Publishing timescales

Book publishing timescales have been an unhappy twist in many an enthusiastic author’s tale.

Meet Eddie.

By day, Eddie was a personal trainer. By night, he powered away on his book, The Weight Loss Miracle. It had been a long haul. Everyone he knew had put the pressure on by repeatedly asking, “When’s your book going to be out then?” but the end was in sight.

At last, Eddie typed the final words and, relieved and excited, told everyone he could. Clients instantly started begging to get their hands on a copy. Eddie felt great. Everyone was so keen! He needed to make the most of it. And so, Eddie planned a launch party, picked a date a whole month away, sent mailshots, advertised on Facebook, and started tweeting the countdown. It was going to be brilliant.

Except, of course, that’s when things started going wrong.

Never having published a book before, Eddie had only a vague idea about book design and printing timescales. Eddie still needed to have his book and cover designed and upload his files before he could get his hands on a printed proof. Only then could he place his first book order. But a month would be plenty of time, right?

Ah, yes, you guessed it: Eddie had miscalculated.

Eddie had to cancel his launch and reschedule, much to his embarrassment. The delay and confusion cost him money, sales momentum, and much of his enthusiasm in the process.

Poor old Eddie.

The good news is, this doesn’t need to be you. By reading our guide to book publishing timescales, you’ll be able to set a calm, confident launch timetable that won’t end in tears.

Here’s how to avoid Eddie’s fate.

Proofread first

When you’ve been working on a manuscript for months, it’s all too easy to rush through the last few hurdles. So, make yourself pause. Proofread your book. Once you start on the book design, you may be able to correct the odd typo, but any big changes will cost time and money. Rather than paying for additional design hours, it’s much better to polish your manuscript now, for free.

Understand your quote and timeline

Always choose your book designer and confirm the work you need before you schedule anything else.

A good designer will always give a clear idea of how long each aspect of your book will take so you shouldn’t have to guess. For example, you may read on their website that it will take five days to produce a sample or five days to produce a cover.

Remember, however, that design and print happen as a sequence of events, not all at the same time.

Typically, designers work on the front cover first, as this sets the tone for all other styling. The interior is next, usually starting with a sample for you to approve before the designer typesets the rest of the pages. And when the final page count is known, your designer will calculate the width of the spine and create the layout template. They’ll also produce an ebook, right at the very end of the project, using your final print file.

So, look at the overall timeline of your quote and talk it through with your designer. Factor in any gaps or delays between stages while you approve samples. And find out what will happen if you request any changes. It’s up to you to make sure you’re aware of the whole picture and to plan accordingly.

Review and mark changes clearly

Don’t just allow extra time for your designer; leave plenty of time for yourself to check each stage too. When you review your sample, you may see some helpful comments from your designers. It is always worth taking the time to provide clear feedback on these. Tell them exactly what you like and what you don’t like, and try to avoid ambiguous comments. The time needed to clarify things can slow everything else down.

Again, keep in mind that making changes to your files won’t happen instantly. Your designer will be working on a few different projects, so they’ll need to schedule your changes around other work commitments. When your feedback lands on their desk, they might not be able to drop everything immediately.

Finally, when you receive your finished files for review, check everything again before approving them for print. Design involves touching every word and part of your book but, however careful your designer is, errors or misinterpretations can still creep in. See our guide to reviewing your book digital proof for more help.

Prepare for upload

With the design finalized, it’s time for stage two: getting your book printed.

To get things started, you’ll need to send the final design files to your printer. Typically, this involves uploading the files to your printer’s website, along with some essential information.

When you upload your files, you may be asked to confirm print choices like: Trim Size · Binding · Paper Type · Page Count · Interior Color · Laminate Type

You may also need to add book metadata such as: Title · Subtitle · Language · Short Description · Keywords · ISBN · Series Name · Edition Number

Finally, if your printer is also your distributor, you may also need to enter distribution information such as: Author Bio · Contributors · Imprint Name · Subject Classification · Audience

It’s a good idea to get all this data prepared, checked and available in a Word document ready for you to paste into the website. This will avoid any panicked guesswork!

Make sure you upload your designer’s final files, not a previous draft. Your cover, interior, and ebook are separate files, and your printer may ask you to name each file in a certain way to identify what they are. If you hit any technical issues with the file itself, let your designer know quickly so they can fix it for you.

Get a proof

Get a proof, get a proof, get a proof. Did we mention you should get a proof?

It is never a good idea to try and save time by skipping this step. You could end up with color shades that look too dark in print, images that show through the paper, or even a big batch of books all containing a glaring error.

Your printer will be able to tell you how long a proof takes to print, but it’s typically a few days plus shipping time.

For more tips on how to check your proof and what to look for, see our guide to reviewing your printed proof. Again, allow time to mark any changes on your pdf and return it to your designer for updates. Keep in mind that if the changes are significant, you may even need to get a second proof made before anything goes to print.

Know your printer

If you are printing your book as a print-on-demand (POD) book, printing and shipping will typically take about a week. Some printers will offer an expedited service for additional cost and it’s worth knowing if you’ll have this option if time gets tight.

If you are paying for a large offset print run, the timescales are longer than POD: typically, at least a couple of weeks. Make sure you know where your printers are based and how they will ship your book. Printing overseas, for example in China when you live in New York, may be cheaper, but it may take a couple of months to print and ship your book, with books transported via big container ships.

Make a contingency plan

If you have a big launch or event planned, then leave some time free to help absorb anything unexpected. Delays happen, mistakes happen, print errors happen, shipping damage happens, public holidays happen. You obviously can’t allow for everything, but give yourself some breathing space to make unforeseen issues less stressful.

And for extra peace of mind, it’s always good to think about a backup plan. Maybe you could print draft copies of your book at a copy shop, or offer your book out as an ePDF?

Remember, it’s worth the wait

No one wants to be an Eddie, but with a little extra patience and planning, you won’t end up in his shoes. You’ve put so much time and work into your book already; it’s not worth rushing and tripping up now. So think ahead, research your book’s publishing timescale, and take your time. And get ready to feel that buzz of a successful launch because you’re nearly, nearly there.

Save us a glass of champagne?