It’s summertime so naturally, thoughts turn to . . . the holidays. Wait, what? Well, if you are toying with the idea of self-publishing a book by the end of the year, read on for some insider guidelines.
December is closer than you think, especially when working backward to pencil out a production schedule. The pivotal factor to be aware of is that as holiday shopping ramps up, the print times for Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and IngramSpark become extended for author orders — both proof books and volume orders.
That’s because these companies prioritize filling retail orders over author orders, which is good news for your customers once your book is actually for sale. But it’s bad news if you are down to the wire and haven’t uploaded files for processing yet.
IngramSpark’s normal print time is 5 days for paperbacks and 10 days for hardcovers, plus shipping time. But usually in early October, their print times get extended. In 2021, the print times became 10-20 days for paperbacks and 15-25 days for hardcovers, depending on the paper selected.
KDP’s timeline is typically faster than that but not publicly stated; it depends on the quantity ordered and selected delivery speed. You can check the delivery time by placing an order in your cart but not completing the purchase. But you can almost certainly expect KDP orders in November and December to take longer than they do the rest of the year.
You can save a bit of turnaround time (but add cost) with expedited shipping, which is available for both KDP and IngramSpark orders. Note that KDP proof and author orders do not qualify for free or Prime shipping.
And don’t forget that other market factors, such as paper shortages, staffing challenges and shipping delays, can also impact the estimated delivery time.
Let’s take a look at how this would play out in the last quarter of the year with IngramSpark: For a premium hardcover book, the extended time to print (25 days) and ship (7 days) a proof copy, review it (3 days), then print in volume (25 days) and ship (7 days) is 67 days, a total of more than two months. And that assumes no changes are needed after reviewing the proof copy. If changes are necessary, tack on several more days to have the revisions made and new files uploaded and processed before an order can be placed.
With this scenario, plan to have files ready for printing by late September to have any chance of receiving books by early December. If you want some breathing room, aim for early September.
A paperback will obviously take less time, and KDP’s overall timelines should be a bit faster although they will still be impacted.
If you just want to get some books in hand, another option is to work with a short-run printer. However, their unit cost will probably be higher than KDP or IngramSpark, and their turnaround time may be similar because they are susceptible to the same market challenges as everyone else.
Whichever way you go, the lazy days of summer are suddenly not looking so lazy. Depending on your book’s format, it’s time to kick into high gear to get the book edited, designed, formatted and ready for printing if you want to hold it in your hands by year’s end.