Taking an idea from a brainstorm to a book is rarely a fast process....

From Brainstorm to Book: A Brief Timeline

Note: All times are approximate and can vary. This is simply my personal experience with writing and publishing, so take it as simply something to give one an idea on how long this stuff can take. For almost 10 years, I was able to successfully write and publish 1 new novel every other year while teaching full time, so the system I fell into worked for me.

Step One: The Idea. It goes like this: brainstorming, research, chapter-by-chapter outline. Only after the outline is done is writing permitted for me. I call this "pre-production." I often do this while working on the revisions, feedback acquisition, etc, of my prior book to save time. (Approximately 6 months - 1 year)

Step Two: The First Draft. Writing, writing, writing. (Approximately 6 months - 1 year)

Step Three: The "Beta Readers." I compile a list of questions (usually about 15 - 20 specific ones) about the story and give copies to selected "beta" readers. These are volunteers to read and offer feedback to the author. I have been lucky to have a wide array of Betas from different ages, genders, and careers. Typically Betas are given up to 3 months to read and constructively critique the work; after all, they are volunteering their time and must wedge it in around other life commitments. I pay back my volunteers with a mention on the "Acknowledgements" page of the novel and a free signed copy of the finished book. (Approximately 3 months)

Step Four: Compiling the Feedback. This involves going through the Beta Reader Questions, reading the comments and answers. I compile a list of things that repeatedly come up or are brought to my attention to a degree it invokes the need to change. Then I get a small notebook and make lists of the changes I plan to make, broken down by chapter. (Approximately 1 week)

Step Five: Revising the First Draft. This rewriting/revising process often takes almost as long to do as the first draft! (Approximately 6 - 10 months)

Step Six: Beta Feedback, Part II. A smaller, perhaps more faithful group of volunteers who can offer a quick turnaround. (Approximately 2 months)

Step Seven: Revising Draft Two. With the feedback gained from the second round of Beta reading, things are applied and tweaked. Often times this is not as lengthy or as in-depth as the first draft revision. (Approximately 1 month)

Step Eight: Preparing to Publish. This amounts to printing out a hard copy of the story and literally reading it carefully, making more little edits and tweaks. Often this makes a lot of typos stand out that slipped by on the computer screen. Oooops! (Approximately 1 week)

Step Nine: Revising Draft Three. Fix the things noted in your own hard draft assessment. Ensure that formatting is correct. (Approximately 1 week)

Step Ten: Submit to Publisher. And wait for the feedback from them. (Approximately 2 - 3 weeks)

Step Eleven: Revising Draft Four. Taking the feedback from the publisher, deciding what to use and what to ignore, applying the relevant changes. (Approximately 2 - 3 weeks)

Step Twelve: Submitting Revised Draft to Publisher. Then wait. (Approximately 1 week)

Step Thirteen: Getting the Proofs. Proofs (or galleys) are the documents that show you exactly how your book will look with the layout, etc. I have 2 weeks to go over them and submit a document for the publisher to make changes. This involves mostly layout stuff - making sure the publisher laid things out correctly, looking for typos (again) etc. Yes, it is as tedious as it sounds. (Approximately 2 weeks)

Step Fourteen: Submit the Changes to Proofs. The turnaround for the publisher can vary, but it's often within a few days. A copy is sent to you to verify that changes were made, and if everything looks good, off it goes! (Approximately 1 week)

Step Fifteen: Published! Published copies are mailed to you, and the book goes on sale online. (Often I was the last to receive my own book; friends/family who ordered when it first went online got their stuff first!) (Approximately 4 - 6 weeks)

Total Amount of Time: Approximately 3 years from brainstorm to book.

Other Stuff:

  • Although my publisher supplies custom cover art for free, I have hired professional artists to illustrate the covers of my book. Fortunately, I attended a magnet arts high school and one of my friends (Izzy Medrano) is now a professional freelancing artist, who used to do concept art for Sony videogames, including the God of War series. (His art can also be seen on many Magic cards.) I hired him for two of my books (PIT #3 and PIT #4). He has many connections, so if he's too expensive for my budget or too busy to take on the work, he has given me some awesome artist recommendations. I used his recommendation for the art on PIT#5 and, hopefully, can use that same artist again when I complete PIT #6.

  • I highly recommend having a web page and place for people to find you online. I purchased my own URL over a decade ago and a generous volunteer recently helped to revise my website and make it more visually appealing. All the content I have done myself, however, including a writing blog. I've also established a page on Facebook dedicated to the book series. A little knowledge on web design or HTML goes a long way!

  • Let's talk about that five-letter word: Money. Costs may vary, but I easily sink about $3000 of my own cash into each book I publish. I've never made it back, but I have a product I am proud of and not ashamed to have my name on. (Also, it is a tax write off!) Of course, the ultimate goal is to make money from writing and be "conventionally published," but in the meantime, I do like the DIY aspect of self-publishing and being 100% in control of my product and career. Every time a book sells, I earn 20% in royalties. Every time an E-book sells, I make 50% of royalties. This is cut into quarterly checks by my publisher and mailed to me. Typically the checks are $10 - $20 for 3 months of sales. Enough to buy a few lattes at my favorite coffee shop.