Why Does It Take So Long? (Part 1 of 2)

Authors Need to Plan from Beginning to End

In last week’s post we discussed the sales cycle of your book from end to beginning. This week we take a step back and put the sales cycle in the context of the entire publishing process.

You are investigating publishers who might publish your book, or help you to do it yourself. They tell you it will take a year to produce your book. But, why does it take so long? In this first part, let’s consider a traditional publishing schedule from the start of writing to finishing typesetting.

Year 1: Writing the First Draft

It takes most authors a while to go from idea to complete manuscript. It can easily take a year to produce the first draft, read through the entire manuscript, and revise it once. Let’s assume you finish the first draft by the end of the year.

Year 2: Publishing Process

First Quarter: January through March

Substantive editing

Let’s assume that during your year of writing, you decided to work with Radius Book Group to publish your book. You submit the manuscript to us on January 1. We hand the manuscript to a substantive editor. You work with the editor for three months to improve, shape up, and polish the manuscript into a form you will be proud to publish.


We engage the creative team to start both cover and interior design 9–12 months before the publication date. Designing the jacket cover happens early, because the cover is key to marketing and sales. And the design process involves many pieces and a lot of back-and-forth. Similarly, we put the creative team to work on the interior design of the book while the editor is doing substantive editing. That way, all design specifications are set before the manuscript is ready to be typeset.   

Marketing and Publicity

With the vision of selling your book in mind, we start the marketing and publicity effort early. Successful marketing depends on a robust author platform (tune in for a forthcoming post on “The Importance of an Author Platform”). The social media dimension of an author platform takes time to build and grow. A year is not too much time to allocate for doing this. Creating a killer marketing and publicity campaign takes planning, as well as good timing.


We discussed the importance of the sales cycle in our post, “Publishing in Reverse.” In short, the sales cycle kicks off a year ahead of the publication date.

Second Quarter: April through June


When you wrap up substantive editing, it is time to address copyediting. Most authors don’t quite understand the full scope of copyediting so we’ll describe the differences between these levels of editing in a forthcoming post. With regard to the publishing process, it is always wise to copyedit the manuscript before typesetting. Depending on the length and condition of the source manuscript, copyediting can take 8–10 weeks. That takes us from April through May.


The typesetter transforms the manuscript in proof pages. Sometimes called page layout or composition, typesetting is only needed when you are going to print the book. This involves flowing the textual and graphical material from the manuscript into design software. Typesetters work with photos, illustrations, tables, charts, and other graphical material, as well as position the textual content on the page. After proofreading and indexing, the typesetter makes corrections and changes to the proof pages. This can take several months, bringing us from June to August.

As you can see, there is a lot to the publishing process. Tune in for the second part to this post where we share the steps of printing and distributing the proofread and typeset pages.

Comments (0)

Leave Comment