Thursday, August 4, 2011

Timeline: From Idea to Publication

With great pleasure I introduce guest, Maria Zannini, as she blogs about how long it takes to bring a book to market.  You can join her on her roadshow as she celebrates her new release, The Devil to Pay.
Timeline: From Idea to Publication

How long does it take to get from idea to publication when we’re talking Indie? You might as
well ask how long is a piece of string.

I won’t swear on a stack of bibles because honestly, I didn’t time myself. But I have a fair idea of
how many months, weeks, days, hours it took me to get from idea to publication for a novella.
The idea

I’ll have to take a gimme on this one. The Devil To Pay was already a done deal. I had even
written a draft, and then rewrote it so I could submit it to an anthology. First draft: 3 weeks
Note: At the time I wrote this, I had no intention of self-publishing.

The writing/editing

Once I decided it was going to be self-published I had to give it a hard look and determine if it
was any good. Usually, the editor or agent tells you this. But since I didn’t turn it in anywhere,
the ultimate decision was mine. Was it crap or could it do a little devil dance for me?
I polished it again after my critique partners returned it to me. Then I sent it to an editor. All in
all it took about 10 days before I got back all my feedback.

After that it was time to polish. Again. Add another ten days.

Total: 20 days to write and rewrite a novella that had grown from 23K to 29.5K.

While I was waiting for feedback, I started searching for cover art. I was an artist in my last life
and I pulled out all the stops. This was no longer about my story, but my cover as well. I didn’t
want my fellow artists to point and laugh at me.

The cover art

Since I started searching for art simultaneously while waiting for feedback, I’ll deduct the
overlap. For those of you keeping score at home though, I spent approximately twelve days to
find and finesse the final art you see.
Six days to pull all the art cuts I liked. Two days to try out various layouts and models. One day to find fonts.

Three days to ‘fix’ the model I eventually chose. The poor girl needed hair, cropping, scars
removed, hair accessories removed, skin smoothed, the background removed, and shadows
created. She had a real makeover. :sigh: If only I could do that for myself.
Note: Except for searching for art, most of those days were 2-4 hours per day. Only the initial
art search took 6-8 hours per day. I looked through three databases, finally choosing one and
began the arduous task of seeing what they had to offer.

Total time not counting the days I used while waiting for feedback: Two days

Total time overlapped with editing: 12 days


Let me state right now. I hate formatting. It’s tedious, mind numbing work. It felt like it took
months. In truth, it only took a couple of hours from start to finish.

Total Time for each format, Smashwords and Kindle: Four hours

Total (perceived) Time it sucked the life out of Maria: at least three years.

Add everything up all together and from idea to published novella it comes to 43 Days and 4

I am hoping now that I have a better grasp of what kind of stock art is available, the cover will
go faster next time. But there’s nothing I can do about the life-sucking hours of formatting. If
you’re going to do it yourself, you’re going to have to donate your brain cells to the underverse.
So what do you think? Did my timeline give you any surprises? How long do you think it would
take you?

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on
my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of
the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds
herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one
another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they
don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No
matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her
time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions.
Occasionally, she writes novels.

Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

Thank you for visiting Maria.  Good luck with your release.


  1. Huzzah! Thank you for inviting me, Susan. I'd really be interested to know how long it takes everyone to finish a story--from draft to polished.

    I was lucky with this one because it was pre-existing, but the next one will take a few weeks longer, I'm sure.

  2. Hey, Susan, great article and a great cover. I think you're onto something with the self publishing. That seems to be where the world is going with the frenzy on ebooks.

  3. Still learning the craft so my timelines are all over the place, LOL.

    My gut says my format timeline will be similar to yours Maria. But I've only looked over the Smashwords process not Amazon and B&N. And cover art will likely be hired out so that timeline will probably be different.

    Great post!

  4. Forty-three days? I can't even write a full length novel that fast.

  5. I had a lot of questions about self-publishing. This was very helpful!

  6. @Don: Self-publishing is only one of several options. It's not for everyone.

    @Raelyn: Kindle is drop dead easy. Smashwords is easy *if* you follow the instructions to the letter. That said, sometimes the instructions are a little vague--and you have to guess. :)

    @Alex: Well, that's 43 days for a pre-existing novella. A full novel generally takes me a solid three months to draft and another month to edit.

    @Bossy Betty: (love that name!) Glad you found this helpful. I have a whole tour of posts that discuss each of the steps, except the technical aspects of formatting.

  7. Wow, that's fast. I can never let things go in less than a year, lol.
    I agree, formatting's tedious, but not so bad once you learn the tricks.
    Great post, as always, Maria! I'm enjoying your indie roadshow.

  8. Cate: Surprisingly, I tend to be a one-draft writer. Once my CPs slash through it once I can go back and polish it. I'll go through it again after the editor(s) see it and then I call it done.

    My problem is that when I don't have time to write (often weeks at a time) I have to leave the manuscript untouched.

  9. Thanks so much for visiting today, Maria. You make all the work you did sound so easy and uncomplicated.

  10. Like Raelyn, I have no specific timelines. More like safely get form point A to point B with minimal injury to my brain.
    Unless I want the cover art to be a stick figure, that will have to be outsourced.
    I'm sure the formatting will be the part where brain injury is likely to happen. But if I decide to go the indie route, you've posted some great information along this roadshow, Maria. I'll refer to it to hopefully smooth out an issue or two.

  11. Wow, that's fast. I guess it depends on if one has a platform already. I always tell new writers at least six months from editing to finished product so they have time to start the promotion ball rolling.

  12. @Susan: ROTFL! If that's true, I ought to go into acting. Nothing is as simple as it sounds. Writing, editing, formatting, cover art, blurbing--it's all hard. You just have to dig in and do the job. Thanks for a great topic.

    Ref: ...safely get form point A to point B with minimal injury to my brain.
    LOL. I love that! For me formatting was the hardest but only because it requires a different set of brain cells.

    @L. Diane: I already have several books out so I had the momentum to keep my name in play. Self-publishing this book was a way to capitalize on that. I have noticed sales in previously published books has risen--even on my three-year old release.

    A full novel might take up to six months, but a novella is quite doable in two-three months.

  13. No matter how long it actually takes, it still feels like three years. Got it. ^_^

  14. And to think it took me a couple of years just to research and write my historical YA, The Underground Gift. Maria, you’re an inspiration! Thank you for hosting Maria, Susan; I’m glad to be a new follower.

  15. Barbara: Exactly! It always feels like a lifetime, and then you gotta start all over again on the next book.

    Michelle: Susan is great! She has great topics on her blog.

  16. Now that seems quite quick to me (I'm slow at doing anything) but I'm sure it seemed like an eternity to you!

    Ellie Garratt

  17. Ellie: Surprisingly, I tend to write pretty clean first drafts. It generally goes through four edits. Mine, my CPs, my editors, and then back to me again. And those are generally faster than writing the book.

    But again, in this case, the book was pre-written so I can't take any credit for the faster turnaround.

  18. Wow. All of a sudden I feel incredibly slow. Or maybe you're just incredibly fast. Yeah, I like that answer better.

    BTW - For anyone who hasn't read it, you've GOT to read Devil to Pay.

  19. Linda: Truly. I'm not that fast. Not normally anyway. Most of my books take months. The Devil To Pay being both a novella and pre-written was a fluke.

    Thanks for visiting!