As a writing coach at AuthorAssist, often I am asked about the final stages of getting a manuscript published. What are the steps and how long does it take to self-publish a book using print on demand (POD)? The short answer: There are five basic tasks involved and if you push it, you can complete the process in 5-6 weeks. Here are the minimum steps for getting your material transformed from a manuscript to a finished book using print on demand (POD), once you have your final draft.
Proofreading (2-4 weeks) It’s assumed that you have your final draft. Your manuscript probably has gone through three or more drafts by now-like most commercial books. Perhaps you have had a substantive edit wherein a professional editor has reviewed your manuscript for theme, style, structure, logic, accuracy and other facets. You proceeded with more revisions and you are satisfied with the ebb and flow of your material. It’s now a final draft and ready to be proofread. Your proofreader will want to make at least two passes–and perhaps three– to rid your manuscript of faulty spelling, grammar, punctuation, misplaced modifiers, etc. For a 60,000-100,000-word book that takes several weeks. Meantime, you can be creating your cover design.
Cover design and copy (2-4 weeks) Since it’s the first aspect that will grab the eye of a buyer, you must create an attention-getting cover. Probably, you’ve been thinking about this all along and you may have a good idea of how you want your cover to look. Nonetheless, get ideas from current best-sellers as well as covers in your genre. The design is too important to do yourself. Work with a professional graphic designer who can help ensure you have a professional-looking cover that also works as a thumbnail online. Make a rough sketch or show your designer the type of cover you have in mind. That will save time. And don’t forget that all-important back cover blurb-write copy that really hooks in a buyer.
Technical publishing details: While your manuscript is being proofed and your cover designed, you can use your “spare time” to tend to the utility items like copyright, ISBN, bar code, and Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN). These are processed online.
PDF specifications checkup-(1 week) Cover aside, the interior design is next most important aspect that catches the eye of a buyer. Make sure your PDF conforms to all the printing specifications–and it looks good. At the very least, have a professional book designer check your PDF before you upload it. If it’s ready to go, you are all set. Otherwise, you will need to make changes to your PDF.
Upload, proof, and PDF approval -(1 week) Once you upload your PDF at the POD web site, your proof will be overnighted to you a day or two later. Take another day or two to peruse the proof to make sure it’s up to your standards. Approve your proof online or make the desired changes. If you need to make changes, add another week or more to the schedule.
Summary of 5-6 week process:
2-4 weeks–Proofing; cover design
1 week–PDF specification checkup
1 week–upload, proof, and PDF approval
Distribution and shipping-(4-6 weeks+)
Add another 4-6 weeks to see your book available online through Ingram channels, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others. It takes that long for the information about your book, including the thumbnail, to propagate through distribution and sales channels and appear online. Delivery time of the actual book depends on your specific POD printer and seller
A word of caution: Given that you have spent months or perhaps years writing your book, you don’t want to rush any of these last stages of the book-publishing process. They are too important to the finished product. Take your time and feel proud as you open that first copy of your book.
A final note: This timeline is based on using your own vendors for proofing, cover design, etc. When you work with a professional book coach, you have the advantage of insider information about proofreaders, graphic designers, book designers, and POD printers you can trust. Should you choose a package of services through a POD printer, be sure to ask how long the process will take-and how much it will cost.