Most first-time novelists (myself included) assume that once they’ve finished that first draft (or second draft), they can probably get it ready to self-publish in a couple months. NOPE! There are so many stages it needs to go through, and so many other people involved that you’ll need to wait on, that once you’re at a place where you feel like your book is done and you’ve revised and had some friends and family read it, you’re probably still about five months from publication.
I’ve had so many writers not realize this, and try to schedule edits with me according to their release date, only to find that I’m already booked and they waited too long to contact me about their line edit or final proofread. I’ve done several rush edits to try to accommodate, but then I always fear I’ll miss things. Proofreading takes slow, careful reading.
So, for your own sanity as well as mine, let me give you an idea of when you should schedule and how long things take. Please note that this is my opinion and is based on how long it takes me to edit. I usually tell my clients to expect about two weeks for each edit, though the developmental edit often takes only a week and most line edits can be done in under ten days. Beta readers can take anywhere from a week to a month to get back to you. It’s also based on publishing using KDP, Amazon’s publishing platform.
- 6-8 months before publication: Complete first draft, take a break from it and give it to alpha readers (usually friends and family). Read on your own and make revisions. Schedule a developmental critique with an editor.
- 4-5 months before publication: Complete rough draft using input from alpha readers and your own read-through. Give to editor for developmental critique and schedule your line edit.
- *Make structural and developmental revisions (timing here will depend on how extensive your editor’s suggestions are regarding structure and development).
- 3-4 months before publication: Send to editor for line edit and schedule final proofread.(The final proofread is the most time-sensitive, so you should schedule it as far in advance as possible so it can be a priority for your editor.)
- *Make revisions suggested by editor
- 2-3 months before publication: Give to beta readers and let them know the date you’d like them to give you feedback.
- *Make adjustments according to feedback you receive.
- 5-6 weeks before publication: Final proofread by editor
- 3-4 weeks before publication: Implement edits
- 2-3 weeks before publication: Order proof copy and check formatting. Send out to ARC readers (optional).
- 5 days before publication: Upload final manuscript!
Hopefully this is helpful in at least giving you some idea of how much time to give yourself for everything! When I published my first book, I thought three months would be enough from the time I finished my first draft, and I caused myself so much stress by trying to stick to that timeline! Give yourself time so you can produce the best writing you can.