Once you have established your goals for publishing your book, it’s time to consider the timeline for publication.
There are two things to consider regarding the timeline that you are working with when comparing traditional publishing versus self-publishing. 1) How quickly do you want to get published? 2) How long does it take to get published traditionally?
How quickly do you want to be published?
Some books need to be published within a certain time-frame in order to be successful. If you are writing a book on someone who is running for office, and the information you are sharing in your book could have a critical effect on that person’s ability or inability to get elected, then it obviously doesn’t do anybody any good if your book isn’t published before election day. A fantasy novel is not going to need to be published with the same kind of urgency. If your topic is a timely one, and the success of your book depends on a certain publication date, then you should prepare yourself for the strong possibility that you will need to self-publish.
It is possible to find a publisher for a timely piece, however, if you plan ahead properly. Publishers and agents will sign a contract on an unfinished manuscript if it is non-fiction and you can establish that the final product will be worthwhile. If you are confident in your ability to finish the book in time, you can start reaching out to publishers before the book is complete. This only applies to non-fiction manuscripts, publishers will not accept fiction unless it is a complete and polished book.
Knowing what sort of timeline you are working with for your book can help you decide if traditional publishing is worth pursuing or not. Even if the subject of your book is not timely, you may decide to try traditional publishing for a certain amount of time before taking the self-publishing route. Knowing when you want to have your book published is only half the battle though, if you think you want to publish traditionally, it is also important to have a good sense of how long that process can take.
How long does it take to get published traditionally?
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure how long it will take to get published traditionally. It could take a few weeks, or it could take several years. Realistically, you could pursue the traditional route and never get published at all. However, there are some factors to consider that can give you a basic idea of when to start looking for a publisher, as well as how long the process can take if someone does decide to accept your book. This will also give you an idea of what to expect as you begin to submit queries.
Most publishers require an agent, and agents respond to inquiries after six to eight weeks on average. If you find an agent to take on your book, it will still take another few weeks at a minimum for them to find a publisher for it. There are some publishers that will take on a book without an agent, and they respond to inquiries after three to six months on average. Sometimes this process can happen more quickly for a book on a really timely subject, but the process of finding a publisher should begin at least six months before you want to have your book published, if not earlier. This will increase your chances for success.
The process of submitting a book to agents and publishers is also long and tedious. You will submit dozens of queries before getting any response at all, and then most of the responses will be negative. You will spend hours upon hours researching publishers and agents and then crafting proposals, hoping that you get it just right each time, only to receive a form rejection letter in your inbox, if you’re lucky. Queries take forever to craft because every agent and publisher wants something different. This is not meant to discourage you from seeking out a traditional publisher, as there can be a lot of benefits gained from taking this route. You should enter the process with realistic expectations of the time and work that will go into it, however, before starting. This should be a part of the decision making process when you are planning to write and publish a book.
Alternatively, an eBook can sometimes be available to consumers within hours of posting it, depending on what route you decide to take to self-publish your book. One advantage to this is that you can always self-publish quickly if you do not find a traditional publisher in time, or if you just get tired of waiting for a positive response. You can also spend more time writing and less time crafting queries. If you still genuinely believe your book is something the rest of the world will appreciate, self-publishing definitely has it’s advantages as well.
Next we will look at another big consideration that should go into your publishing decision in the next part of this series, Part 3: Budget.