Self-Publishing a Novel: Sample Production Timeline

Sophie Playle

As you know, writing a novel takes time.

What might surprise you is that publishing a novel can take just as long.

It usually takes a publishing house nine months to get from the author’s submitted manuscript to a printed book available to buy. This isn’t just because they have lots of books to manage, but because all the steps towards publication take time.

If your intention is to publish your own novel, you’ll need to take all these steps into account too – and possibly some additional ones.

Your schedule will also be affected by the professionals you choose to assist you along the way.

Keep in mind that a publishing house manages the publishing calendar for all their books and has an in-house team working in a co-ordinated way to make all the deadlines happen.

As a self-publisher, your team will be made up of individual freelance professionals.

Some editorial and design professionals focus on working as quickly as possible. They’re a good option if your publishing ambitions are based on speed and frequency.

At Liminal Pages, my focus is on helping you create a high-quality novel – something written and produced to the absolute best of your abilities.

For this reason, I take my time to give your writing my full attention – and in turn, this means my schedule can fill up quickly, especially because I work on only one or two books at a time.

If you’d like to work with me, I’ve put together a few example schedules that you can use to help you better plan the publication of your book.

Option 1: Developmental Edit + Full Edit + Proofread

The most comprehensive option that will help you produce a top-quality novel

Publishing houses don’t usually send their authors’ manuscripts through a developmental edit because they don’t need to – they simply choose the best novels that are submitted to them. However, if you’re self-publishing, you need to act as your own quality control. A developmental edit will help you make sure your novel is the best you can make it in terms of story, structure, characterisation, pacing and all that big-picture storytelling stuff!

  • Book me in for stage one of the developmental edit (2-3 months in advance)
  • Developmental edit, stage one: analysis (1 month)
  • Story-level author revisions based on feedback (2 months)
  • At the same time: Book me in for stage two of the developmental edit
  • Developmental edit, stage two: full edit – includes line and copy-edit (1 month)
  • Sentence-level author revisions based on feedback (1 month)
  • At the same time: Commission book designer / ebook converter (external service, not managed by Liminal Pages)
  • At the same time: Book in proofread (when design completion date is confirmed; either external service OR managed by Liminal Pages)
  • At the same time: Develop blurb copy
  • Send manuscript to me to check your revisions (1 week)
  • Send manuscript to book designer (2 weeks)
  • Proofread (2-3 weeks)
  • Publish!

TOTAL: 9 months (approx.)

Option 2: Manuscript Critique + Line and Copy-Edit + Proofread (optional)*

The less hands-on approach for more modest budgets

With this option, you’ll receive professional big-picture feedback on your novel at a lower price point as the feedback will be less intensive and more general. In this way, you’ll be more responsible for directing your own revisions.

  • Book me in for a manuscript critique (1-2 months in advance)
  • Manuscript critique (2-3 weeks)
  • Story-level author revisions based on feedback (2 months)
  • At the same time: Book me in for a line and copy-edit
  • Line and copy-edit (3 weeks)
  • At the same time: Develop blurb copy
  • At the same time: Commission book designer / ebook converter
  • At the same time: Book in proofread (optional; when design completion date is confirmed; either external service OR managed by Liminal Pages)
  • Sentence-level author revisions (2 weeks)
  • Send manuscript to me to check your revisions (1 week)
  • Send manuscript to book designer (2 weeks)
  • Proofread (optional) (2-3 weeks)
  • Publish!

TOTAL: 6-7 months (approx.)

*Some people will argue that a final proofread is not ‘optional’. However, I think we have to think real here: some budgets don’t stretch far enough to cover a copy-edit and a proofread, and one sentence-level edit should still provide a decent level of quality control.

As you might have noticed, this timeline doesn’t take into account any marketing events or the specific tasks you have to complete to actually publish your novel (as this will depend on exactly how and where you’d like to publish it).

There is a huge amount of work that goes into publishing your own novel, and production is just one piece of the puzzle!

If you plan on publishing more than one book (and you absolutely should if your aim is to make money from your writing), then don’t despair! This process will become easier over time as it becomes more familiar to you.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more: liminalpages.com

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