Plan a book launch schedule you can actually meet (part 2)

sample timeline
Last week we looked at how to build a schedule.

In last week’s post, we looked at how to break down a book launch into major phases first, then take a phase and break it down into steps.

Major phases for a book launch could be: Pre-production, Book Production, Book Marketing, Launch event(s). Next, you pick a phase and break it down further into steps and figure out how long each step will take (either by yourself or with advice).

Let’s look at some of the steps that could be a part of your book launch schedule, as we break down a phase together.

Example of breaking down a Phase

As a breakdown example, let’s break down Book Production further. Here’s some steps to consider when building your schedule. Each book will have a unique set of steps, so don’t feel you need to do everything listed here, and this isn’t a complete list of steps.

A good rule of thumb for steps: see if you can describe steps as tangible things, like cover design, developmental edit, sample copy, with each having some kind of finished product at the end. Or, see if you can describe steps as action words, like design cover, edit manuscript, get ISBN.

Edit – functional/developmental

Timing: This step is the most difficult to put a time frame on. Freelance editing goddess Annetta Ribken tells me there’s many factors involved in estimating how long a developmental edit will take and that each project will be significantly different. “Developmental edits go in rounds, and typically an edit will go one to three rounds, with the first round as the most intense.” Annetta provides this great advice: “The best thing to do is book with your editor ASAP and set your publishing date when you know the edits will be done.” She also recommends a healthy buffer…a woman after my own heart!
Dependencies: a completed draft.

Tip: good editors book up quickly. Book your editor(s) as far in advance as possible. Don’t assume they will be available when you want them, and book your editor(s) before attempting to set a book launch date.

Edit – Line/copy

Timing: Ballpark 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the length of your manuscript. Of course, this will vary depending your editor’s availability, and how quickly you turn around the suggested edits. Some authors use the same editor for line or copy edits as for developmental/functional edits. Other prefer two different editors.
Dependencies: your completed functional/developmental edits, including making recommended changes.


Timing: Ballpark for 1 – 2 weeks, depending on the length of you manuscript, and to allow time to address questions, etc.
Dependencies: all edits completed and all changes made.

Design cover

Timing: Allow 2 – 4 weeks for custom cover design. If you are commissioning artwork (like physical or digital painting, custom photography or illustration from scratch), you may need extra time, so plan for it with your artist.
Dependencies: Selection of a printer (for a cover template or specifications), marketing copy for the back of your print cover, and an ISBN if you need a bar code on the back of your print cover)

Format and test e-book

Timing: For simple formatting (say a fiction e-book with no ‘bells and whistles’, formatting and testing can usually be completed in 1 week. If you are working on a fixed-format book, or a book with enhanced content make sure you confirm timing with your designer or developer, and don’t forget about time to create enhanced content, if required.
Dependencies: A final manuscript with all edits and proofreading complete, ISBN(s), any images you want included, final front and back matter…basically, your formatter will need everything that goes inside your e-book. For more complicated e-book projects (fixed-format or enhanced), confirm all requirements with your provider.

Tip: If planning both e-book and print versions, in most cases I recommend finishing the print title first, so you can have the e-book formatting done while ordering and reviewing a sample copy of the print title. If you plan to do pre-sales through Amazon or other online retailers, keep your minimum timeframes in mind (For Kindle pre-orders, your final version must be uploaded at least 10 days before the release date you set.)

Design and lay out printed book interior

Timing: For a custom interior design, allow 2 – 3 weeks to complete design, revisions and prep. For layout and final revisions, allow 1 – 2 weeks, maybe a little longer for non-fiction titles that need lots of formatting, tables and graphs, or illustrations or photos. Here’s an example: I recently completed design and layout of a history of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet. That project included 375 images with captions, extensive tables and indices. Each image was hand-placed. It took me 2.5 weeks to lay out the book, and we took another 3 weeks for review and final revisions (in this case, the authors did not use a proofreader on the project, so they got off schedule fixing typos and inconsistencies).
Dependencies: For custom book interiors, I prefer to work with draft content for the design process, so I can get to work while you’re still editing. Other designers may feel differently. For layout, a final manuscript with all edits and proofreading complete, ISBNs, and front matter and back matter required. Basically, your book designer needs everything that goes inside your book.

Order a sample copy of your print title for review

Timing: Allow 1 – 4 weeks to have a sample book printed and delivered to you, depending on where you are, which printer you are working with and what services levels you choose for printing and/or shipping. Double check timing with your printer.
Dependencies: Final print files for the cover and interior completed and saved to specification.

Order printed books for your launch event

Timing: If working with a Print-on-demand service, allow 2 – 6 weeks to get books printed and shipped to you (depending on who you’re working with and where you’re located). If you are working with a short-run printer you may need more time, especially if you are printing hard back books.
Dependencies: Final print files for the cover and interior completed and saved to specification. I also recommend that the sample copy be ordered and reviewed before ordering bulk orders, so you know exactly what you are getting.

Hope this help you planning your book launch. Got a tip to share? Leave a comment below.

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