How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How long does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail bookstore side of the equation. In the beginning, the biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process for traditional publishing takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification (customer walks in, buys something, and walks out). With indie publishing there can be nearly instantaneous gratification (one click and you are published!). But traditional book publishing is a process business. I created much of this post over eight years ago and the details stand unchanged. This is still the  norm.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers, the diversity can be quite extreme.

I know of one major publisher that can move from making an offer on a book proposal through the contract process to sending the advance paycheck within 30 days. But that is the exception.

In one case we accepted an offer for a client’s book. Two full months later the paperwork for the contract was created by the publisher. There were errors in the contract that needed to be discussed, negotiated, and revised … add another six weeks. Yet another month went by before an advance payment was received. From acceptance of a deal to paycheck was 4 1/2 months.

What is average time for the traditional publishing process?

In my experience:

1) From idea to book proposal to your literary agent: 1-3 months
2) From agent to editor and book contract offer: 2-5 months
3) From contract offer to first paycheck: 2-3 months
4) From contract to delivery of manuscript to editor: 3-9 months (sometimes longer)
(From delivery of manuscript to editor actually working on it: 2-5 months)
5) From editor to publication: 9-12 months

Total time from idea to print: approximately 2 years.

Your mileage may vary.

What has been your experience? Please do not mention specific publishers, agents, or editors by name. The industry changes every month,  and what may have been a challenge may no longer be the case.

What is the longest time our agency waited after submitting a proposal to receive an offer from a publisher (#2 on the above list)? We once received an offer from a publisher 22 months after we had submitted the proposal for consideration. When I called the author, she said, “What book was that?” She had already written two other contracted and published books in the interim! As I said above, your mileage may vary.

The shortest time? A client worked on her fiction proposal for quite a while. She customized her idea and pitch to target exactly where that publisher was currently publishing new releases. The proposal landed on the editor’s desk on Thursday. We had an offer on Monday. I repeat, your mileage may vary.

Why does it take so long?

The main challenge for most authors following the traditional publishing model is that one-year time period from delivering the finished manuscript to when it is actually published. This “delay” can easily be classified under marketing. A publisher cannot and should not start their machinery (cover design, marketing plans, etc.) until they know there will actually be a book. And they won’t know there is a manuscript until it shows up in-house.

I remember some disasters in the “old days” when the turn-around time from delivery to publication was much shorter than a year–and the author failed to deliver on time. In one case, a publisher was actually fined $5,000 by a major bookstore chain for failing to deliver a book that the chain had put in their catalog and for which they had run special marketing. The stores lost significant sales because there weren’t any books.

There was another case where the publisher jumped the gun and spent money on a cover and branding design only to have the book never be written and the contract canceled. Thus publishers won’t start on those expenses until they know they have a manuscript.

In some media circles, there is a demand for “Advance Reader Copies” (aka the ARC) six to eight months in advance of publication (either print or ebook copies). That way the media outlet can read the book, write the review, and have it published at a time that is about a month before the release of the book (i.e. Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, etc.). To achieve that means the book has to be turned in and all editing, cover design, and typesetting has to be a long way toward completion before the ARC can be created.

[I’ve left the comments from the earlier post alone. Feel free to add new thoughts below.]

86 Responses to How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

  1. Mark Hancock March 8, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    Thanks, Steve. Analysis likes this sends me back to my reason for writing. It apparently isn’t for the impulsive. It is an adult activity that must be driven by something bigger than our impatience.

    • Madeline December 26, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      The wait to get a small piece in a major magazine was nearly 1 year after acceptance. It took about 8 months to see my work in a book.Overall all the waiting is rough when you really want to know but in the end it’s worth it. I did feel bad as a photo that was to be published couldn’t get permission from a company in time(it was a vintage photo that would have added so much to a piece.)

    • M Shelly Conner January 29, 2020 at 8:06 am #

      Offer came in March 2019. Contract signed in June. Check received in August 2019. I’m told I’ll be paired with an editor in the next few months (March 2020). The book is scheduled for early 2021 release. So it will be 2 years total time.
      My manuscript was complete when accepted. I wasn’t aware that fiction proposals were even a thing (for debuts at least).

      • Edegwa Samuel June 19, 2020 at 12:40 pm #

        I submitted full manuscript 28th April 2019. When will my offer comes?


        Samuel Edegwa

  2. Darby Karchut March 8, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Yup, two years. From the day I started writing my first novel to signed publishing contract was eleven months. Then 12 months from signed contract to launch date. Slow AND slower is the name of the game, eh?

  3. Jim Rubart March 8, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    When I first dipped my toe into the pub world people told me the process was glacial. I thought they were kidding. Turns out they were optimists.

    In my case it was almost two years from getting the Deal Point Memo (the initial written offer) to seeing my novel on the shelves.

  4. Suzanne Johnson March 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Two years, four months from offer to launch. I like to say I could have hand-printed them and delivered the books by pack-mule faster!

  5. Teena Myers March 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    A friend waited one and a half years for the publisher to say yes, it will be another year before she sees it in print. I gave my manuscript and proposal to my agent last November. He thanked me for my patience in advance. I can’t complain. People have waited as long as nine months for me to write a 1,500 word article about their ministry. This is an industry that moves as slow as molasses running uphill.

  6. Kaye Dacus March 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Not counting the three years I spent writing what would become my first published novel (two of those years in graduate school), it took just over two years from my initial submission to agents to when my book released. I signed with my agent in January 2007, signed the book contract in December 2007, and the book released in December 2008. And that was a manuscript that was already complete and needed little editing and revision, so that year-long wait after signing the contract was based on where the publisher had open slots available in their release schedule.

  7. Katie Ganshert March 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    My book that is due out in 2012 was awaiting pub board for 7 months. The wait was rough, but the end answer was GREAT! And I’m super super excited to be working with this particular publishing house.

  8. Christine Long March 9, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    I am still in the process. Idea to completed story took 2 1/2 months. I’m on the second month of seeking an agent.

    When I started writing seriously eight years ago, I researched the whole process. I’m the type of personality that needs everything planned in advance. I wanted to know what to expect. I believe I have a realistic expectation of the process.

    Thank you for breaking it down into simplified numbers. I look forward to the time when I can proceed to the next steps.

  9. Lyn Miller-Lachmann March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    The time can vary greatly, even for the same publisher. A small press published my last three books. The first, a work-for-hire anthology, took 2 1/2 years, starting from scratch. The second, my adult novel, took 3 1/2 years from acceptance to publication. The third, a YA/adult crossover, took 20 months from acceptance to publication. I think the enthusiasm of the publisher had a lot to do with it. The YA/adult crossover was a lead title for the season, while the other was clearly midlist.

  10. Aimee L. Salter March 9, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    Thanks for putting this together. It’s so great when people who really know the business are willing to give pragmatic and realistic advice about these kinds of things.

    Much appreciated!


  11. JRVogt March 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Irony here. Just posted on how patience is such a big requirement when pursuing publication, and yet how it’s so hard to accept all the waiting that writing requires. It is easier, however, if you go into the process with somewhat realistic expectations. Thanks for the post.

  12. Ann Best March 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    It’s been fifteen months since I signed the contract for my debut memoir, with a small start up publisher; and since so much changed in the industry this past summer, with more people buying ebooks, I’m telling myself this time frame is understandable. (I know that the publisher, with a small staff, had a lot to figure out.) Getting published, as everything else in life that’s a process, requires a LOT of patience!!

  13. Naomi March 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Contract offer was last April. The completed manuscript was delivered last October. The contract was finalized and signed this week, 11 months later. I’m crossing my fingers that things start moving faster now that the contract is signed.

  14. Alice March 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    My publishing story is a little weird, and I think I’m going to wait to share it until the books are on the shelves.

    Is anyone comfortable sharing the time between first query letter sent and acceptance by an agent? I see agents claim that it is commonly a very long process but I’ve also seen them claim that a good book will be snapped up, and these things don’t jive.

    What says everyone?

    • ben February 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      I began querying in June last year, and got offers starting a month afterwards. I accepted and signed with the agent I’m with in September. I have no idea if this is standard. My sense is it varies hugely, from writer to writer, & there are as many variations as there are writers.

    • Cindy Mahoney /Claire O'Sullivan October 19, 2017 at 10:18 am #

      Hi Alice

      Yep mine was a bit weird also. I first will say that God works patience through this process. It is excruciating at times.

      From time of writing to sending: 4 YEARS. I had a long way to go. Time to agent and reply, 4 months (a few glitches occurred including the holidays which lost my MS- put back in another 3 month wait) –I recommend never send MS during Oct through December … Then I didn’t paginate my MS correctly causing an issue reading it… phttp on my part. Then 2 months from agent read to response.

      Another edit on my part from agent response/request 3+ months.

      And right now, waiting for response which is a daily ‘quick! check email’ process.

      From sending MS in Oct 2016, it will be just about a year. That’s not including the bazillion rewrites and edits over 4 years (me: rotten writer and hope I learned some).

      But, it is a matter of cultivating patience. It’s humbling to think during this wait, imagining more edits that I should have done…

      So, I am still in the wait stage. Much of the wait is due to my error so I decline assigning any kind of blame. It is what it is/was. Newbie? Raises hand…

      Also, since these messages hit my spam folder it can take a few weeks to reply despite ‘fixing’ the email to not make it spam!


  15. Steve Laube March 10, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Alice, I can answer for our agency at least. We have a six to eight week turnaround for submissions sent to us following our guidelines. A few times per year I request a full manuscript as a follow-up to the proposal we received. It can take a little longer for the response to the full manuscript simply because we are reading up to 100,000 words instead of 10,000.

    Then I do let it “marinate” while I consider the market and whether this book can push its way onto the publisher’s lists.

    Our client Ginny Yttrup (her first novel Words was published by B&H Publishing) went through a couple re-writes of that final manuscript before I thought it would succeed.

    So to answer your question, Alice, it can take anywhere from 2-6 months from original query to acceptance by the agent.

    Again, your mileage may vary.

    • Cynthia Mahoney / Claire O'Sullivan July 10, 2017 at 10:27 am #

      Jaw bounces from floor on time to publish (2 yrs – if accepted!). Waiting is akin to writhing in severe pain. Yes, I haven’t read this blog until now, so sue me. No, don’t, thank you!

      I started my work in 2012. Submitted to agents under different title names over the … years. Rewrote. Edited. Rewrote. You get the picture.

      The process of reading a long manuscript, rewrite, edit etc, I get. Don’t like it, but I do have a McDonald’s type of patience (something I try not to pray for, i.e. patience, but God gets the fire going strong, despite me).

      I’ll stop fidgeting over my worry meter and continue to wait for the six-month mark. Only two months to go. Have an idea even six months is fluid. I’ll give it three months…

      ‘Hope springs eternal.’ I only hope the manuscript arrived with title, page, and meeee name.

      Thank you (late read as it is…) for the insight. My jaw is doing better with the ice applied.


  16. Alice March 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the answer! I do understand that “snapped up” in terms of the literary world is a few months at least.

  17. Michael K. Reynolds March 13, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I’ve been very blessed in my relatively new writing journey. There have been many successes and still more will be required to keep things moving forward. But I would guestimate that by the time things are where I would want them it will have taken me four years to be an “overnight sensation.” Thank the Lord I have another job.

  18. Lisa Hall-Wilson March 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your insight. Much appreciated. I’ve spoken with too many writers at their first conference who expect an agent to stand up and ask to represent them on the spot – or an editor. Knowing the realities of the industry helps to set realistic expectations.

  19. Julie@comehaveapeace March 30, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    These comments are encouraging. I received a response from a publisher that was encouraging, gracious, and specific … but a decline. I’ve had a hard time picking it (My 2nd proposal) up again and knowing what to do with it. These great comments that tell I need to keep pressing on.

  20. Carrie May 6, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    How about when a publisher says the ms is sound they want to publish, but I hvae to buy the first 1000 copies at 50% off?

    • Steve Laube May 6, 2011 at 8:19 am #

      This is not a traditional publisher. This is a subsidy publisher that is using your money to pay for the print run and production costs. It is a form of self-publishing.

      Traditional publishers do not ask the author to make any sort of personal monetary investment in the production costs.

      You must decide if this is the route you wish to take. But do not expect the book to be on the shelf of bookstores. It may only be listed on various web sites.

  21. Carrie May 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    Thank you for the answer. I knew there seemed to be flags at the 1000 books at 50% in my mind, but some I talked to seemed to think it was a fair offer. this is my first attempt to publish anything so I am learning OTJ. I just found your site today and already what I have read has helped greatly. Thank you.


    • Steve Laube May 7, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      At the very least, do your homework. If you can afford to hire a company to package your book professionally (which is what this company is offering) make sure you get bids from a variety of places. A few that I can recommend include Redemption Press (, ACW Press (; and BookBaby ( Each of these have a wide range of packages and costs. Draw up a chart to allow yourself to compare and contrast which company is best for you.

      Hope that helps.

  22. jan richman August 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    thanks all for the call for patience! it will be (at least) two years from contract to publication for my small press-published novel. VERY difficult to be patient, but i am trying. cheers!

  23. Joy Avery Melville August 23, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Thanks, Steve!
    This information has been such a great help before the national ACFW Conference. Expectations are a great tool in the hand of the ‘enemy’ and I find the more expectations I have, whether it be in others (including my dear ones), in processes, in my future, whatever else there is where those flamin’ arrows can blow us out of the “patience-walk” come under that word – EXPECTATIONS – sometimes it’s just better to go in WITHOUT rather than the defeat or discouragement – also flamin’ arrows from you-know-who. I hate giving him the credit of using his name! 😉
    You’ve certainly given me some armor for this conference! Thanks again for a great article!

  24. MLA August 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    You just never know. Here are my two latest projects:

    Book 1: Will be published next month by a small publishing house. I submitted it to them last August, so 13 months from submission to launch.

    Book 2: I just finished round 2 of revisions for a literary agent. So far, it has been 15 months just to this point and it hasn’t even been submitted to an editor yet.

  25. Lem January 30, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Within two years… yeah, I agree. Sometimes, it can be a year if your book really is “that” powerful.

  26. ben February 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    This has been hugely helpful.

  27. Jeremy Akatsa March 23, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    Great Help… Great help….

  28. Sadi Sahar June 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    It took me six months from the time I began sending queries to the moment an agent asked me for partial submission.

  29. Leon February 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    I have a question, and this sight seems to be exactly what I was looking for. I sold a novel almost two years ago to a start up publisher (they have only published one novel since, and this person works for the company). The contracted two years is almost up and now they are offering me another contract with absolutely no time frame as to when my book will be out. They say they need time, and I need to work on it more, but they haven’t asked me to do any major changes in half a year.

    The original editor told me it was 95% finished, but now another editor is editing the first editor and he believes it is only 80% finished.

    I have a really bad feeling about this and I think I should just let the time pass and take everything back, start over again. Anyone out there have anything familiar? I know everything takes time but this just seems a little too much.

  30. Jim Ayers May 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    This has been helpful. BUT as the sole provider for my family I am not sure I can continue writing or the publishing process. It not only infringes on my family time, but I must give up oppportunities to make real money. It has become a ficnacial decision.

    I love writing, and developing the story, and rewriting is thrilling too, but my first novel took several years and I have a hard time justifying that.

  31. Jude June 10, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    I was listening Jim, I have just found this site. I am a new author with my first book almost finished and have just begun looking for a literary agent. I have written several other pieces…but when my husband read this one he got all excited and said “Publish this one!” so I am seeking information about how to do that. This site has had a lot of good information on it…even though it is dated 2 years ago, I suspect the information is still valid!

  32. Steve Laube June 10, 2013 at 10:03 am #

    The information is still valid for this post. If it were written today I wouldn’t change a thing.


    • Jude June 11, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

      Thank you Steve, I am glad to know it is still valid as I sent you the first part of my book earlier this week !

    • Elizabeth October 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

      Hi.i was curious of all the same things as I have signed the contract on my first book and I am anxiously waiting. I submitted it in march of 2013, I have chosen the cover and already sent in my 500 word synopsis and about the author. They say it looks like February 1st 2014 it will be published. I’m so excited I hope the second one goes faster after we have already built a rapport.i take it though that published and released are two different things. I sure hope the release is soon after published.

  33. johnathan smog August 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Steve, I’m assuming all of this is for print books … my manuscript just got sent to a very reputable publisher at their request. I have no idea if they will accept it. Should they not, then ePublishing is certainly an option … and I guess the money flows faster … but in trickles … which may or may not turn into a slight stream. Am I right?

  34. Ellie June 12, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    (just found this post but it’s really helpful)
    How does the time from agent to publishing contract shorten if my manuscript (literary fiction novel) is 100% done and already very well edited by peers? Since you said ‘book proposal’ not ‘query letter’, I was wondering if it made things faster if you have a finished manuscript. Also, within traditional publishing, how can I speed things up on my end? Can I get the cover/author blurb and stuff ready? I started sending out agent queries a month ago and am waiting for replies right now. It’s hard but I’m certain I want to take the time to get a good agent and go with a major publishing house.

  35. Peggy Wheeler July 29, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I sold my first novel to a small, but up and coming publisher, in Australia. That was on May 7th, 2014. I’ve yet to receive a contract. When I contacted him a few weeks back to see if he still wanted the book, his response was “I told you I wanted the book, didn’t I? Of course will publish it.” I said, “You’ll be sending a contract then?” No response. Today, it is July 29th. I’m seriously considering pulling the manuscript. My ex-agent, who unfortunately retired, suggests that I pull it, but I’m not sure if I should given that I have a verbal agreement with the publisher. Would it be unethical for me to pull my manuscript? It’s been nearly three months from his acceptance, yet, no contract…

    • Leon December 17, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

      You have every right to do it. Follow your instincts, his terse reply suggests things will be even more difficult later, if it happens at all. Speaking from experience, take it back! Run!

  36. rosiland blanks September 4, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    Hi, I’m a new Author. I’ve been sending out queries, and cover letters on my PB manuscript for over a year. All I’ve got was denial letters from agents. and, I’m still waiting for publishers to respond. I’m starting to second guess my book. I thought in my opinion my book would change some kids lives. I guess my book might not ever get published. I need help staying encouraged. I have my husband record me daily as I open my emails waiting on response to get my reaction when a publisher or agent final says yes.

    • Leon December 17, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

      Don’t know what happened. Hope you sold it! If not, I suggest no more taping… it could be a very long road …

  37. Lakshmi Raj Sharma December 17, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    I signed a contract with my agent in early 2013 but have still not heard of a willing publisher. It would seem agent is trying someone really big.

  38. Kenneth Passan July 14, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    If it always takes so long to get a book published, how is it that authors like James Patterson or Patricia Cornwall can pump out 2-3 books or more per year? How is that possible?

    • Steve Laube July 14, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

      They plan way in advance. I suspect they know which books he is creating for the next 3-5 years. And Patterson uses other writers for many of his stories.

      For some, like Debbie Macomber the publisher is constantly repackaging (new covers) older titles and rereleasing them. Thus it appears all are new. That is a generalization of course, but you get the idea.

  39. Richard October 31, 2016 at 12:09 am #

    What if I don’t want to make money out of my books and I just wrote it for my girlfriend? Does it significantly shorten the time? Does publishing it on eBooks help too?

  40. Marianne Scott April 16, 2017 at 11:42 am #

    Is that two year time line for a fully edited book? I could understand if your query letter was for a book proposal and the author still had to write the draft. Then, of course, the edit process would take several months before the agent who has decided to represent you flogs your novel to publisher/s.

    I’ve gone to great lengths to have a professionally edited and complete novel ready at the time I submit my query.

    Is it still a two year time span to get it into print?

    • Cynthia Mahoney December 28, 2017 at 2:54 pm #


      I’ve been on a bit over one year, having gone through an edit, and returning to agent. Knowing the process takes two years gives me a sigh of relief.

      I agonize over each word in my MS and putting out one novel in several years is my speed. Prefer quality and characters that are hopefully, unforgettable with a message that resonates.

      I agree Marianne, it seems like a long time. My cousin writes a zillion books and finally obtained an agent, and his publication time is October 2020. I fainted. Well, no, I didn’t but it was a close call.

      My process takes forever, then a billion rejections, then more rewrites, then more editing, then submission of query or proposal. That’s just my end. Agents are overwhelmed. Each MS goes through readers and I suspect (guessing) that there is more than one for each MS. Then it gets to the agent if it passes the readers (guessing). So that’s about three months. Then your edit (again) and another three months or more per MS.

      So now, two years is a bit of a relief to know. Then the agent pitches to the publishing houses. Then the PH may want more edits…

      Patience is awesome. Getting there is agonizing.

  41. Sreyoshi Chatterjee March 3, 2018 at 7:04 am #

    1 literary agent requested my full manuscript. I asked her a couple of questions which she did not answer. Then I sent her the full manuscript. There have been no answers in 7 weeks. Does it mean a rejection?

    • Claire O'Sullivan March 3, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

      Hi Sreyoshi –

      Seven weeks is a short time. Your manuscript will go through the readers, perhaps an editor, and reach the desk of an agent in three months, perhaps longer.

      This helps the agency determine if the manuscript is as great as your first chapters. Usually – and I use this word in its most vague sense, the agent who has read the full manuscript will let you know if it’s been accepted, if it needs edit of a section, etc.

      If they reject it, again, they will send you a reply letting you know why/or some such. –this is only what I have read here. Also another agency 3-4 years ago sent me a polite note and said the why they rejected the manuscript. I reworked the manuscript, changed the end, and the first three chapters were accepted and I received an email to send the manuscript.

      So hang tight. I’m on hold with mine as well; I figure by the end of this month or next, they may need another nudge (that makes it about six months). Reason again, a longer manuscript goes through the entire process as the synopsis did, but the readers read through the full manuscript. Add in the conferences the agents go to, family emergencies or weddings, etc., and editors, you may have this kind of wait. SOME, as Steve pointed out, may nab it pretty fast, in which case they want to talk to you now.


    • Claire O'Sullivan March 3, 2018 at 12:28 pm #

      Oh, and read these:

      Study the Market | The Steve Laube Agency – October 20, 2011
      […] a computer screen to a book appearing in print can be a year or more. (See our previous blog “How Long Does It Take to Be Published”) Multi-book contracts keep authors writing certain types of books several years. Consider that […]

      Writers Learn the Waiting Game | The Steve Laube Agency – November 28, 2011
      […] to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a […]

      Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance | The Steve Laube Agency – December 9, 2013
      […] because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers […]
      A New Literary World: Success of Self-Publishing, BLOODSTAINS and Jeff Mudgett | ImaginePublicity – April 4, 2014
      […] publishing, because of it’s process, will take on average of 6-18 months to launch; from the idea to print, approximately 2 years. Remember the layers of the process; […]

      How Long Does It Take? | Hobo Bone – May 27, 2014 He gives averages for the time it takes to get a finished manuscript to print in the more […]

  42. Donna April 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    First, thank you for such valuable blog for writiers. Your time and good will to share is certainly appreciated by many. For me, a rookie in the big league of traditional publishing, from the time of my emailed submission directly to publisher who accepts completed, well-edited ms from writers, (June 2017) to emailed offer to acquire my book (October 2017) to signing of contract (November 2017) to receiving advance check (March 2018) to publication date of which I just received notification (July 2019) — two years. Two years seems to be the “average” timeframe across the board, unless perhaps you are a notable personablity or bestselling author in a publisher’s stable or have a sensational exposé with documented proof, or such . . . . And if you waited for retirement to write your masterpiece, expect osteoporosis or blindness from AMD before being published. The process has not been accelerated in the nanosecond age of electroncis since BC (before computer) from what I have read. In any case, figure two years–more or less, and just keep writing and sending out to well-researched recipients, agents or publishers.

  43. Christopher Long April 23, 2018 at 7:40 pm #

    My 2010 debut — from the day the manuscript was pitched to the publisher, until the day the book arrived in stores — 11 months.

  44. Mary Garden December 17, 2018 at 8:16 pm #

    I signed a contract last week and it will be published in April. It is a memoir/biography so have 10 days to select photos and get permissions etc.
    I had already got a professional edit before submitting and was told 2 days after getting contract it was getting a “light edit”. So things now moving very fast after a roller coaster ride for 12 months submitting and getting rejections. I had two acceptances in 2 days and they were on the top of my list. One was on the top of my list of rejections as did not hear back from them.

  45. Marti Wiseman January 16, 2019 at 7:59 am #

    I’m a little overwhelmed….I just co-authored my first (non-fiction) book and 4 days after submitting it to a publishing house, received an acceptance phone call. They said a contract would be sent within 48 hours.

    I’m guessing this is not a typical first experience and I’m wondering whether I should submit to other publishers, too, to find the best fit and contract deal?

    I just sent them my completed manuscript….is that not the way to go for other publishers? Do I need to work through an agent?

    Any suggestions are VERY much appreciated.

    • claire o'sullivan January 16, 2019 at 2:29 pm #

      I’m thinking you have an awesome book, which someone said, snap it up! But while there are similar comments on this thread I don’t believe it is routine. It normally goes into the slush pile, and when the agency (or publishing house) is swamped they can take up to three months to respond (if they do).

      Receiving such a quick turnaround would send up a red flag for me. But that’s just me. I would wonder, why only four days? How great can the contract be? What type of publishing house is it? Self (where you are required to pay in), small press? Independent press?

      Whatever you do, get an entertainment attorney. The contract can look great. But without an eye for the fine print, you can lose out. An entertainment attorney charges 15-20% after the book is sold, and that is worth it.

  46. Richard Andrews June 3, 2019 at 5:20 am #

    What do you think of POD for aspiring young writers, or the aging senior first time writer who seeks recognition but does not have the time to jump through all the hoops?

    • Steve Laube June 3, 2019 at 11:15 am #


      Indie publishing using POD is fine …. but remember you are creating sales history for your book. If your goal is to attract a major traditional publisher with your work, selling a handful using POD is going to be a potential issue.

      In a sense, self-publishing is test marketing your book.

      At least once a week, if not more, I receive a copy of a self-published book from an author with a cover letter that says, “I self published and it didn’t sell very well. Thus I’m looking for an agent to take this to the next level.”

      The problem with that above statement is that they are already on the “level” of the marketplace. It’s available for sale online. Imagine the major traditional publisher on the other end. “Hello Random House, Here is my book which sold 50 copies since it was released last year. It’s such a good book that I know it will sell 50,000 if you were to publish it.” [That sentence is not to far removed from actual query letters received.]

      Thus the bottom line to your question is what your end goal is. If it is to get the book out as soon as possible, Indie is a fine way to go. But if you are hoping to land the big publisher deal, it may be that launching the book on your own may not create the buzz needed to attract a major publisher’s attention.

  47. J.D. Wininger June 3, 2019 at 6:08 am #

    Have come to the conclusion, for my writing anyway, that “it takes what it takes.” I have learned to rely on God for His perfect timing and not when I expect things to happen. I wrote an article last fall that fell flat with three different magazines. God found it’s perfect home eight months later in a new ministry magazine focused on family caregivers. In His time is just right for me. God’s continued blessings sir…

  48. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 3, 2019 at 6:19 am #

    It’ll take as long as it will take,
    and we’ll be there when we get there.
    You cannot this journey shorter make,
    so please don’t pull your hair.
    Every moment’s precious gift
    can be ignored or cherished,
    but even in this time ‘betwixt,
    once they’re passed, they’re perished.
    Sunset will come soon enough,
    and then another dawn,
    but destination’s not the stuff
    of life; it’s the road you’re on.
    So take my hand and stroll with me
    down the Highway to Infinity.

    • Steve Laube June 3, 2019 at 11:20 am #


      Well said.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 3, 2019 at 6:42 pm #

        Steve, thank you. These words brightened my day more than you might imagine.

    • claire o'sullivan June 3, 2019 at 11:57 am #

      Andrew –

      your poetry touches my heart always. My prayers, I pray will touch and release that pain, and we walk with you.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 3, 2019 at 6:40 pm #

        Claire, thank you so much. Prayers are appreciated, and very much needed.

        Getting hard to cope.

        • Rebecca Lorraine Walker June 5, 2019 at 6:18 pm #

          Praying for God’s love to hold you close, Andrew. You are an inspiration!

          • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 5, 2019 at 6:32 pm #

            Rebecca, thank you so much.

            These are bad days for me, but I serve a good God.

  49. Loretta Eidson June 3, 2019 at 9:49 am #

    Your article only confirms what I’d already guessed. It will be a happy day when a publisher takes my manuscript and projects a date. Woohoo! Looking forward to the “wait.”

    • Steve Laube June 3, 2019 at 11:16 am #


      I’ll “woohoo” along with you.

  50. Richard Mabry June 3, 2019 at 9:59 am #

    Steve, I’ve had ten novels published by conventional publishers, and your timeline is about right–with the caveat, as you say, that “your mileage may vary.” Insofar as my experience with indie-publishing, which includes two novels and six novellas, I’d add that the indie author needs to spend time and money for a professional job of editing and cover preparation, but after that, the publication is close to–but not right at–instant. Certainly it’s less than a traditional publisher’s timing.

    • Steve Laube June 3, 2019 at 11:19 am #


      Well said. That timeline for the Indie can cut from editorial and production right to publication. That long delay for the traditional publisher is there to get all the marketing ducks in a row.

      For example, I oversee the publication of the annual CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE. I have to have the cover designed and ready for the sales reps in January…for a book that releases in December. However we work and wait to the last minute to prepare the manuscript for the printer since it is a reference book with information that changes regularly.

  51. Lillian Rhoades June 3, 2019 at 5:01 pm #

    Wow! What an eye-opener. I would put my manuscript in mothballs, but I like what I’m writing about, so I’ll “just keep moving along. 🙂

  52. claire o'sullivan June 3, 2019 at 5:03 pm #

    my new update.

    My in-law to be who is very liberal and self-published has been doing a bang up job on marketing and he’s finding people are reading his book almost everywhere he goes in the state (given it’s a liberal establishment, even in a bank where his fan gave them books).

    Because he doesn’t work, he travels to friends’ homes around the state and hits book fairs, libraries, open farmer’s markets, bookstores.

    His first book became very noticed by some new-age publishing company and he got a contract after 2 yrs on the SP market and intense marketing. I read it, it’s about casting spells, and then… sensible recipes which is what it is all about- no actual spells mind you but new agies apparently have never figured this out). There were no queries involved. I have no idea what his contract says, ie royalties, etc.

    Anyway long story short, he found it’s 2 yrs from the PH to the public. His author friend (same liberal views) landed a six-figure deal with a traditional PH. Wait time was nil.

    So Steve’s right on, depends on the book and the deals that can be pitched, and the marketability.

  53. Tracy Pratt June 4, 2019 at 5:22 am #


    Thank you for reposting, again. Your posts always encourage and challenge me. I chose the self-publish route for my first book, because of the unique importance of my subject, and the length it has taken me to complete it. Anticipatory grief is a tiny niche that is not very marketable. I have done the research. But, I am compelled to educate and encourage women who live in it. Traveling the traditional publishing route delays the opportunity to assist them. Either type of publication can be a journey of trust and humility. Thank you for the detailed map of traditional publishing. It will be very useful when I pick that route.

  54. TerriJo Curtice-Litscher July 14, 2019 at 1:26 am #

    I’ve been writing for years, but never presented any work for publishing. I write, play and record music also. I’m thinking now is the right time to find an agent! Question is, who? I shall be praying and reading.
    Good reading and very informative.


    • claire o'sullivan July 14, 2019 at 8:41 am #

      Hi TerriJo-

      I want to just interject wisdom I believe I have correctly gleaned from Steve and everyone in the agency.

      First, if you have not, read through your manuscript out loud (I recommend an eReader, it catches every word you wrote). Since you have self-edited second/first/millionth, then find a professional editor.

      Steve has written and updates yearly the Christian Writer’s Market guide. This is a great book! It lists reputable Christian agents, editors, publishers, and he wrote/writes about self-publishing.

      I highly recommend this book.

      Bob H. wrote a blog also. Title on how to write a bad MS. Very good. And eye-opening why an agent would push an MS (and often do) off their slush pile onto the floor.

      Hope you find an agent! I know that feeling.

      • Marti Wiseman July 14, 2019 at 9:08 am #

        My first publishing experience was a little different.

        Four days each after submitting a nearly complete manuscript to three publishers (one small, one niche, and one large), I had two contract offers (from the boutique publisher and the niche publisher).

        That left me in the lovely position of getting to pick which publisher I wanted to work with.

        I know how rate that is for a first book and I attribute that success to a few key factors.

        1. My coauthor and I had a unique, compelling memoir to share.

        2. I and my coauthor are both good, tight writers.

        3. Throughout its 6-month writing, I had no fewer then 20 different people reading chapters and giving me excellent content and editing suggestions.

        4. We were careful to craft our memoir in a format that used both of our literary voices and that took readers on a journey from darkness to hope, while mingling the gritty reality with appropriate amounts of humor.

        We storyboarded the book and moved chapters around where we could to achieve the end flow.

        A compelling storyline ; solid writing; the input of a LOT of other good writers and readers; and the use of storyboards were our best tools!

  55. Elisa March 2, 2020 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you for this. I’m wondering how much the timeline changes when publishing a “second edition” of a book.

  56. Daniel Wright June 10, 2020 at 8:03 am #

    Hi Steve, these are indeed the amazing insights being shared about the publishing process. This has given me a fair idea of how much time does it take for the publishing process. Keep up the good work!!

    • Marilyn Ferguson Vallely September 12, 2021 at 11:08 am #

      Was on the verge of using KDP Amazon to self publish my memoir stories of wedding planning in Scotland over forty years. The yesterday I receive a request for full Ms from a Glasgow publishers, not a vanity firm. So I am now wondering should I wait for their approval or bash on with Amazon. I am 72 yrs old. Dementia or demise could step in anytime, who knows? Also is it protocol to chase up publishers for a decision? You can see I am not a patient lady.

  57. TM Systems October 5, 2021 at 1:21 am #

    Thanks for sharing. Our company provides clients with customised, high quality technology solutions in the main areas of public address, professional audio, network and equipment management and information systems on a large scale.

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