are self-publishing, at most, you work at your own pace, and publish only when you are satisfied with your work. Depending on your motivators and daily schedule, it is ideal to write a minimum of 300 words a day. As you write, you will realise that some days are better than others and that your writing speed will increase as you go. It is easier to calculate the time required to write based on the total word count of your book’s genre. At the end of the day, create a balance between the need to get published and creating good content.


Your editor will schedule the editing of your book and she will begin to work on it as soon as both of you have finalised the fundamental details. However, you should know that editors have other books to edit alongside yours. Given the nature of their work which requires a fresh mind, editing should not be a hurried job. At most, a 90 000-word typescript will take 4 weeks to edit. This will enable your editor to achieve the 5 Cs of editing – clear, consistent, correct, concise, and comprehensive. However, as they edit your copy, they are also mindful of the deadlines you agreed on, and the need to accommodate other book publishing processes which follow. As the writer, you get to refresh your mind from the book such that when it is returned with the editor’s changes, you are in a better position to implement them effectively.


Unlike editing, the proofreading stage does not consume much time. Most of the errors would have been picked during the editing stage, so going through the copy becomes a little effortless. However, proofreading should be done with much attentiveness as the proofreader’s key role is to pick ambiguities and anomalies which would have slipped at the editorial stage. In a day, a proofreader is expected to read 5 000 words of a particular book, allowing them to refresh their mind by working on other book projects. As the writer, remember that you also need to disconnect from the book so that when you finally get back to proofread it, you do it with a clear and fresh mind and eye.


Book design is one of the most exciting parts of the publishing process, especially for writers. In essence, design is just like writing – it unleashes the creative prowess to craft a captivating look for your book. Regardless of the route that you take to publish your book, hire a professional designer who will package your content into a single impressive design.

One thing to note is that creativity is not a one-day process. It requires time for your designer to come up with a plan for your cover and layout that will depict the main theme, genre, and audience all portrayed through colour, font, and illustrations/images.

You will realise that it will take a week to a month before your designer comes up with design samples from which both of you will analyse and narrow down to a favourable look. Editors usually come into play because they visualise the final output and provide a design brief as they work on your book. Your editor is the architect that draws up the design and plan from which the designer will build.

For your design to be perfect, your designer needs a clear, detailed, yet concise design brief before they can move on to suggest some recommendations for you. However, after agreeing on a sample, it will be further refined until you are satisfied with the design. This might take another month or even two, but the end goal is to have a design that will sell the book.


Book marketing is an ongoing process that does not have a fixed timeline. Promotional and marketing activities such as book exhibits, expos, book fairs, shows, among others, are recurrent. Once your book has been published, it qualifies for marketing. This enables you to make pre-orders from your readers and to introduce it to the public so they anticipate its official launch and selling. Book marketing and promotion can stretch way beyond the first print run. As long as you are still printing more copies to sell, you can promote it as long as you want to.


Printing your book may depend on several issues which we discussed in our previous article how do I choose a printer for my book? However, despite these, book printing has a predetermined period which it is supposed to keep to. At most, running a 1000 print run will take a full week, ranging to a maximum of two weeks. During this time, your printer will run the press and also do the finishing and packaging of the books before handing them to you. This is the most fascinating part of the book publishing process. At this point, you can break into the market to start making sales and distribution of your book. You can start counting some dollars.


Just like book marketing, the distribution process is also infinite, unless you have exhausted your print run and are not going to keep printing more copies. But, for as long as you are still making sales, then you can keep distributing your book. However, with educational publishing, distribution usually takes place within a month or two. So if you are writing for the school market and have received orders from schools, you are obliged to distribute your books during school holidays to enable learners to start using the books at the beginning of the year or term.


Timely publishing your book requires you to know the estimated timelines. While some writers have full commitments to their professions, they should be able to create a balance between their work and writing; because being a writer should not rob you of your family time, or stop you from writing other book projects, or running any other life projects for that matter. Time is a resource that cannot be put to waste, so know what you should do and when. If you put your mind to it, publishing that book will be effortless, and within a period of a year, you would have done it! Kudos for the bravery. It is like setting the stopwatch to time you as you work.





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