How Long Does It Take To Self-Publish A Book? (Quick tips)

An alarm clock and a pad and pencil

Writing and publishing a novel or a nonfiction book can take years. From the struggle of writing to finding an agent or a publisher, then waiting around for a year while the publisher finds space in the schedule can all add up to years and years without seeing the result of your labours.

This put me off the idea of becoming an author for years, and I only really became passionate about writing again when I discovered self-publishing.

It is possible to self-publish a finished book in a matter of hours. If you include writing the book and publishing, it can take a couple of months for a novel of 40-60k words, and a few days for a short story of around 8-10k words.

This can seem impossible for a first-time author and certainly seemed impossible to me when I first started. So I want to break this down further for you and help you understand the process.

In this article, I will explore:

  • How fast can you self-publish a book?
  • How long does it take to write and self-publish a book?
  • How much does it cost to publish your own book?
  • How can I publish my own book for free?
  • How do I publish a book in a week?
  • How can I publish myself faster?

How Fast Can You Self-Publish A Book?

Once I have written and edited a book, I can complete the self-publishing process within a few hours. Approval from the publisher then takes between 6 and 72 hours.

In order to self-publish a book, there are a few steps you must complete:

Step 1: Book Cover

For a large project, I will hire a book cover designer and prepare the cover weeks, or even months, in advance. For a short story or a free book, I will use Canva and complete the design myself in around an hour.

Canva ProOpens in a new tab. lets you use stock images, remove backgrounds, use a variety of fonts, and gives you access to a range of templates and design tools. However, the free version is excellentOpens in a new tab., and I used this to create book cover designs for some of my free books using other similar books in my niche as a design reference.

You can check out Canva here.Opens in a new tab.

Step 2: Book Formatting & Typesetting

The next stage is to take your completed text document and cover and turn them into an ebook and a print-ready PDF. I use Vellum to complete the formatting process in less than twenty minutes.

The easiest way to do this is with software such as Vellum, or the Reedsy Free Book EditorOpens in a new tab..

I have broken down the process of formatting your book, and which tools to use in my article: How Do I Format A Self-Published Book? (A simple & complete guide)Opens in a new tab.

Step 3: Writing The Book Description

Writing the book description can be tricky, and many authors fail at the challenge. But it doesn’t have to be difficult.

If you understand the needs of your genre and the merits of your book, then you can write your description in a matter of minutes.

If you want to know more about book descriptions and how to write one, then I have written an article on the subject which you can read here.Opens in a new tab.

Step 4: Uploading To A Publisher

It can take just ten minutes to upload your book to Amazon KDP. If you have the correct files, the book cover, and the description ready, then it is a breeze.

Amazon will also want to know how you intend to price the book, what categories you think the book should fit in, and whether you intend the book to be sold worldwide or just in your country, so make sure you have decided these things in advance.

How Long Does It Take To Write And Self-Publish A Book?

The time to write and publish a book varies dramatically. I have written and published a short story within five days. I have also taken over four years to finish and publish a novel.

It is possible to plan, write, and publish a book of between 5k and 20k words in a week if you can dedicate between 1 and 4 hours to the project each day.

Every year, thousands of writers challenge themselves to write a novel of 50k words within thirty days during November. This is called NaNoWriMo, and you can find out more and join the challenge hereOpens in a new tab..

Longer books will take more time to edit and re-draft. Especially if you are a new author and you struggle with narrative structure. You would likely want to allocate another sixty days to editing and re-drafting, but this will get faster the more novels you write.

Back in 2016, one of my favourite authors, Chris Fox, challenged himself to write and publish a novel within 21 days. He already had the outline when he started, but 21 days is still a very impressive turnaround and might be something you could challenge yourself to follow along with.

How Much Does It Cost To Publish Your Own Book?

As a general rule, self-publishing costs around $200-$4000 for a professionally edited manuscript and professional-quality cover art.

A majority, around 80% of your budget, should go on developmental editing, copy-editing, and proofreading. While around 20% should go on the highest quality cover art you can afford.

Other costs you could incur include advertising, formatting, marketing graphics, promotions, and launch promotions.

How Can I Publish My Own Book For Free?

There are a variety of free tools online to help you publish your book for free. These include Canva for cover design, Reedsy Book Editor for formatting and typesetting, and Amazon KDP for publishing.

It is possible to self-publish a good-quality book for free. But this will take more time, and could cause you to make some fundamental mistakes.

In order to give yourself the best chance of success when bootstrapping your book, make sure you study successful books in your niche. Try to learn from the success of others to create your book description and book cover. Make sure they fit in while standing out in a crowded field.

Use Amazon KDP, and make the most of the categories and keywords. Amazon uses complex algorithms to sell your book to the most interested readers. But you have to give Amazon the information it needs to look for those readers, and you do this by researching the search terms your readers will use to find your book, and placing those search terms in the keywords section in your Amazon KDP dashboard.

Why not make a start now? By heading over to my Free Tools page, I’ve outlined everything I used to put together a good-quality book for free.

How Do I Publish A Book In A Week?

When I first started publishing my books, I never believed it would be possible to publish anything faster than within a year.

I have published dozens of books within just one week, and there are very simple rules I follow in order to achieve this.

1. Keep It Short

The best way to turn a book around fast is to make the book shorter. This may seem obvious, but many people believe that there is no market for short books online.

The erotica market is enormous, and most of the stories fall between 7k and 15k words. This word count is easily achievable in a week and the book will still sell for $2.99.

Other high-value books include how-to books. If you can write a very specific how-to, and get your message across in around 10k words, that can be very valuable to a reader and they will part with $2.99.

2. Write A Solid Outline

If you get lost halfway through or start going on a tangent, you will not finish your book. Have a clear idea of the beginning, middle, and end at the very least so that you can keep on track and not waste time.

3. Make Writing A Habit

If you can write at the same time every day, and for the same amount of time, then writing will become a habit.

This will help enormously when it comes to writing faster, as you will know how many words a day you can produce, and therefore how soon you can finish your book.

There are several books I found incredibly helpful when I was trying to set up a writing habit, and I have outlined them all in an article here.

How Can I Publish Myself Faster?

Every author I know, myself included, wants to produce work faster. Over the years, I have found a few things which make the process quicker.

So I’d like to share three tips to make your self-publishing process faster:

Tip 1: Write A Series

Rather than writing one great long book, or an in-depth how-to. Break it into a series and have six or seven books, each of which you can produce in a week. That way, when you finish one, you know what the next project is and can get started right away.

Alternatively, if you have produced one short story or one focused how-to, think about how you can expand it. Can the story go further? Can you switch up the characters and follow another lead? What is the next logical step for a how-to?

Tip 2: Batch What You Can

There are a lot of extra bits and pieces that go with publishing, such as the cover and the book description.

If you intend to write several books or a series, you can save time by doing all the covers in one go, and all the book descriptions at the same time. That way, when it comes to publishing your latest work, you already have everything you need.

Tip 3: Make Categorical Decisions

When it comes to self-publishing, there are a hundred different tiny decisions to make, such as the font you use, the size of your published book, and the price you are going to set.

Making these decisions every time you publish can be stressful and can wear you out more than you realise. By making a firm decision the first time, and sticking with it book after book, you save yourself time, hassle, and stress.

In Summary

Self-publishing a book can be a quick and easy process, but it helps to have a plan and follow some simple rules.

By keeping your book short, writing with a solid outline, and making writing a habit, you can publish your book in just one week.

Additionally, batching what you can (e.g., covers, descriptions), and making categorical decisions will help make the publishing process even faster.

Good luck, and happy publishing!


Niamh Murphy is a bestselling author of YA adventure fiction, proudly publishing independently since 2013.

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