The Surprising Answer To “How Long Should It Take To Write A Book?”

By: Dan Kennedy on: June 18th, 2013 15 Comments

Being a published author is a very powerful thing.

In many peoples’ “perception”, it directly translates to expert status. Even people who never bother to read your articles or book will attribute enhanced status to you because you’ve been published.

If you’ve been following me, this isn’t news to you. You’ve heard me say repeatedly that you should write a book.

Being able to add the title of “author” to your credentials can increase your perceived worth, which means you can charge more for your products and services and lower and even eliminate resistance to price.

Books can be used to position your products and services, like an extended sales letter.

And of course, the biggest reason for authoring a book is that it’s one of the fastest ways to raise your status to “expert”.

Yet, many business owners, despite knowing this, will never write a book. It’s impossible for me to tackle all the reasons why this occurs, however a big stumbling block I will cover here is the time factor.

Maybe you think you are too busy, can’t write fast enough to complete a book in a sufficient amount of time to make it worthwhile. Or you think you need to take time off in order to get it done and wonder who will “man the store” while you take time to write.

If you’ve ever thought about writing a book, you’ve undoubtedly read that it takes “6 months to a year” to write a book. Or you’ve heard the stories from authors like J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, who said it took her 5 years to write her first book Harry Potter book.

But writing a book doesn’t have to take a long time, nor should it. Writing slow only earns you less money.

Another myth worth debunking is that writing slow creates better books.

Sara Gruen wrote her first draft of her novel in 4 weeks. Her book, Water for Elephants, is a magnificent novel, became a number-one bestseller, won awards, and birthed a movie.

Anthony Burgess was badly in need of cash and the advance offered for his novel required a manuscript—so he averaged 2,765 words per day, to get the famous A Clockwork Orange done in just 3 weeks.

Ray Bradbury had two noisy kids in his home, so he rented time on a typewriter in the UCLA library for ten-cents an hour to work on his novel. The ticking meter spurred him to great speed—he averaged 5,086 words per day to complete Fahrenheit 451 in 9 frantic days. A New York Times critic sniffed, “This is not a precisely designed work.” But it was a bestseller and is a much-read classic.

Each of the 76 novels featuring Inspector Maigret was churned out by Georges Simenon in less than two weeks. The most successful series sold 860,000 copies in the United States.

Robert Louis Stevenson had a sleepless night, disrupted by a reoccurring nightmare. The next morning he began the novel he finished in less than a week: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Source WIRED Magazine 1-12)

Personally, I write one draft, print it out, rearrange the order of some pages, make the fewest corrections by hand as possible, write “bridges” needed to segue one chapter to the next, and hand it off to Carla to clean up, and off to the publisher it goes. I write my books in approximately a week’s time, about 30 hours.

Perfectionism is rarely profitable which is why I rarely do a second draft of any book.  And I set a pre-determined budget of time for each book. When I use up the time, the book is done. Wherever I may be when the clock’s used up, only two more words are permitted: The End.

It is important to author a book. It’s equally important to create a pre-determined timeline and find the “Good Enough Spot”, the line of quality to stop working on your book, because going beyond these fails to profoundly interest your clients, customers or patients. After all, many will only be interested in the fact that you’ve authored a book.

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Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

15 Responses

  1. Sandy Fox says:

    Here are some other ideas to think of when considering writing a book.
    1. Hire a ghost writer. You can provide the basic information and let someone else do the organization, writing and polishing. Good ghost writers will write in your “voice” so it sounds like you, but you don’t have to do the work.
    2. Organize your articles, videos, or webinars into a book format. Again, it’s something you can do yourself, or hire a copywriter to do.
    3. Arrange what you want to say into a table of contents. That helps you organize your thoughts and your writing. Then you can write one “bite” at a time.
    If you are interested in talking to a copywriter who has written and ghost written books, feel free to contact me at

    • ALI says:

      Amazing specially when told by Dan.You know why? Honestly it took months for me read “Time management for Entrepreneurs” because of rich content!

  2. “I write my books in approximately a week’s time, about 30 hours.” Amazing! Have a lot to learn from Dan when it comes to efficiency and time management. (That, and marketing, of course.)

  3. Gregg Zban says:

    I’ve been working on my first book on marketing and the idea of setting a time limit for completion might just be the push I need to complete it. Thanks!

  4. Michael Rich says:

    I have written a few niche eBooks. Today I am conceptualizing my first hard copy (non digital) book. Up the same alley as yourself, Dan – revitalizing people’s lives and business.

    Really appreciate the timing of Brian Tracy & Brendon Burchard. Signed up!

  5. Ian Marshall says:

    the article was awesome! packed with time-tested wisdom. love the writing stats on how long it took other writers to churn out their books (where’d you find those stats bc i would love to see some others)

    the last book i wrote i did on my blackberry over a month duration while travelling on the train home from the city

    i maximized the time i had and pushed it to the good enough spot like Dan talked about

  6. Wayne Evans says:

    Hey Dan,

    I have published 2!

    I must say you are right. I fart arsed around with the first one so much I nearly lost interest… but I learned my mistakes.

    The second one (whilst short) was done in a shake of a nat’s tail and I just love being imperfect… Don’t get me wrong, I am still working in the finance industry too, which needs to be precise, but I have moved a very long way over to the median.

    Plenty of scope for more, so thanks again for the tips…



  7. […] that stop people from adding that one magic word to their title. (If you missed that article, read “The Surprising Answer To “How Long Should It Take To Write A Book?” […]

  8. Terri says:

    But, what is “published” as you refer to it?
    Being picked up by a publishing house and having a hard copy of a book that people can physically pick up?
    Or being able to create a series of mini ebooks that you post online?

    I have a novel that I sidelined because the cost of paying someone to professionally edit it to get it to a standard that would earn a sniff from any publishing house was prohibitive to me in the past.

    Now I have set a goal; I’m putting money aside and I am getting the novel professionally edited within 6mnths because I want the book printed by a publishing house… so that I can claim to be a published author of the traditional kind.
    My online books are a different matter.

  9. Carl says:

    How about hiring someone to write or create your book? Anyway, one of the aspects that add months or even years before you finish your book is perfecting your draft. Editing can be endless, whether it’d be grammar, perfect words and story, unless you assign a deadline to yourself and decide enough is enough.

  10. tahlia says:

    thank you.

  11. effa forkuo says:

    that’s a great piece. personally, i think its gonna help me a lot because i am now going to start writing my first book, especially with the end time setting.

  12. I truly got into this article. I found it very interesting and loaded with unique points of interest. I like to digest material that makes me think. ThanksThank you for writing this great content.

  13. Amelia says:

    I can’t say I agree with the mass-production time-frenzy book theory. It depends on what kind of book you’re writing. It also depends on whether you really have a bee in your bonnet about the story you want to write, or if you just want to get something published and collect the money. If all the info is there in front of you, or in your mind, sure, go for it. But there’s something to be said for JK Rowling’s five years. Well, for one, she was working at the same time, so full time it would have taken a lot less time. But think of the detail, the complex story, the many, many layers that she put into that book. There’s no way you could get that level of complexity into a 30 day book. That book is like the tip of an iceberg, with a million hours’ imagination underneath.

    However, not counting the hours spent doing the brain work, I do agree that a book drafted quickly as possible can be a good thing, as it creates more of a realistic correlation between the amount of time and attention give by both author and reader. If an author writes each sentence painstakingly slowly, and the reader reads quickly, then more likely than not, half the book is in the author’s mind, not in the book – if that makes sense.

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