Timeline for Writing a Nonfiction Book

I frequently receive emails asking to know more about the process of writing a book and acquiring a literary agent. One of the things I have to explain is just how lengthy the process is from book idea to holding a published book in your hands – for me, that was three years. And trust me, I rushed the process as much as possible.

The process varies depending on whether you’re publishing with a traditional publisher or self-publishing, the length of your book, timeliness of the topic, etc. So, to clarify, my book was published with a traditional publisher (Wiley, who later sold out my division to Turner Publishing – more on that below).

So, I thought it might be helpful to show you a timeline of how Saturday Millionaires came to be:

  • July 2010 – It occurs to me that I’m learning a great deal about the business of college football the average fan doesn’t know. Maybe there’s a book there?
  • January 2011 – I think of the title “Saturday Millionaires” while driving around town and decide I want to write the book, so I begin putting together the pieces of my non-fiction proposal. (Did I mention I was also finishing the first draft of another book at the same time? Crazy!)
  • May 2011 – After months of research and drafting, I have a final version of my non-fiction proposal (10,000 words) and two draft chapters.
  • June 2011 – I start sending queries and proposals to literary agents and pretty quickly I have three offers, including one from my dream agent. I sign with Bradford Literary Agency (aka, my dream agent, Laura Bradford).
  • July – August 2011 – I go back and forth with my literary agent several times on revisions to the proposal.
  • September 2011 – My agent starts pitching the proposal to editors at publishing houses and we get an offer before the end of the month from Wiley.
  • October 2011 – I get the initial terms of my publishing contract from Wiley with a due date for half of my chapters in April 2012 and the complete manuscript in August 2012. I start researching and writing.
  • January 2012 – I finally get the publishing contract to sign.
  • March 2012 – I receive the first half of my advance. (Someone once asked me if they could quit their job and live off a book advance – it obviously depends on the amount (I couldn’t have), and it took six months from the offer to when I actually got my first check.)
  • April 2012 – I submit half of my chapters to the editor.
  • August 2012 – I submit my complete first draft and get back general comments on the content from my editor within a couple of weeks. I immediately start working on the content edits.
  • September 2012 – I submit the publisher’s “Author Questionnaire,” a 21-page document detailing where and how the book should be marketed.
  • October 2012 – I submit my content revisions.
  • December 2012 – Content revisions appear to be done and the publisher is now sending the manuscript to a copy editor.
  • January 2013 – I find out my publisher is trying to sell the division that includes my book – which could mean my book is either delayed or not published at all. I scream, I cry, and then I start praying. I also get the second half of my advance (which was earned at when I turned in my full manuscript). So, I’ve been paid in full, but I may or may not have a book being published. I care more about the latter.
  • May 2013 – After sweating it out for months, I find out Wiley did sell the division with my book, and it is being published by the new publisher, Turner Publishing – unfortunately, they’re moving my publication date from July to September. This is an issue since I planned to promote the book at the various conference media days in July. I beg and plead for the date to be moved up to July. I fail, so I try to focus on being happy the book is still being published. I also turn in a list of professors who might want to use the book in a course (which I’ve been compiling for months) and media members who should receive an Advanced Reading Copy. Gathering the addresses for all these folks was no easy feat.
  • June 2013 – I work through a couple of rounds of edits with my new editor and update chapters impacted by current events. I create PowerPoint presentations for professors to use if they adopt the book for a course.
  • July – August 2013 – Last round of edits before it heads to the printer.
  • August 2013 – Bless my publisher Turner Publishing – they get the book out August 27th, two weeks before the official release date!
  • September 10, 2013 – The official release date of Saturday Millionaires.

From what I understand, that’s a pretty typical timeline for a non-fiction book unless it’s around a current event and rushed by the publisher.

Do you have an idea for a nonfiction book but need help with the proposal, establishing your platform or marketing its release? Check out my services for authors, which I customize for each book project based on where you are in the process and what, if any, PR and marketing service your publisher is providing.

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