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Publishing 101: Timelines

After self-publishing 2 books, I realized how important keeping a good timeline is for my sanity. It doesn't mean that those timelines won't change - one of the benefits of self-publishing is being able to both set and adapt your own timeline - but it is very useful for setting deadlines for yourself and for your providers. It helps keep yourself and your team on track. When traditionally publishing there is a ton of thought put into timelines, so getting used to using one strictly as an indie author is super important if you want to pursue the hybrid route someday.

When building a timeline for a self-published book, I always start with the release date and work my way back based on how long I know I need for each step in the process. Here is a general breakdown of turnaround times that I use when planning a timeline.

The Author's Responsibilities:

Author reviewing edits = 1 month

Author providing feedback on design = 1-2 weeks

The Designer's Responsibities*:

Creating the first colour draft of cover = 3-4 weeks

Inputting feedback on cover = 2-4 weeks

Creating internal layout = 3 weeks**

Inputting changes for layout = 2 weeks

Creating ebook layout = 2-3 weeks

The Editor's Responsibilities*:

Copy Edits = 4-8 weeks

Proofread = 2-3 weeks

* The turnaround time will depend on the provider and their capacity. Always communicate a turnaround time and deadline before the process starts. Especially with the editor, ask the provider to assess the manuscript first to determine how much time they'll need.

** The internal layout took longer with my first book, with more rounds of back and forth feedback between me and the designer. For subsequent books, because the designer was using the same layout as the previous books, the process was much faster

The turnaround time that you and your providers feel comfortable with will vary from person to person. I prefer to lean into allocating more time than I think I will need to ensure that there is a buffer for unexpected delays. And there will always be something unexpected to try and throw your plans off the rails.

Here is the timeline I created for publishing my 3rd book, The Goblin Deception. Note that, since I have a full-time job, I also make note of potential conflicts into the timeline knowing that there are certain times of the year that my ability to work on the book will be greatly impacted by what's happening at my day job. I also put major deadlines into the calendar on my phone, so I have an additional visual calendar to work off of.

The Goblin Deception Publishing Timeline.


Author Designer Editor Proofreader

May 2021

Work on draft

June 2021

Goal: finish draft and give beta readers

July 2021

Goal By end of July: have MS returned from beta readers

August 2021

End of month: Incorporate beta reader feedback

September 2021

Goal: second round beta readers

October 2021 [insane work month]

Incorporate beta reader feedback

November 2021 [insane work month]

Send rough draft to Designer for early read through

Start front cover design process with Designer

Third round feedback with beta readers

December 2021

Feedback from beta readers returned

Finish MS

Author sends MS to copy editor starts editing December 29 to start work Jan 1

Winter Break Dec 20 2021 to Jan 3 2022

January 2022 [insane work month]

Designer provides refined cover option rendered in full with title in place and feedback due (Second week of January)

Provides final tweaks for cover

Designer finalizes front cover

February 2022 [busy work month]

MS returned from Copy Editor February 18

Start implementing copy edits

March 2022 [Busy work month]

Cover reveal

Spring Break March 14 to 18

April 2022

By end of March: Finish copy edits on MS - April 18

First internal layout provided April 19

Internal layout returned to author May 2

May 2022

Internal layout returned to author May 2

Internal layout sent to proofreader May 2

Back cover blurb approved for back cover and sent to designer May 2

Proofread returned May 13

Edits sent to designer by May 24

Internal layouts for round 2 returned on May 31

June 2022

Final author review of internal layouts (due June 30)

July 2022

Internal layout finalized (Date TBC)

Start ebook files

August 2022

Ebook files done

End of August - Upload book files to Amazon and Ingram Spark

Order proof copies

September 2022

Make a release plan

Budget marketing plan

October 2022

Mid-late October = orders author copies of books

November 2022

Mid-November (or as soon as books arrive) = start mailing books out to reviewers

Release date December 3, 2022

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