Creating an academic book from start to finish can be quite a long journey—we’re talking about years here. Most authors and editors are prepared for this, but it can come as an unpleasant surprise to some. In this post, I’ll share a typical timeline for an academic book and explain why it takes so long. If you’re just getting started on your academic book publishing journey, this post about the overall process might be helpful for you. 

There are three main phases within the book publishing process: writing the manuscript and getting a contract; developmental editing; and production. We’ll go through each step and provide sample timelines. 

Writing the manuscript and getting a contract 

Authors go to contract on a book at varying times in the writing process. The manuscript might be nearly complete before you shop it around to publishers, or you may have just a chapter or two. Edited collections often require a call for chapters during the proposal stage.  

For our CEL book series, we ask that authors submit a brief proposal first, then a more detailed full proposal if requested. The proposal process can take time, as our series editors will carefully and thoughtfully review the proposals to make sure the book will be a good fit for our series while providing helpful feedback that can shape the manuscript. We may also solicit feedback from outside reviewers or our editorial board. Jessie Moore has shared great info about this process and tips for a strong book proposal. 

Timeline for writing the manuscript and proposals for authored book: Series editors provide feedback on brief proposal (6 weeks); Authors write and submit full proposal (4 weeks); Series editors provide feedback and contract (6 weeks); Authors finish writing the manuscript (5 months)
Timeline for writing the manuscript and proposals for edited collections: Series editors provide feedback on brief proposal (6 weeks); Editors solicit chapter proposals (8 weeks); Editors review chapter proposals and write full proposal (6 weeks); Series editors provide further feedback and offer contract (6 weeks); chapter authors write chapters (12 weeks); Editors review chapters and provide feedback (8 weeks); Chapter authors revise chapters (8 weeks); Editors review chapters, organize book, write introductory material (6 weeks).

(Read more about the process of editing collections!) 

For our Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching, once we have a full proposal that the series editors are happy with, we will submit that proposal to Routledge. The proposal will then go through their approval process, which can take an additional three months or so. 

Timeline for developmental editing: Series editors read and review manuscript (8 weeks); authors revise (16 weeks); series editors read and provide final feedback (6 weeks)

Developmental editing 

Once the author/editors have a complete manuscript, they share it with the series editors for developmental editing. You can read more about this process in another post, but the typical timeline might take 6-8 months.

Often the series editors will provide two rounds of feedback, and then the manuscript is ready to go into production. Occasionally, the series editors may request additional edits, but ideally, there will be few substantial changes to the manuscript after this point. 


Once the series editors are happy with the manuscript, they will move the book into production. At this point, the managing editor will be your main point of contact. For CEL’s Open Access Series and for supplemental resources for our series with Routledge, that’s me, Jennie Goforth. The production process will take the book from a Word document to final format – either a printed book, PDF, or whatever other final format the book will take. 

Timeline for production: Copyediting (6 weeks); Authors review copy edits (3 weeks); Page layout (4 weeks); Authors review page proofs (3 weeks); Publishers finalize text, index, promotion (8 weeks)

Generally, the production process takes five to seven months in total. We have blog posts about each of these stages, so you can read more about copyediting, page layout and design, reviewing page proofs, indexing, and promoting your book

When Life Gets in the Way 

With timelines as long as this, there is plenty of time for things to go wrong. Authors and editors can have professional or personal commitments that make reaching deadlines difficult or impossible. We try to be as understanding as possible; we just ask that our authors keep in communication with us so that we can adjust timelines as necessary. 

On the flip side, you may be anxious to get your book completed by a certain time (like a conference or promotion/tenure deadline), but we ask authors to be patient with us as we fit their book project in among all our other production schedules. We try our best to keep up our end of the bargain and meet our deadlines, but we sometimes have to adjust timelines to meet competing priorities among our publishing projects. We will always be in communication with our authors, so there aren’t any surprises. 

Across all three stages, the book publishing process will take fifteen to twenty-four (or more) months. It is a long time, but we want to make sure that the book is as strong as possible, represents our authors’ ideas in the best way, and communicates those ideas well to readers. 

Jennie Goforth is the Center for Engaged Learning’s Managing Editor. She works with authors to shepherd their work from proposal through production in the Center’s Open Access Book Series. She also manages production of book websites and supplemental materials for the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching.

How to Cite This Post

Goforth, Jennie. 2023. “Timelines for Publishing an Academic Book: Why Does It Take So Long?” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. September 19, 2023.