Dear Self-Publisher: Expect Delays

If there's anything I've learned since beginning to work independently with self-publishers, it's this: self-publishing a book takes longer than you expect. Especially if it's your first book.

 Photo by  Christin Hume

Photo by Christin Hume

A self-publisher often underestimates how many steps are involved in the publishing process. Maybe the photographer calls in sick. Or the editor needs an extra week. The proofreader can't work on the file right away because it came to her a different week than she expected. One small delay can have a domino effect, causing the whole project timeline to change.

When I am designing a full color book involving a lot of photography, usually the self-publisher works with me on a sample design or layout before the contents for the whole book are ready. The self-publisher talks to me about his or her ideas for the book, and gives me about ten pages of sample content. At this stage we establish the visual aspect of the book. Once the sample layout is ready, I wait — an indeterminate amount of time — until the full manuscript is ready for layout and design in the same style. On average, I would say that books come to me two weeks to two months later than the self-publisher originally intended, depending on the complexity and length of the content. 

I don't share this to be pessimistic, but to be realistic. If it's your first book, and especially if you're coordinating the project independently, I have three tips:

  1. Don't commit to a particular release date. You may have a release date in your mind, but you don't have to give that date to others. Your first book will almost always be completed later than you expected. (One of my clients shares about his experience with setting a firm launch date in this blog post.) Or, give a padded date...
  2. Pad your timeline. If you'd like to release your book in March, try to create a timeline that would have it releasing in January, to give yourself some wiggle room. If you give your contractors deadlines that are not your real, drop-dead dates, you won't be stressed out by every little delay that comes up.
  3. Don't rush the process. Skipping important steps at the beginning of your book project can be very expensive in the end. The full layout should never be done until the text has been thoroughly edited and proofread. Major changes after the book has been laid out or after the book has gone to press can unnecessarily blow your budget. 

Self-publishing a book — especially if it is your first book — takes longer than you expect! But if you expect the unexpected, maybe it won't actually take longer than you expected!


Are you self-publishing a book? I'm happy to answer any questions you might have. Give me a shout through my Contact page!