How Long Does It Take to Write a Book?

I was recently contacted by a potential client who’s looking for someone to produce a book for him. In addition to book production, he asked me about ghost writing.
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Generally speaking, I turn down this type of work because I find it difficult to fit in someone else’s writing parameters. But I put in a bid because he asked and we’ll see.

During our discussion, he asked THE question—how long does it take to write a book?

The short answer is: It depends.

It depends on the type of book.

It depends on the amount of research needed and where those resources are located.

It depends on how much information the client provides.

It depends on how clear the client is about her or his ultimate goals.

It depends…it depends…it depends.

Let me share an example with you so you can see why “It depends” is the shortest answer to this question.

Years ago, I was approached to ghost write a book by a man who claimed he had discovered the answer to life’s most persistent question. (It’s gravity, in case you were wondering.)

It was the first time I had considered ghost writing, and it was quite the lesson in the difference between perception and reality.

First of all, the gentleman had absolutely no clue how a book is created. (This is not unusual. We’re surrounded by books but unless you’ve done this kind of work, there’s no way to know what’s involved. Same goes for building a house or learning brain surgery or figuring out how to engineer a car or sculpt in stone.)

It took a while but I finally figured out that this man just wanted someone to listen to him talk. (He once threw out the tidbit that his wife had had to listen to a number of his theories, and I got the distinct impression that she’d grown quite weary of doing that.)

But here’s the kicker—he claimed to have done all sorts of research and to have accumulated all sorts of notes for me to use. When I pressed to see the material, he literally produced three napkins, a few scraps of paper, and a matchbook cover covered in scrawl.

Then he pressed me for an estimate to create a book based on “these materials.”

Ahem.

In general, it’s not out of line to expect to spend a year researching and writing a book. How much is a year of your work life worth?

Same with me.

Let’s just say he was shocked—SHOCKED—to discover that creating a book that was readable (not even good, just readable) was going to cost more than the $1,000 he was willing to spend.

It depends.

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