Indie publishing isn’t a fast process
You’ve just typed ‘The End’ on your manuscript. You’ve done your research and decided that indie publishing is for you. It’s faster than traditional publishing; you have full creative control of your work and better royalties. It’s time to upload it and hit the publish button.
Wait. Slow down. As the Grolsch adverts said: “Stop, this [book] is not ready yet.”
Whilst it might be faster to go the indie route, that doesn’t mean it’s fast. It certainly doesn’t mean you should throw your manuscript out into the wild the moment you’ve finished the first draft (or even the second). Check out Jason’s earlier blog post on why editing is important.
There are lots of things you need to do before your book will be ready to release and, whether you decide to do as much as possible on your own or hire professionals, they all take time. Here’s a brief overview:
Before you look for an editor, you’ll need to do at least a second pass of your book. Only you know how long it will take, because only you know what your process is. I do a full read through and take notes on inconsistencies and things I’m not happy with, and then I go back through line by line, scene by scene, polishing. It’s a two-step process that takes me at least a month.
Next up is getting more eyes on it to make sure there’s no remaining plot holes or inconsistencies. There are two options here: send it out to beta readers, or hire a content editor. In my experience, beta readers are the slower (but cheaper) option. Allow at least a month, but this route may take months. A content editor might be able to get a report back to you in as little as two weeks, depending on the length of your novel. Of course, once you’ve got your manuscript back, you’re going to need time to act on the feedback you’ve been given.
Once the story elements are perfect, you’ll need to work with a line/copy editor. It’s their job to make your words shine. This process can take up to a month as it’s very involved. The chances are you’ll want this editor to do two passes of your manuscript and, between each pass, you’ll need time to go through their suggestions.
Proofreading is the final stage in the editing process. It’s a last check, so can generally be done in around two weeks.
eBook formatting is faster than paperback formatting. Typically, you will have results within a week of making arrangements.
Paperback formatting is a different beast. You’ll need to work with your formatter to decide on an internal layout and then your formatter will lovingly make your words look beautiful. If you don’t know what leading, kerning, widows, orphans and flush space are, you definitely want to hire this stage out to a professional. Likewise if you think Microsoft Word is suitable for paperback formatting (it really isn’t).
Allow two weeks, which allows time for the backwards and forwards dialogue of agreeing the layout and time for you to proofread the PDF file your designer sends you. Yes, proofreading again. Trust me when I tell you that any remaining mistakes will pop out at you when you see your book in this different format.
How long your cover design takes will depend on whether or not you want a stock photo cover, or a fully illustrated cover. I work with an illustrator and the whole process of conceptualizing, creating and revising a full wrap paperback cover takes a month.
If you’re releasing a paperback, you’ll need to allow time to order a physical proof copy.
Professionals get booked up
Professionals get booked up, sometimes several months in advance. My advice to first time authors is to start with the first person you need to work with (e.g. a content editor), agree to a start date and a timescale that they’ll work towards, and then find the next person on your list (e.g. a copy editor). [Seeking out a full-service firm, such as CFH, is helpful in this regard, as all aspects are coordinated in-house. -- Jason]. If contracting with multiple freelancers, always make sure to allow a little bit of padding time, just in case.
Once you’ve published a few books, you’ll be far more aware of how long the whole process takes you. At this point, you might feel confident enough to set a release date and work backwards.
It’s a fun journey, honestly!
Whilst it might seem like a lot of work to get your manuscript ready for publication, it’s a fun journey. You’ll work with some amazing professionals and, hopefully, you’ll build up a rapport and choose to work with them again and again.
Your manuscript is your baby. It’s worth taking the time to make sure it’s ready for its introduction to the world.
Good luck and have fun!