How long does it take to write a book? How long is a piece of string? There are too many variables to factor in to give a definitive answer but, in my experience, anywhere between 6 weeks and 2 years!
According to BookStatistics.com it takes 725 hours for a first-time author to write a standard-length nonfiction book (80,000 words). If those hours were spent in consecutive 8-hour days then that’s 90 days or three months. For a first-time author however, there is usually an inordinate amount of time spent staring at a blank screen. Or revising the first page 328 times.
I have worked with clients who have been in the ‘staring at the blank screen’ phase for years. I had one client who handed over a thumb drive with 109 separate files and yet he was no closer to a finished manuscript after the 109 files than he was after one. I worked with another client where everything he’d done so far was stored on his computer under ‘The Damn Book!’
The idea of writing a book is something that a huge percentage of the population would like to do but actually making it happen is much rarer.
So, how long does it take to write a book? The time frame comes down to three things.
1. How clear you are about what you want to write about.
If you have a chapter outline together with a bullet point list of everything you want to cover in each chapter then it really can be written in 3 months. That is assuming of course that those bullet points equate to sizeable chunks of content. One of the most common challenges I come across as a ghostwriter is an underestimation of content. People love the idea of writing a book but almost without exception they massively underestimate the depth and breadth of content required to fill a typical nonfiction book. Often, there is a sizeable chasm between the diagram scribbled on a napkin at dinner than planted the seed for a book and the execution of that book.
Structure is incredibly important in the writing process. Not only in mapping out exactly what the author wants to cover but also to really drill into the question – “Do I have a book or it is actually a bumper sticker?” A good structure also makes sure that the reader doesn’t get lost or confused about why they are being told something. Get the structure right and it acts as the spine of the book making it much easier to populate the chapters in a naturally engaging and logical way.
2. How much time you have to dedicate to the process?
In short, the answer to ‘How long does it take to write a book’ will very much depend on how much time you have to commit to it. It’s a serious commitment and that’s true even if the author hires a ghostwriter. I’ve lost count of the people who have been uber-enthusiastic at the start but who have then literally taken years to read their own book and provide edits. There is always something else that’s more important and this is especially true if the author is a business person. There is always a more important priority. The irony is that the book, if finished and published could do a lot of the brand building and marketing work for the author but it’s always pushed down the priority list.
The first time we do anything is always the hardest. It’s a learning curve. This is why hiring a ghostwriter can be the perfect solution for a busy author. Unless you plan to write 10 books, why scale the curve? There is also an opportunity cost associated with that learning curve. Let’s be optimistic and assume that it is 725 hours to write your first book. How much is that, based on the hourly rate you charge for your services? Even if you decide to write your book outside work time, what’s the opportunity cost of that in terms of your relationships with your family?
Writing a book is a worthwhile goal, especially in business as a brand-building tool. But it might be quicker and more enjoyable to collaborate with a professional who could shorten the timeframe significantly. If you are interested in hearing more about ghostwriting services, feel free to contact me.