Before I answer the question: how long does it take to write a book? let me begin by saying that you have a great advantage over non-entrepreneurial writers because as a businessperson, professional or coach you’re not starting from a blank canvas.
Your canvas is your business and it’s already brimming with colors and shapes, created from a lifetime of experience.
You are a walking and breathing vessel of knowledge, which is waiting to be transcribed into book form.
This allows me to create guidelines to answer the above question without even knowing about your topic, because the process used by entrepreneurial authors to write books is quite systematic.
How Long Does It Take to Write a First Book?
If this is your first book, the process will take longer because you’ll be developing your system as you go. For subsequent books, the process will speed up quite a bit.
Before you can begin writing your book, you first need to get your subject knowledge “downloaded” from your brain onto paper.
Using Mind Maps To Kick-Start Your Book Project
For this process, you’ll be using the technique of Mind Mapping, which I describe in more detail in my article How to Use a Mind Map to Create a Great Book for Your Business.
Mind Mapping makes use of a visual thinking tool called “Mind Map” for capturing all the information stored in your brain that’s relevant to your book.
This information is then visually transcribed onto paper in a way that can be organized and structured so that it can be easily turned into a book.
Using Your Mind Map to Create Your Table of Contents
After creating your Mind Map, you’ll generate your table of contents.
Once you have a completed table of contents, the actual writing process can begin in earnest.
So, let’s talk about timelines now. For your first book, you should allocate between 2 and 3 weeks for the process of creating your book’s mind map and turning it into a fully fleshed-out table of contents.
For subsequent books, this timeline will shorten to under 2 weeks and with practice (3rd book and onward) you’ll be able to do it in under one week.
How Many Pages Does It Take to Write a Book?
Your completed table of contents will then become the roadmap for writing your book. Obviously, the size and detail of the table of contents will vary for each book, but on average, nonfiction books have between 7 and 15 chapters.
The size of each chapter will depend on the number of sub-topics that you need to write about.
So let’s begin our calculations by focusing on word count first.
How Long Does It Take to Write 1,000 Words?
On average, consider scheduling a 2-hour writing block per day, 6 days a week. One hour is too little to achieve cruising speed and 3 or more hours may lead to creative fatigue.
As an entrepreneurial author, you’ll be accessing information that’s already stored in your brain as opposed to “thinking up” content that’s entirely new, so you’ll be able to comfortably write approximately 400-500 words per hour.
As most of your writing will be based on information recall, the chances of you getting stuck or experiencing writer’s block will be negligible.
You’ll notice that as you begin writing guided by your roadmap (your table of contents), a torrent of ideas and thoughts will flow onto the page – if anything you’ll write more than you were planning rather than less, which is always a good thing as you’ll then have more material to edit later on.
Now, let’s go back to the numbers: 2 writing hours with 500 written words each gives you 1,000 words per day.
How Long Does It Then Take to Write a 200 Page Book?
An average nonfiction book page has 250 words. If you are planning to write a 200-page book, then at 250-words per page you are aiming for 50,000 words total.
Let’s do the math now: If you are writing 1,000 words per day, 6 days a week, you’ll be writing 6,000 words per week. In order to produce a 50,000 word manuscript, you’ll need to write for 50,000 / 6,000 = 8.3 weeks – let’s round this up to 9 weeks.
But, Wait! This is Just for the Writing Part
Now, we need to account for some re-writing time, or partial self-edits (say you don’t like the way certain paragraphs read, so you want to take a couple more passes).
We also need to account for holiday time where you have other commitments that may force you to skip a writing block here and there…
…and finally, we need to account for unexpected disruptions.
So, let’s add a safety factor of 50% to the original 9 weeks to cover all of the above, and now you have a completed manuscript in about 14 weeks.
Next, you need to add the mind mapping time (2-3 weeks if you are a first-time author) and we’re now at 17 weeks.
Next, It’s Time to Edit Your Manuscript
The above timeline is for a “raw” or unedited manuscript, but, as every professional writer will tell you (those who sell tens of thousands of books as well as those who sell tens of millions), a raw manuscript is not considered a completed manuscript.
For a manuscript to be considered book-production ready it must be fully edited, and by that I mean edited by a professional editor (not self-edited or edited by a friend or a family member).
The editing process will add approximately 4-6 weeks to your timeline, so now you’re looking at a total of 23 weeks (17 + 6).
So, you should allocate a little over 5 months for writing (but not publishing) a 200-page book. For more or fewer pages, just re-do the math above and adjust the running totals accordingly.
How Long Does It Take to Write a Book And Get It Published?
Let’s stick with the 200-page book example. Once your edited manuscript is available then the publishing process can begin.
The first step is the creation or securing of any type of images or graphic elements that your book requires – I’d recommend hiring a professional graphic designer for this stage – when it comes to a book to represent your business you can’t afford to cut corners: this is just too risky given that your audience will be made out of prospects, clients, business associates, strategic partners, event planners and the media at large.
You’ll need a graphic designer to produce a great-looking cover for your book, you’ll need someone to lay it out and typeset it, you’ll need to create your book’s front and back matter (e.g. copyright page, acknowledgments, references, index, etc.) and finally you’ll have to obtain an ISBN, barcode and library cataloguing information plus other little bits.
So you are now looking at 2-3 additional months, for a total of 36 weeks.
How About Book Printing?
Finally, if you want to order a print run, which will likely be your case since you’ll need physical copies of your book to use as calling cards, you’ll need to allocate an additional 1-2 months depending how many books you want to order and how busy your printer is at that time of the year (printing is a highly seasonal business).
You grand total will then be 45 weeks, or approximately 10 months.
How About Marketing & Promotion?
If you’re planning an event to launch your book, like a public speaking keynote or a conference panel where you’ll be participating, you now know how much time you need to plan ahead.
To have a safety margin, it would be wise to add 2 more months between the time you receive your print run and your actual event, in case you need to have books shipped to a distant location, or should advance copies of your book be required for promotional purposes.
Budget a full year from start to launch and you’ll be in good shape.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is the author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.