As a book editor, I often get approached by authors who have just finished writing and now need an editor. They’re usually delighted to have finished and think the hard work is over and their book will be published soon. What many authors fail to factor is how long the editorial and publishing process takes. Here I’ll give you the low-down on how long it takes. Now, you can set aside plenty of time to get your book perfect.
Authors often come to me with an ideal deadline that they’d like the book published by. This deadline tends to be around a month away. Is this long enough? The short answer is: it depends.
How long the editorial process takes depends on several factors:
As such, the length of time needed for editing can really vary. For example, an editorial assessment of a manuscript takes me a few weeks. If I identify that barely any changes are required, then you’ll be ready for marketing and book design. However, it’s rare to come across a book that is almost publishing-ready, even for experienced authors.
If lots of content changes and stages of editing are needed, then the process will often take a few months. After the initial assessment, most authors usually need at least a few weeks to make the recommended changes to content. This obviously depends on each author’s workload and availability to spend time on the book. I’ve worked with some authors where this has stage has taken them as long as five months to complete because they’re busy or burnt out from the writing phase!
The editorial process will take anywhere between a few weeks and six months.
For some authors, having to make changes to the book comes as a surprise, and a result, they haven’t factored in time to make adjustments to the book. Just because you’ve finished writing doesn’t mean that the hard work is over!
In an editorial assessment or a developmental edit, I often identify changes that only the author can make, such as additional content that needs adding or information that needs clarifying. Most assessments lead to at least some queries for the author to resolve.
Sometimes, the assessment leads to big changes to the book, such as altering the structure, tone, content, or visual style—and while your editor can make some of these changes, they do require the author’s involvement.
So, you should factor in at least a few weeks to make any changes required after the first edit.
The answer to this question is: as soon as possible. Simply put, you can’t look for an editor too soon.
Many authors make the mistake of waiting until they finish writing the book before they seek an editor, then they want the editor to start tomorrow—and they usually have a print deadline to meet. However, by this time, most good editors are already booked up with work and have a waiting list.
It’s important to remember that most book editors are freelancers, so they have to be able to plan their work in advance. You might be lucky to find a good editor who has just finished a project and has nothing else lined up, but this is rare.
You don’t want to spend all of your efforts writing a book only to find that your ideal editor is busy because you didn’t ask for their availability sooner. Then you end up with an editor who is less than ideal but just happens to be free now.
So, get on your editor’s radar as soon as possible. Even better, if you seek out an editor as you start writing, they might have some tips to help you during your writing journey!
Of course, editing can be done quicker than this, but it might mean rushing, which isn’t good for the book and your readers’ experience. You can no doubt find editors out there who will work to shorter deadlines, but as an editor, I find that it’s more important to be thorough and ensure the book is as good as it possibly can be—rather than publishing quickly and ending up with a book that doesn’t meet the needs of your audience and gets poor reviews.
Although you’re eager to get published, it’s important to dedicate sufficient time to editing. There’s little worse than putting all of your efforts into the writing, then rushing the editing phase and ending up with a book that’s less than perfect.
Again, the length of time taken to publish a book varies. When I worked for a small book publisher, it took around 6-12 months for a book to be published. Though with the rise of e-books, it can be much faster. Don’t forget to factor in time for the book and cover design, formatting for various platforms, and marketing aspects.
If you want to find out what to read on your next coffee shop date, we share ideas in our monthly newsletter. Or, if you can’t wait, then check out our Editor’s Blog. Find us on socials, our website and Goodreads to get notified whenever we publish something new.
We’re here to help readers — we’re here to help you.
By Ameesha Green
Sign up to our newsletter below to get writing and publising tips and tricks.