A curious beginning writer recently asked on a forum if it's time-consuming to publish books. I could have played along with the masses and gone off the deep end. Instead, here's what I thought was the best way to handle the question.
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No. Publishing books is neither an overtly lengthy nor an intrinsically "time-consuming" process, whatever that means. Contrary to what most other respondents have advised you, publishing books itself may eat up no more time than shopping for a new car or closing a loan on your house, and it could be lickety-split, depending upon your definition and several unknown entities missing from your question.
Here's what I mean.
For starters, you didn't ask about writing books for publication. You asked about publishing books. The time it takes for that varies with conventional versus POD or self-publishing. While conventionally published books may take from ten months to two years or more, depending upon a large number of variables, they may also take only a few weeks. That's if a particular book's subject matter is timely; if the book is time-sensitive, and if the market is chomping at the bit to read about what the book's author has to say. The first tell-all book on the life and death of Princess Diana, for example, appeared within weeks of her demise. She was killed in a car crash on August 31, 1997, and a book by Simon and Schuster hit the streets that same year. Several more publishers released books not long after.
That, however, is a rarity, happening only on a limited number of occasions. Most books published by conventional houses take from one to two years to see the light of print. Sometimes more and sometimes less.
POD or self-published books can take every bit as long--but only rarely. In fact, assuming the book is written, formatted, and ready to go, self-publishing can be as short as a week or less, depending upon certain circumstances. That means that, from the time you hit the "publish it" button on the publishing aggregator's site (KDP, Lulu, Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital, etc.), the book can be out and selling in no time. Probably not selling well, considering the limited time available for successful self-promotion, but at least available for sale.
Also, keep in mind that publishing encompasses all formats of books. In my response, I'm assuming you mean print publishing. Producing eBooks for sale is also considered publishing, but they take little or no time to produce once the product is written and ready to go. Publishing an eBook after everything has been properly prepared and formatted takes as long as required to click on an aggregator's Website link.
Now, let me stress one point. I answered your question based upon the limited information you provided. If you had asked anything else, such as how long it takes to publish and promote a new book, how long it takes to publish a high-quality book, or even how long it takes to see a book through from concept to marketplace, I'd have a totally different answer for you.
But, you didn't, so I didn't. And to everyone else who jumped the shark on this one, for shame! Reading things into a question that simply aren't there is how wars are started. Whether in real time or in social media.
Hmm. That's pretty good. Feel free to use it whenever you want. Of course, you'll need authorization from the author. But getting permission shouldn't be too tough. I happen to know him personally, and he's a pretty good guy. Honest.
Hope this helps answer what you asked. If not, you'd better rethink what you want to know and ask again, being a little more specific next time.
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.