How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book - Featured Image
By Maria Pengue | February 12, 2022 | 0 Comments

How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book? (+9 Interesting Questions Answered)

Here you are, with your manuscript ready to see the light of day. You’ve successfully completed the challenge of putting your ideas into words, and now it’s time to face the next essential and time-consuming process — publishing.

So, the first question that comes to mind is: How long does it take to publish a book? While there’s no definite answer that would satisfy everyone, here, you’ll find the average figures and valuable information about the options you have.

Keep on reading for all things up-and-coming writers should know about publishing, the hardships along the way, and some interesting statistics on the subject. After that, you’ll be ready to have your title hit the bookshops.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Published?

There’s no simple answer to this question. Traditional publishing takes between nine months and two years on average, besides writing a book. Since this is the digital age, you may be more inclined to get your manuscript out as an ebook instead.

Self-publishing a digital version of your book can be done in a matter of weeks. It’s easier and quicker as it doesn’t require contacting agents and publishers, and cover and text designs are much simpler to do. You’ll also skip the print and distribution waiting time.

There are many ways to get your work published, some more demanding than others. Let’s see what it’s all about.

1. How to Get a Book Published

(Author Learning Center, MasterClass)

When people think about publishing their works, they most likely imagine the grueling traditional process. However, it’s not as hard as you think.

Traditional publishing consists of the writer, in this case, you, sending a query letter or a finished manuscript to either a publishing house or literary agent.

Should they accept, you’re pretty much done —  you’ll sign a contract and get an up-front deposit for the rights of your book. Then, the publishing house will take over the book publishing timeline from editing to distribution.

Alternatively, if you want complete control over everything that has to do with your book, the most fitting choice would be self-publishing. There are a couple of methods to do so. 

Do-it-yourself publishing is the most labor-intensive and gratifying path. This way, you’ll have complete ownership of your work, but you’ll have to pay for the whole process from your pocket. You’ll be in charge of every step — editing, designing the covers, printing the book, and creating your own book marketing plan.

General contractor publishing is a pretty expensive endeavor. It’s not as laborious as DIY, but it still requires serious effort. It involves hiring contractors (hence the name) for some parts or the whole publishing process. You’ll have to pay them, but you’ll get experts to do the things you can’t handle yourself. Initial costs may be high, so plan how to cover them.   

You have the freedom to choose which things to outsource and which to take care of yourself. You also won’t share the rights to your book with anybody else. There are contractors for everything you’d need during the book publishing process. However, the more things you learn to do yourself, the less money you’ll spend.

Supported self-publishing means choosing an option from a publishing services company and paying the price for the whole package upfront. Usually, you can choose from different offers, depending on the things you need them to cover.

Unlike DIY publishing, you’ll have fewer things to do, and the budget will be much easier to meet since you have to deal with a one-time payment. The timeline for publishing a book will also be much more fast-paced.

Other methods to publish your book involve an ebook or audiobook, self-printing (also called vanity printing), or print-on-demand. The first and last options are often the most accessible and popular choices with first-time writers. 

While still relatively cheaper than DIY publishing, self-printing often results in the writer losing money over unsold copies. Audiobooks are also risky as you’ll have to pay a narrator for hours of recording, but you’ll be tapping into a very profitable and rising market. 

2. Is It Hard to Get a Book Published?

(Jericho Writers)

The chances of getting an agent to publish your book, on average, are about one in 1,000. You also have to keep in mind that the best literary agents usually have a 10% success rate auctioning a book to a publishing house.

These numbers look scary, but they’re not too reliable. Here’s why:

You have to factor in the quality of your manuscript. Nobody wants to read, or sell, a bad book, but everybody appreciates a good one. If you’ve written something marvelous, your odds of getting a book published are nearly 100%.

Also, some literary agents are pickier than others. If you send your manuscript to a top agent who only deals with the best companies and writers, your chances will be smaller than if you had sent it to one that works with smaller publishers.

The point is that numbers don’t paint the whole picture. You shouldn’t abandon the idea of publishing your work just because you think all odds are stacked against you.

3. How to Get a Book Published for the First Time

(Gatekeeper Press)

Everybody has to start somewhere. You have several options to get your book published for the first time. Let’s check them out.

Partnering with a literary agent is the traditional way to publish your first book. Their job is to be a middleman between you and a publishing house. The only problem is that an agent gets hundreds of query letters monthly, and out of those, they usually only pick one or two.

To bolster your odds of getting a book published, you have to capture the agent’s attention from the get-go. They skim through a letter in 30 seconds or so, and your first paragraphs are everything. You have to write a compelling query letter that will ultimately convince an agent to give you a chance.

Choose your prospective agents carefully. Use a directory to pick them depending on the subject or genre of your book. Craft your query letter and send it to around 20 to 25 qualified agents. In approximately two to four weeks, you should hear back from them. This lengthy process is what ultimately makes this the longest book publishing timeline.

If an agent accepts to represent your manuscript, you must discuss a deal. They’ll promise to get your book sold within a specific time in exchange for a commission, typically around 15%, with no upfront fees involved.

Winning a literary contest is an excellent chance of getting your first book noticed by an agent or even published directly by a major house. If you want a chance to make it, though, your manuscript has to be pristine and in accordance with the guidelines. Getting an editor and a book cover designer can go a long way and shorten the timeline for publishing a book.

Self-publishing an ebook might also be a good idea. You won’t have to deal with the cost of printing physical copies of your work, and fees will be much lower as a result. You’ll have to do everything like editing, formatting, design, and marketing yourself.

Self-publishing also comes with many benefits, such as retaining full ownership of your work and a 60% rise in monthly royalty rates compared to traditional publishing.

Another good way to self-publish your first book is through a book publishing service. Although a company will guide you through the self-publishing timeline, you’ll retain all rights to your book.

Professionals will be there to help you with editing, marketing, and design, among other things, and you’ll have the opportunity to publish an ebook, paperback, or hardcover.

The service you want to work with must be reliable and reputable. The ALLi rating guide can help you find the best publisher for your first book. Things can be a bit pricey with this method, but you’ll usually be able to cover everything through the book’s sales revenue. 

How Long Does It Take to Publish a Book - Open Book

4. How Long Does a Book Have to Be to Get Published?


For first-time publishers, the best length is between 70,000 and 90,000 words. You can start writing longer or shorter books as you get established, but it’s generally best to keep most adult or young adult novels under 100,000 words.

The younger your target audience, the shorter the book should be. Books aimed at readers aged eight to 12 should be around 35,000 to 55,000 words. If you write a chapter book for new readers, about five to nine years old, keep it between 4,000 and 13,000 words long.

5. How Long Does It Take to Publish a Children’s Book?

(PRC Book Printing, SCBWI)

If you self-publish a children’s book, the process may take from a week to three months. It all depends on time management, schedules, location, and printing. Deciding on an ebook will speed up the process. 

If you work through an agent, things will take longer. They might need up to six months to sell the book to a publisher. Afterward, expect to wait from three to four months before your book gets to see the light of day.

6. How Long Does It Take To Hear Back From a Publisher?

(AUPresses, Quora)

It takes publishers around two to three months to get back to you with a decision. However, the time may be shorter, or they might not get back to you at all. It all depends on the size of the publisher and if you had any previous arrangements.

Publishers often work “seasonally.” Usually, the busiest times will be near the year-end holidays. You can follow the academic calendar for educational publishers to see which periods will be the most active.

Keep also in mind that publishers receive tons of query letters each day. Even smaller companies struggle with the number of letters they have to go through.

7. How Many First-Time Authors Get Published?

(Fiction Writer’s Mentor)

Statistics show that around 1% to 2% of first-time authors get traditionally published. Significantly more make it through self-publishing.

These statistics are grim because numerous people send off unedited drafts of their first-time stories. Furthermore, many don’t bother to finish their manuscripts before forwarding query letters around.

Keep writing even if your first manuscript didn’t make it. As you get more experience, your works will be much more likely to be picked for publication.

8. How Long Does It Take an Agent to Sell a Book?

(Jericho Writers)

An agent will usually take up to six months to sell a book to a publisher. They’ll go through as many as 12 editors from different companies, big and small. They’ll make calls and arrangements and collect offers. Finally, the agent will close the best deal they managed to get.

While some terms may have been agreed on, it may still take time for everything to be translated into a formal contract. The whole process should take approximately six to 12 months.

9. How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?


Costs are defined differently, depending on the type of publishing you’re going for. Traditional publishing doesn’t have an up-front cost but will be slower, your royalty rates will stunt your profit, and you’ll lose some rights to your work.

Self-publishing will require you to pay between $200 and $2,500 to cover everything from editing to printing, but nobody other than you will have rights to the book, and your profit can be much higher.


As a first-time writer, the odds of getting a book published may appear discouraging. Writing requires passion and constant effort. If you put everything you have into a manuscript and work hard, you’ll have a chance of being a successful writer.

A foolproof method for publishing your first book doesn’t exist, meaning that you should approach the process as you see fit. However, the tips we gave you can be a push in the right direction.