You’ve decided you want to embark on the creative, rewarding, and sometimes frustrating journey that is writing a book—and, you’ve decided when you want to publish it. The next step is developing a strategic, realistic writing timeline that gives you enough room to fully develop and redevelop your manuscript while also ensuring that you hit your release date goals. While every book and author is different, we’ve created a sample writing timeline below to make the planning process a little easier!
Before diving into the manuscript timeline, it is important to first understand the difference between the “book-to-print” date, the “book-in-hand” date, and the “retail release date”.
- Book-to-Print Date: This is when the final version of your book—with the manuscript, illustrations, layout, and cover image all completed—is uploaded to the printer. For domestic printers, this occurs on average 4–5 months prior to the book’s retail release date. For overseas printers, this occurs on average 6–7 months prior to the book’s retail release date.
- Book-in-Hand Date: 2–3 months prior to your retail release date, you will receive copies of your book at your doorstep from the printer. At this time, pre-orders made on the Mascot website will be shipped, backorders from our distributors (like Amazon and Ingram) will ship, and you can begin handselling your personal copies.
- Retail Release Date: Otherwise known as the book’s publication date, this is when your book becomes available for purchase online and in brick and mortar stores!
Below is a general writing and editing timeline example for a chapter book:
1.) 24 weeks prior to the book-to-print date: Finish the first draft of your manuscript and send it off for an edit. If you do not have an editor, do not fret—there are many other options and resources available for editing. Send your manuscript to a trusted friend or family member, share your work with a writing peer, or use an online editing forum. Most importantly, be open to criticism!
2.) 22 weeks prior to the book-to-print date: Review and integrate grammar and punctuation edits into your manuscript and develop a time management plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What does my availability for writing look like in the next 4–8 weeks?
- Will I need to write on the weekends, or can I find time during the week?
- After looking over my editor’s notes and suggestions, how long will it take me to work through their ideas and craft an informal timeline for myself?
4.) 16 weeks prior to the book-to-print date: Review and edit your redrafted piece, and send it to your editor, peer, or forum for final feedback!
5.) 14–15 weeks prior to the book-to-print date: Finalize your manuscript and move into the illustrations and layout phase of the publication timeline. For more tips on how to make the layout and illustration process run smoothly, check out our holiday timeline blog.
Ready to start your book publishing journey? Submit your book idea here.