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How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

How long does it take to write a book? That answer of course depends. For my brother’s book on Uncle Murray (internal link), it took Bill four and a half years. Along the way he wrote magazine articles on Murray and gave lectures on Murray’s place as an unrecognized Copper King of Butte, Montana and as a promoter of radical Irish politics. Here’s the timeline in which Bill wrote 70,000 words of biographical nonfiction and conducted all original research and writing:

Apr 2013 Started in earnest (research privileges approved at the Huntington Library)
Dec 2013 Submitted book proposal to contest
Oct 2014 Pitched proposal at writer’s workshop
May 2015 Sent proposal to publishers from writer’s workshop
Jun 2015 Sent proposal to agents
July 2015 Sent proposal to university presses
Aug 2015 Sent proposal to small publishers
Dec 2015 Mountain Press Publishing expresses interest
Feb 2016 Signed contract
Nov 2016 Turned in draft manuscript
Aug 2017 Editor returned comments
Dec 2017 Finished Edits
Feb 2018 (?) At the printer

Bill says, “I was conducting research through the summer of 2016. So, three and a half years of research and four and a half years of writing. Research and writing occurred mostly simultaneously. I’d guess this took up on average 15% to 25% of my time during this period.”

Bill contacted 22 publishers before being accepted. As every query should be tailored for every press, that’s quite a bit of work. Here’s the list with his scratch notes:


1. Penguin  Sent 7/28
2. Harper Collins Sent 7/28
3. Skyhorse Emailed Proposal 9/8
4. Caxton Press Mailed Query 9/8
5. Westholme Emailed Query 9/8
6. Mountain Press Mailed Proposal 9/8
7. High Plains Press, Wyoming Mailed Proposal 9/8 No 9/18
8. Fulcrum Emailed proposal 9/8
9. Irish Academic/Merrion Sent 8/31
10. Counterpoint Press (CA)

University Presses 7 no 3 looking, 2 silent

1. New York University Press Mailed 7/29 No 10/1
2. University of California Sent Query 7/29
3. Notre Dame Sent 7/28 – Responded 8/14 Will look over next 2-3 months No 9/16
4. Syracuse Sent 7/28 – responded 7/28-will look at over next 2 weeks
5. Yale sent 7/30 No 8/29 30 days
6. Missouri Sent 7/28 gmail – Responded 8/1, Several Weeks No 9/30
7. Wisconsin Sent 7/28 gmail – responded, will look at
8. Colorado Sent 7/28 Submission portal NO 8/4 7 days
9. California Historical Association (Contest-July1) No July 5
10. Oklahoma Sent 7/28 Acknowledged 7/28 More Info 8/2, an 8/4 No 8/29 32 days
11. Nebraska Sent 7/28 NO 8/18 21 days
12. Washington Sent 7/28, NO 7/30 2 days

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