I’m a sucker for New Years’ resolutions. Each new year, I set my sights on the year ahead, the goals I want to achieve, and the person I want to become. I set business goals and personal goals. I target at least one big thing I want to accomplish, something that feels way outside my comfort zone.
It might seem silly to some, but I see the new year as the land of possibility. We are gifted a reset, a chance to reflect and goal-set, and a clear time marker to measure against. These factors make my overachiever’s heart go pitter-patter. Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound? Yes, please.
Because I’m in the world of books and accomplishing Big Things, inevitably I meet person after person with “write and publish a book” on their list. If you’re reading this when it was published in December, that means you have about thirteen months to hit your goal by the end of 2024. (And if you’re reading it during a later month or year, take heart—and do some math. You’ve got this!)
Personally, I like to have clarity around a project plan. I like to know how long each step takes so I can create a project plan for myself.
Because without a plan, what the heck are we even doing with our lives? But I digress . . .
So let’s talk about the timeline. How long does it take to write, edit, publish, launch, and market a nonfiction book? I’ve authored or ghostwritten seventeen books and contributed to more than 100, and here’s the timeline I think is reasonable if you have a strong goal to get your book finished within the next year—and publish it with excellence.
Writing the first draft: 6–12+ months
This is highly variable depending on your experience level, personal discipline, and the support you have. My clients and students finish their books in six months, but I’ve met authors who have spent four, five, even ten-plus years writing their books. The key differentiators are skill, support, and discipline. It makes a huge difference to have a system, accountability, and coaching. Once the first draft is complete, you’ll move into editing.
Editing the draft: 3–6 months
Again, this depends heavily on you—but also your editor. A skilled editor will usually need about four to six weeks to turn around a substantive edit of your book. That’s the round where she is digging in deeply, restructuring, and heavily revising to support transforming the book from good to great. After substantive editing, your book will go through copyediting and proofreading before it is published.
Publishing: 6–9 months
Most authors are shocked by all the moving parts of publishing, especially if they are self-publishing and not working with a self-publishing project manager or hybrid publisher, both of which provide project plans, resources, and knowledge to make the process smoother and faster. Consider the various things you need to complete: ISBN purchase, cover design, cover copy, interior design, interior copy (about the author, acknowledgments, etc.), post-design proofreading, e-book conversion, audiobook production, Amazon page creation and optimization, advance reader copies, and the list goes on and on.
Honestly, I think six months is a darn miracle with all that needs accomplished. That said, if you’re on a tight timeline, there are components that can be done in tandem with editing to save time, such as the cover design and interior mock-ups. From here, you need to officially launch the book.
Launching: 6 months (3 months before/after release date)
The book launch—this is what you’ve been waiting for! It’s a powerful moment when you hold your book in your hands, an actual physical entity birthed from countless hours of love and labor.
It’s important to note here that there is a lot of prework that needs to be done before you get to the launch. Namely, building your author platform. Grab my free guide, “How to Create an Influential Author Platform” here.
Generally, I recommend putting in strong launch efforts about three months before and three months after the release of your book. And don’t hold back here! I often see authors pour months or years into their books, only to let fear keep them from going all out on the marketing. So hold that big book party! Hire that publicist or lean into your own publicity! Reach out to the big names in your industry that you’d love to send the book to—better yet, reach out much earlier and ask for advance praise! Do that big social media promo, the podcast tour, the bookstore signings. Go all in, because this is your chance to fully experience authorhood and the joyfulness that is sharing your work and story with the world.
Here’s where authorhood becomes that marathon everyone said it would be. If your book is tied to a bigger mission or goal, such as business or brand growth, you can easily integrate the marketing into your overall marketing strategy.
The ongoing effort is worth it. As an example, the book I coauthored with Ron Price in 2018 continues to bring me brand visibility and clients. The continued effort to integrate a book into all the marketing things makes it one of the best investments of time, energy, and money you can make in your ongoing impact.
Total timeline: 12–18+ months
Yes, this is a little shorter than is detailed above. Here’s how a 12-month timeline would look:
- writing: 6 months
- editing: 3 months
- publishing: 3 months post-editing (6 months total, overlaps editing)
- launch date: no additional time (6 months total, overlaps publishing by 3 months and continues 3 months after)
- marketing: ongoing
Here’s how an 18-month timeline would look, which is my preference:
- writing: 6 months
- editing: 3 months
- publishing: 9 months
- launch date: no additional time (overlaps 3 months before, continues 3 months after)
- marketing: ongoing
I like the second option best because it lets you be where you are, when you are. I don’t personally think six months are worth the stress the overlapping brings, not to mention the potential impact on quality. Plus, with the slower timeline, you have space to reach out to people for testimonials, make big media connections, and take advantage of other opportunities that aren’t afforded when you’re heads-down trying to get the book out in twelve months.
But that isn’t what I see on social media!
I know. If I had a dollar for every ad I get on writing and publishing a book in thirty or sixty days . . .
But here’s the thing. You can rush this. Sure you can. But there is something more important than speed in this journey: there is the transformation you’ll undergo. The clarity you uncover about your business, brand, or social impact. As one of my past students, May Lam Rocco, wrote me in an email yesterday—and shared with her permission: “I want to thank you for this life-changing opportunity that led me to a meaningful purpose for my life.”
Your book can lead to your next greatest thing. It can scale your business. It can help you make the impact you know you’re destined to make on this world. Why rush it? Yes, be enthusiastic. Make it a priority. Keep the momentum. But don’t shortchange the process, because you’re shortchanging yourself.
How to get support
A book coach can make all the difference in achieving your goal, and I’d be honored to support you. Reach out to me at email@example.com, leave a comment below, or apply to my six-month Idea-to-Draft Accelerator and Author Mentorship.
Here’s to your author dreams! I’m cheering you on!