A laptop is on a desk. The computer is surrounded by crumbled sticky notes, a cup of coffee, and two pencils. | Book Launch Timeline - Between the Lines Editorial

Self-publishing is a rewarding and flexible career option for many authors, but that also means juggling a to-do list to get your book out in the world.

Even with the help of your publishing team, there are many moving parts you need to keep track of.

I’ll outline those steps in this post, but please remember: the timelines I give are guidelines. Your actual book launch timeline will vary based on your project and the availability of your publishing team.

Building a Book Launch Timeline to Self-Publish Your Novel - Between the Lines Editorial
Building a Book Launch Timeline to Self-Publish Your Novel - Between the Lines Editorial
Building a Book Launch Timeline to Self-Publish Your Novel - Between the Lines Editorial

Step One: Editing Your Manuscript

The editing phase of self-publishing is going to take the longest. That’s because editing encompasses several steps:

  • Self-editing
  • Working with a professional
  • Your revisions

Self-editing can take as long as you need it to, but plan to spend at least four weeks cleaning up your draft.

Reach out to potential editors at least 10 weeks before you want them to start on your project to ensure you get on their calendar. Then, plan at least seven weeks for each round of editing.

You can reach out to editors before your draft is finished, but if you decide to do this, make sure you give yourself enough time to finish the draft and meet the projected start date for edits.

You also need time between each of those rounds of editing to make changes. Plan for three to four weeks between each round of editing to give yourself ample time to make changes. This includes your proofreading stage.

These timelines are based on my work on novels over 60,000 words. Your word count and the extent of editing will impact how much time your editor needs.

Step Two: Your Interior Formatting and Cover Design

As with editing, you want to line up your interior formatting and cover design in advance.

Reach out to freelancers on your list as soon as you’re ready. Like editors, these professionals are usually booked in advance.

Plan for at least 30 days for your cover design since you’ll go through several rounds of proofs and revisions.

Plan for at least 20 days for formatting.

Where do these pros fit into your book launch timeline? You can start working with your cover designer before you finalize your proofreading. Formatting should happen just after you proofread. Your cover designer will also need the final book page count from your formatter so they can format your paperback’s spine to the right size.

Step Three: Your Book Metadata

Your metadata is all of the information you need to upload for your book, like your ISBN, keywords, blurb, pricing, etc.

As soon as you know what publishing service you’re using, like Amazon’s KDP or IngramSpark, you can start gathering this data. 

You need this information when you upload your files, but you also need your ISBN and blurb for your formatter and cover designer.

Start collecting your metadata early, and keep it in one document for easy access throughout the process.

Step Four: Upload Your Files

When you have all of your final files from your publishing team and your metadata is ready, you can finally upload your book files.

I recommend uploading your book at least 30 days before your launch date.

You need to check your files for any technical errors, like incorrect bleed sizing or image problems. Also, you want time to order a print proof copy so you can check for any small errors.

You can even upload your files earlier if you have them ready.

Choosing a Launch Date

If you have a specific launch date in mind, try to work backwards from that date to build your book launch timeline and deadlines.

If you don’t have a launch date picked out, wait until you start talking to your publishing team. They can give you accurate deadlines for their work, and you can use those dates to figure out when you’ll have everything ready.

Also, plan in a few buffer weeks in case something happens. You or your editor might get sick, you may have Internet problems, etc. It’s always better to build in extra time just in case!

Pre-Launch Activities

Before you launch a book, you need to start marketing your book. But how early can you start?

While there’s no magic number, start early! You can start building buzz for your book before you’ve even finished your draft.

As for organizing ARC teams or a blog tour, start pulling that together at least 60 days before launch. You may not have your final files yet, but that gives you plenty of time to organize everyone involved and create some content.

You can also pre-plan your social media posts and emails for the weeks leading up to your launch.

Final Thoughts

Giving yourself ample time for book production means less stress for you. Plan for at least six months to go from the editing phase to your publication date. This may vary based on the length of your book, availability of your freelancers, and your own life outside of writing.

Don’t forget to download your free Indie Publishing Roadmap below! 
And if you need help organizing your launch, contact me to learn about my publishing services.