Traditional Book Publishing Timeline for First Time Authors

If you’re using a traditional publisher for your book, spending time laying out your timeline is an important part of a successful book launch. 


This is a BIG topic we cover in our annual Publishing and Publicity Mastermind. (click here to learn more)


In this blog post, we’ll be covering the basics of a traditional book publishing timeline that is perfect for first time authors that are outsourcing their publishing to a company rather than going down the self-publishing route. Hold on to your seats, take notes, and prepare yourselves because this is going to be a ton of information that I don’t typically just “give away”. 


With traditional publishing the timeline is most important in two main ways: 


  1. Giving yourself enough time. You shouldn’t have a tight or overly specific timeline because it can take a long time to find a publisher, and then for them to get your book to market. 


  1. Figuring out what the publisher wants from you. Different publishers will have different requirements or expectations for what they want to see from you before deciding to buy your book. So you should do your research and know if they want to have a complete manuscript, or just a proposal and a sample chapter. Also, some publishers only accept manuscripts certain times of the year, so you’ll want to have that information as well while planning your timeline. 


For self-published, you need to plan and be aware of every element of your timeline, but you also have total control over how long each stage takes.


One thing that’s the same for any author, no matter how you’re publishing, is that you’re going to need an audience ready to buy your book whenever it goes on sale, and that is NOT something that happens overnight, so you cannot start working on it too soon. 


Let’s start by assessing your current situation – use this guide to take some notes for yourself:


Current friends/fans/followers on Facebook: 

Current followers on Twitter:

Current followers on Instagram:

Current connections on Linked-In: 

Other platforms:


Do you have a mailing list yet? If yes, how many are on it?

What is your average open rate?

What is your average click rate? 


List the 2-3 social media platforms that you think are your best platforms for connecting with your target reader. 


Set goals for the size of your audience for each platform.


Create a plan for how you’re going to achieve those goals. Each platform has different specific strategies for growing your audience, but the commonality is consistency, so whatever plan you create it should include a system to consistently provide content. 


That content doesn’t have to be that you have a book coming out or even mention your book yet – it can simply be offering tips, starting conversations and discussing themes that you know will be in your book. That way you are growing interest in the topic of your book.


Here’s a few timeline suggestions: 


Plan your marketing (3-6 months before publication) – this involves building your following on social media, being consistent, lining up blurbs, reviews and people to help you promote. 


Cover design – Your front cover is going to be a key part of your marketing, so the sooner you have it done the better. If you plan to use reviews on your back cover, you likely won’t finish that part until much closer to the publication date, especially if you plan to add reviews. So plan to be thinking about your overall cover concept/design and deciding how you’re going to create your cover (hire a designer, do it yourself, hire a friend, go to Fiverr etc.) as early in the process as possible, but plan to be finalizing your front and back cover within 1 month of your release date. 

How to deal with Amazon – Amazon has made a lot of changes to their platform lately – many make the process of publishing through them much easier and some make it harder. The tricky part is that print books go through two rounds of approvals – one is basically an AI system that checks for obvious mistakes like several blank pages or margins that are way off. If your book passes that stage it goes to human review, which gets a lot pickier and sometimes less logical. But they also have a really strong customer service department that can explain any reasons they might have for flagging your book and preventing it from being published. The key is to allow plenty of time – minimum 2 weeks – to work out the kinks. Amazon will let you resubmit your corrected book as many times as you want, they are simply doing quality control, not deciding which books deserve to be published. 


There you have it! A basic timeline for traditional book publishing. I said it was going to be A LOT of information, but with the proper support and guidance, you can be well on your way to publishing your first book in no time!




Did you know most authors work with an editor, agent, and a publicist? That’s because publishing a book involves MANY steps, including rough drafts, revisions, meetings, and interviews.


Some are intimidated when they hear this, but it’s actually a positive thing because it means you’re NEVER alone when publishing a book. Whether you’re writing an autobiography, mystery novel, or self-help book, you will always have a dedicated team there to help you through the process.


(And that’s not to mention all the support people in your life, such as your spouse, parents, or friends.)


If you’re ready to start building an amazing team to help you publish and launch a book, schedule a call with me today! I’d love to be your publicist!