If you’re an avid reader, at some point in your life, you’ve probably daydreamed about writing and publishing your own book. Yet the most common thing that holds most of us back (myself included) is time. Or, to be more precise, a lack of time.
But if you’re serious about becoming a published author, then knowing how long the process might take is a valuable first step to realizing your dream.
After all, writing and publishing a book is a journey, and you wouldn’t set out on any journey without knowing roughly how long it would take, right?
But when you type the phrase “how long does it take to write and publish a book” into an internet search engine, you’ll find that the most common response is something along the lines of…”how long is a piece of string?”
Of course, the time scales you can expect really do depend on you and your individual circumstances, but by looking at some facts and figures, it’s possible to get a pretty good estimate of what you can achieve and how long it will take you to get there.
Understanding the Process of Writing a Book and The Final Outcome
The best way to approach this question is to separate it into two parts.
So, first, we’ll look at the writing process, and then we’ll examine the publishing side of things.
I’ll start by breaking down the writing journey into hours, days, and weeks, so you can decide on a suitable goal and workload for you. Then, I’ll explain the different publishing options available and give you an idea of how long each one can take.
By the end of this article, you should have a pretty accurate idea of how long it will take you to write and publish your book, and you might even be surprised about how quickly you can achieve your dream!
Some authors are prolific, producing multiple books every year, while others take a decade to finish a single manuscript. But even though the time it takes writers to complete a book varies considerably, there are ways to figure out how long the process might take you.
To do this, you’ll need to be realistic about your personal circumstances and set yourself some achievable goals.
So, let’s begin by asking the following questions…
How Many Hours can You Dedicate to Writing Each Day?
If you work a full-time job and have a family, setting a chunk of uninterrupted time aside each day to write may be particularly challenging.
So, be honest with yourself about how much time you can dedicate each day. If you overestimate this, you’ll also overestimate the speed with which your book will be complete, which can ultimately lead to disappointment when you don’t meet your own self-imposed deadline.
However, if you set the bar at a realistic level, there’s no reason why you can’t smash your writing goals each and every day.
How Many Words Can You Write in a Day?
Once you have a rough idea about how much time you can afford to set aside to write each day, the next step is to estimate how many words you might be able to produce in each writing session.
Of course, every session will be different. Some days, you might sit down at your desk, and the words and ideas will flow through your mind and out of your fingertips like a waterfall of creativity. And other days, you might find yourself staring at a blank page for hours, paralyzed by a bad case of writer’s block.
But once you get into a rhythm, you’ll most likely find that you reach a steady average, and calculating your estimated daily word count will become much easier.
If you’ve never tracked your writing by a word count before, you might be wondering what a realistic expectation should be.
When Stephen King is working on a new book, he writes a whopping 2000 words per day. But don’t worry if that sounds like a lot; it is! As a new author, a much more achievable target might be somewhere in the ballpark of 1000 words per day, depending on how many writing hours you have to spare.
How Long is Your Book Going to Be?
Are you producing a short novella, an epic, or something in between? Knowing more or less how long your book will be is essential if you want to get an accurate estimate of how much time the creative process will take.
According to data collected from 2,500 New York Times bestselling books, the average novel contains around 100,000 words and 400 pages.
Most chart-topping novels have at least 60,000 words. Anything shorter than 40,000 is usually considered a novella, and on the other end of the scale, once a book exceeds 110,000 words, it’s edging into the epic category.
The length of your book will depend on several factors, not least the genre. If you’re penning a fantasy or sci-fi novel, you may find that your estimated word count goes much higher than the averages listed above. On the flip side, if you’re writing a YA novel or a steamy romance, your word count may be on the lower end of the scale.
Calculating How Long it Takes to Write a Book
So, by looking at your answers to the questions above, you can start to get an estimate of how long it will take to complete your manuscript.
If you write 250 words an hour for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, you’ll be averaging around 5,000 words a week.
So, if you’re aiming for a book of around 100,000 words, then you can expect to have your first draft completed in around 20 weeks, or 140 days.
Factor in Time for Research and Editing
In an ideal world, brilliant ideas would flow effortlessly from our minds and onto the page. But in reality, creating a great novel or a work of non-fiction takes a considerable amount of planning and research.
How much research will depend on you and the book you’re writing. If you’re already an expert in your chosen topic, then this part of the process might be pretty minimal. But if you’re building an expansive science fiction or fantasy world, or writing about a complex subject, then you can expect the research phase of your book to take up much more time.
Similarly, once you’ve completed the first draft of your manuscript, you’ll probably want to spend some time self-editing it before you send it off to the publishers.
Even if you’re hiring a professional editor to do the majority of the leg work for you, it’s still important to revise your work and make any changes before you let the professionals do their thing.
Tips to Speed Up The Writing Process
The amount of time it takes to finish your manuscript is ultimately down to you. But by implementing some of the tips below into your writing routine, you can optimize the process, so you can reach your goals much faster.
Get Rid of Distractions
It’s essential to set up a quiet, comfortable place where you can be left alone to write in peace. If you have a family or live in a small apartment, then this might be easier said than done, and you may need to lay down some boundaries, physical or otherwise, to ensure that you get the silence and solitude you need to produce your best work.
You may even find it easier to write in a different location outside of your home, for example, the local coffee shop or library.
But even when you’re left alone to write, distractions of another form can still hold you back. If your phone is pinging beside you, or you have the Facebook tab open right next to the Word document, sooner or later, your creativity will be derailed.
So, be strict with yourself and create a true distraction-free zone in order to maximize your writing output.
Create a Schedule
To help keep you on track, plan your time using a schedule, and be meticulous about sticking to it.
When we work for ourselves, it can be easy to put off important tasks like writing, as there’s no one there to tell us what to do and when to do it.
So, to stay motivated and disciplined, create a schedule, and follow it as if it were your new boss.
Track Your Progress
Try setting some achievable goals for yourself, and celebrate every time you reach them.
For example, if you know you want to finish your manuscript by Christmas, aim to complete the first ten chapters by Thanksgiving, and make sure you reward yourself with something you enjoy when you meet your target.
Create an Outline for Your Book
Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, creating an outline of what you will be writing about is an important first step. Without an outline, you’ll be much more susceptible to writer’s block, and you’ll be more likely to get derailed or verge off course.
Consistency is the key to success in most areas of life, and writing a book is no different. So, if you’ve committed to writing 5 days per week for 25 weeks, do your utmost to stick to that schedule.
Of course, sometimes life will get in the way, and taking a few days off here and there may be unavoidable. But if you’ve had a little break, try to jump back on the writing train as quickly as possible to avoid falling out of the good habits you’ve created for yourself.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Book Published?
So, you’ve put in several weeks and months of hard work, and now, you finally have a finished manuscript ready to send to the publishers.
First things first, give yourself a pat on the back! Tons of people dream of writing a book, but very few people actually see it through and do it, so be proud of what you’ve achieved so far.
Now, it’s time to explore the publishing process, but if you’re a first-time author, the whole thing might seem a little overwhelming.
If that statement rings true for you, then I highly recommend reading our in-depth guide on how to publish a book, which will demystify the process for you. You’ll also find some helpful tips on what to do if your manuscript is rejected (don’t panic, many of the world’s most acclaimed authors were knocked back numerous times before they got their big break!)
But once you’ve figured out how to navigate the world of book publishing, you’ll probably be wondering how long the process will take.
The answer all depends on which publishing route you choose; self-publishing or traditional publishing.
Self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular option, especially for first-time authors.
It’s now easier than ever to self-publish a book, and there are tons of resources out there to help you (this guide on how to self-publish a kindle e-book is a great place to start.)
But what kind of timeline can you expect if you decide to go down the self-publishing route?
The answer depends on how much time you’re willing to spare. If you’ve been spending 4-5 hours a day for the last few months writing your manuscript, then why not keep it up, and invest that time into your self-publishing plan?
That might seem like a lot, but that’s the reality of the self-publishing world; you’re in charge of editing, cover design, pricing, marketing, and promotion, all the things that traditional publishers usually take care of.
But there’s an upside, too. You’re in complete control, and if you’re willing to put in the work, then there’s no reason why you can’t complete the self-publishing process and have your book ready for sale within less than 90 days.
Traditional publishing requires less effort and financial risk on your part, meaning you can get back to doing whatever it was that you used to do before you started writing your book.
But of course, there are downsides to traditional publishing, too. You’ll be giving up a considerable percentage of any profits you make, and you may well face a lot of rejection before you find someone who is willing to publish your work.
Plus, most traditional publishers won’t accept manuscript submissions directly; instead, you’ll have to hire a literary agent to do the pitching part for you.
But if you decide to go down the traditional publishing route, how long does the process usually take?
Once you’ve sent off your polished manuscript along with a query letter, often, things can grind to a frustrating halt. A busy publisher can sometimes take months to respond, and the waiting can be agonizing if you’re eager to see the fruits of your labor flourish.
The best way to avoid any unnecessary waiting is to make sure you only send your manuscript to publishers who are actively looking for your kind of work.
But don’t worry; once you’ve found a publisher who loves your work, and a contract has been drawn up, the process can move pretty quickly. From here on out, you can expect to see your book on the shelves within a matter of months.
Writing a book and getting it published is something many people dream of, but very few actually see the process through.
But becoming a published author is more achievable than you might think, and if you’re willing to put in the work, you never know; by this time next year, you could be the next big name on the New York Times Bestseller’s list.