Once a writer has completed their manuscript, they may think that publication is close. The hard work is largely done and all it needs is for that text to be printed out on paper. There are variables to consider and even ways to speed it up towards publication. It can be incredibly fast once the manuscript is ready to go yet it could take over a year.

In this guide, we will look to answer the question of how long it takes to publish a book. That includes when the manuscript is complete, traditional publishing routes, and self-publishing.

When The Manuscript Is Complete

There comes a point when a writer believes that their manuscript is complete. To a publisher, the complete manuscript may still need some work, even for the most polished manuscript. That may be down to formatting issues, gaining legal clearance, or simply editing.

The manuscript may be too short, too long, or not quite right. Even though a publisher wants to publish, they can refuse until the manuscript is how they like it after several revisions.

Traditional Publishing Routes

To use a traditional publishing route, a writer needs to approach a publisher in the hope that they enjoy the book so much that they decide to publish it. That could mean using an agent to approach publishers or doing it yourself which can all take time. Even finding an agent may be difficult, let alone landing that book deal.

Even then, once the signatures on the publishing contract are dry, it could still take a couple of years after that for the book to appear on shelves. A lot can depend on how busy the publisher is, the size of their printing press, and the date they wish to publish the book.

A writer can expect that a publication date should be set out in the terms of the contract which is reassuring. There can still be obstacles in the path to publishing including a lack of funds or a rival book stealing a march.

In some instances, the publication date could be brought forward due to a slot opening up in a publisher’s production schedule or the publisher wishes to move their profits into an earlier part of the year.

Self Publishing

Self Publishing

The self publishing route may be for a writer that does not feel comfortable approaching a publisher. This may also be a quicker route to publishing yet it still does require some time. That may be to prepare the manuscript for a designer and produce a design brief. The manuscript should be copy-edited prior to being typeset and then published.

As soon as the designer is ready to go with the manuscript then it may take a further month for that text to be checked. The formatting of the text has to be correct and, only then, can a designer get going. For the self-publishing route, a writer still needs to inspect and then approve the design and how their creation looks on the page.

If changes are required then these will require time too, as will confirming how the cover looks. Depending on the size of the book, it may need around a month for the indexing to be completed. There are still some final touches such as acknowledgements, a dedication, and then the book can be taken to a studio.

A contract still needs to be drawn up, like it would with a publisher, which is based on the manuscript, the page count, and how intricate the design is. The marketing support has to be confirmed and there may even be room for approaching other writers for a quick blurb.

After all that, the material should be ready and then it is converted into files to be sent to a printer to be physically produced. That can take between one and two weeks and could depend on the workload of that specific printer and ongoing projects. Those files have to be checked and then the printer has its digital printing plates set up.

Once a printed proof is ready it has to be checked and a further delay may occur with any proposed changes. Even the time of year may delay or prevent self-publishing a book.

Printers can be especially busy in the holidays which means both November and December prove to be exceptionally difficult periods. Once the book is physically produced, online retailers can be made aware and orders can come in.

Final Thoughts

It can seem quite frustrating once a manuscript has been finished for a writer to wait for the book to be published. This can especially be the case for a first publication as the writer may need to look for an agent as well as a publisher which can take time.

Writers can get impatient yet this is not wasted time, even if it takes from six months to two years. For a book to sell well, especially a writer’s first book, requires patience and promotion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Can It Take So Long For A Finished Manuscript To Turn Into A Published Book?

While a writer may believe that a manuscript is finished, a publisher may still insist that it needs editing in places. That final manuscript also needs to be proofread and if it is non-fiction then facts will need to be checked.

The design of the book, including the sleeve, have to be finalized too which can take some time. Aside from the actual physical printing of the book, those books have to be shipped to bookshops as well.

What Promotion Goes Into A Book Before It Is Finally Published?

A lot of writers insist on having other writers review their book as a way of gaining credibility amongst their readers. That means they have to read it in its entirety and, if they like it, they would need to take time to write their blurb.

Then there are book reviewers who need to read an advance copy of a book in order to review it before publication. This is all welcome promotion and depends on the length of the book so that bookshops are inclined to stock it.



Subscriber Type


You have Successfully Subscribed!