Self-Publishing Print Books: Setting a Publishing Timeline

By Cecilia Lewis

illustration-of-books-pvA few weeks ago, I discussed the relative benefits of different types of publishing plans and release schedules for indie authors. Today, I’d like to take a closer look at how to create a publishing timeline and what you’ll need to factor in. If you’re self-publishing print books, there are a few additional elements you will need to consider when determining a release date for your book.

So, here is a general guide to planning your publishing timeline:

  1. Editing

I would recommend allowing for several months, at minimum, for editing. First, there are different phases of editing that you might want—developmental edits, line edits, proofreading—that will probably take about 2-3 weeks each, depending on your editor. But that doesn’t include the time it will take you to revise the manuscript after you receive the edits; you don’t want to force yourself to rush the editing process. If you don’t know how long it typically takes you to revise, then plan for it to take a few months at the very least.

You may  also want to spend some time finding the right editor and receiving sample edits, which can take a few weeks as well. Keep in mind that many editors are booked months in advance, so you shouldn’t plan on working with them right away. Try to find an editor as soon as possible and inquire about their schedule in advance.

Looking for a freelance editor? Check out which services I offer here.

  1. Cover design

As with editing, the cover design for your book can take several weeks to complete. And that doesn’t include the time it will take for you to find a cover designer who is available. Also, you may want to factor in some additional time for making adjustments to the design, just in case.

The good news is that you can have a designer working on the cover at the same time that you’re finishing edits on the manuscript. I’d recommend overlapping these two steps in order to save production time.

  1. Interior design

The interior design of your book is what makes it look like a book—adding chapter headings, scene breaks, and other design elements. Some indie authors choose to do this themselves, while others hire a designer. Whichever route you choose, factor in the time it will take for this work to be completed (again, possibly 2-3 weeks). For more about designing your book’s interior, see this post.

  1. Print proof

I would recommend ordering a print proof before you have your book printed in bulk. This will allow you to see what the physical copy will look like ahead of time and correct any mistakes you find. This is an important step that allows you to see what your book actually looks like on paper. When you’re factoring in print times, don’t forget to allow for time to have the proof sent to you and to make any needed adjustments.

  1. Print time

If you’re planning a book launch party or other event, you’ll need to place a bulk order well in advance so that you’ll have enough copies on hand for the event. For most POD services, this will take awhile. I’d plan for at least a month of print time, just in case.

  1. Promotion and marketing

Most promotional efforts require a lot of lead time. Even something as simple as a blog tour should be planned months in advance, and events like signings and launch parties are even more complicated. Plus, don’t forget your marketing materials—you’ll need cover copy for your book, an author bio, and a professional author photo. Also, if you’re planning to have promotional items like bookmarks, you’ll need to factor in the design and print time for those items as well. Make sure to give yourself plenty of lead time for promotional efforts when setting your release date. For more about promotion, see these posts.


Got at all that? As you can see, even if you plan to publish as soon as possible after you finish writing the book, it won’t be as soon as you might think. I’ve seen several self-published authors make the mistake of announcing a release date a few months after they finish the book, only to realize that the rest of the process takes much longer than they anticipated. Be sure to factor in everything that will go into the production, printing, and promotion of your book before you set the release date.

What do you think? Have you considered these factors? If you have experience with self-publishing, how long did the process take for you? What steps did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in professional editorial services for your manuscript? Check out my Services page for more information about what I offer.

This post is part of my Self-Publishing Series. For more information about self-publishing, check out the other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-Publishing Plans and Release Schedules

-6 Tips for Designing Your Own Promo

-How to Prepare for Author Events

-Print Interior Design Basics

-The Importance of a Good Copyeditor


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