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A Timeline for Writing a Non-Fiction Book

Saturday Millionaires book by Kristi DoshI recently received an email from a young lady who wanted to know more about the process of writing a book and acquiring a literary agent. One of the things I had to explain was 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.

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. (Click here to read more about how I developed and executed my marketing plan.)
  • 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. (I’m not sure what the timeline is like for a self-published book.)

Do you have an idea for a non-fiction book but need help with the proposal? Check out my new services for authors, which includes a look at the actual proposal that scored me my book deal!

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