When I was getting my PhD in science, we always set the goal of 5 figures for each article we submitted for acceptance to peer-reviewed journals.
My advisor and the group he was associated with felt that 5 figures “told the story”. Five was likely an arbitrary figure, but it worked for us. We had a lot of accepted publications over the years.
This number also provided a guide for when we could consider we were “done” and ready to publish a given set (science experiments in a lab are not discrete- things overlap, build upon one another, and roll forward from previous work ).
The other thing the criteria of 5 figures did was it stopped us from telling lies to ourselves that we were ready to publish when we were in fact not. If we couldn’t pull five solid figures from the data, then we had not done enough to get a publication.
And this is where I am leading into the discussion of self-publishing. I have had several people ask, “How long exactly did it take?” or “How did you get this done so fast?”
My answers are “Not really that long at all” and “I already had all my data”.
What I am trying to say is that self-publishing did not take me that long because I already had everything I needed- a complete story (in my mind, at least).
I had all the artistic figures done, and a good portion of the writing. I just needed to link it together.
You can begin your self-publishing journey before you have everything complete. You don’t need “all the data and your five figures.”
However, like my advisor used to say, “You can’t make 3 figures worth of data into 5. And you can’t make 3 figures into a complete story. So, get back to work.” 🙂
You also can not publish a complete book from incomplete information.
If you start the self-publishing process before you have everything complete, i.e. you really need to write 5 more chapters of your book, that is fine, but realize you will complete the self-publishing process more slowly. Not because the process is slow, but because you did not have all the data you needed.
If it is important to you that self-publishing is a quick process, then make sure you have all “data” you need before you begin.
Otherwise, as my advisor would say if you try to publish too soon, because he grew up on a farm, “You are trying to get milk from an empty udder.”