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 business person, professional or coach you’re not starting from a blank canvas like most other people in the world.
The thing is, your canvas is your business and it’s already brimming with colors and shapes, created from a lifetime of work.
In a lot of ways, you’re 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 regardless of topic, because the process used by entrepreneurial writers to craft a book is quite systematic.
How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?
If this is your first book, the process will of course take longer because you’ll be developing your system as you go. Once you become a published author, this process will speed up quite a bit — that’s the nature of the beast.
In fact, before you can begin writing your book, you need to get your subject knowledge “downloaded” from your brain onto paper.
Using Mind Mapping 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 and your research.
This information is then visually transcribed onto paper in ways that can be organized and structured so that they can be easily turned into a book.
Using Your Mind Map to Create Your Table of Contents
After creating your map, you’ll generate your table of contents.
Once you have a completed table of contents, the actual writing process can begin in earnest.
In fact, let’s talk about timelines now. For your first book, you should allocate anywhere between two and three weeks for the mind mapping process and turning everything on map into a fully fleshed-out table of contents.
For subsequent books, this timeline will shorten to under two weeks and with practice (3rd book and onward) you’ll be able to average a title per 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 somewhere between 7 and 15 chapters.
The size of your chapters 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 It Takes to Write 1,000 Words
Since you’re not a full time writer, consider scheduling your time to write for two hours per day, 6 days per week. One hour is too little to achieve cruising speed and three or more hours of writing time may lead to creative fatigue, even if you feel like you want to write your words and thoughts nonstop for an extended period of time. Resist the temptation!
As an entrepreneurial writer, 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 words to 500 words per hour.
As most of your writing will be based on information recall, the chances of you getting stuck will be negligible.
You’ll notice that as you begin writing guided by your roadmap (your table of contents), a torrent of ideas, thoughts and words will flow onto the page — if anything you’ll write more than you were planning rather than less, which in a way 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 hours of writing time with 500 words each gives you 1,000 words every day.
How Long It Takes to Write a Book with 200 Pages
An average nonfiction book has a word count of 250 words per page. For example, if you’re planning to write a book with 200 pages, then at a word count of 250 words/page you are aiming for a total word count of 50,000.
Let’s do the math now: If you are aiming for a daily word count of something like 1,000 words per day for 6 out of 7 days, you’ll be writing an average of 6,000 words per week. In order to produce a manuscript with a 50,000 word count, you’ll need to write for 50,000 / 6,000 = 8.3 weeks — let’s use a round up rule and bring the total time to 9 weeks.
But, wait! This time is just for the first draft…
Now, you need to account for some time to craft corrections to your first draft, or partial self-edits (say you don’t like the way certain paragraphs read or perhaps your choice of words, so you want to take a couple more passes).
You also need to allow an amount of time for holidays where you have other commitments that may force you to skip your writing time here and there…
…and finally, you 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 (two to three weeks average if you’re a new writer) and we’re now at 17 weeks.
Next, It’s Time to Edit Your Draft Manuscript
The above timeline is for a “raw” or unedited manuscript draft, 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 or a first draft as good as it may read 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 someone in your family who you feel like they can do the job of a qualified editor for less money — this will cause you more trouble than it’s worth!).
The full editing process with all revisions completed will add approximately 6-10 weeks to your timeline, so now you’re looking at a total time of 27 weeks (17 + 10).
So, you should allocate a little bit over 5 months for the time it will take you to write a book with 200 pages (not including the publishing time). For more or fewer pages, just re-do the math above and adjust the running totals accordingly.
How Long It Takes 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 – of course, when it comes to creating a book that’ll represent you and your business you can’t afford to cut corners: this is too risky a job to hand over to amateur people 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 research and 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 matter 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 things.
So you are now looking at anywhere between 1.5 and 2 additional months, for a total of 34-36 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 the amount of time you need to plan ahead of your event deadline.
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 deadline and you’ll be in good shape.
A Final Word
Now that you can answer the question How long does it take to create a book of nonfiction? it’s time to get started with one! An entire year might seem like a big chunk of writing time, but this is just a guideline to give you an overall idea of how much time it’ll take for the entire process to unfold — it’s not meant as an indication of how hard it’ll be.
When you begin to work in earnest, writing every day towards your target of 1,000 words per week, you’ll stop measuring how much time is left on the journey as you get lost every day in the joy of writing. At this point, time will truly begin to fly and the weeks and months will simply go by without you even noticing how long does it’ll actually take to write your book.
All you’ll notice is how you’re lovingly crafting what will soon become a powerful legacy for your business, your career and for you personally. Remember the wise words of Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” so take your first step today!
If you enjoyed this article and want to write a book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, with advice drawn from years of work editing books for bestselling writers (including an NYT bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
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 providing publishing advice to entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to write a book 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 an award-winning writer of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling writers (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals, entrepreneurial writers and business owners. Our end-to-end support includes writer coaching, advice and tips for book proposals, indie publishing and traditional publishing services, ghostwriting and research, all aspects of editing: developmental editing, content editing, copy editing and proofreading, cover design, book layout, eBook production in all required formats (Kindle, Apple, Google, Nook), all aspects of book marketing and book promotion support and coaching, printing and book distribution.