...to make a book?
That's a common (and tough question), and the answer varies greatly. If you discount all the years spent drawing and writing and living and practicing and getting rejected and drawing some more and all the previous books and animation and television and sketch work, well, then anywhere from half a year to 15 years.
I've just finished the initial stage of production on the final Knuffle Bunny book (no spoilers yet), a project I started writing in 2005. I held off production at the time because my agent and I thought the story for Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity would make a better follow up to the original Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. As the current story puts a definitive end to the saga (I'm looking at YOU Professor Moriarty), we'd thought we'd wait.
I started taking photographs for the book in April 2008. Seeing as the story involves some exotic locales, I also had to make some trips abroad (I thought I wasn't giving any spoilers. Hmm...) Because the Knuffle Bunny books are alot like film shoots and require lengthy negotiations with various people/corporations to secure locations and rights (I spent over 16 months trying to get one key location), I wasn't able to take the final photographs until this June.
Then there were the layouts, manuscripts, discussions/approvals from my editor.
Then... I was able to get started on the actual production of laying out the photos, making the rough sketches, doing the final inks, dealing with shadows and other digital collage, cleaning up the photographs, re-writing, etc...
This is what it looked like [click to enlarge]:
Yup, everytime I finish a step I reward myself with getting to fill in a little box (I've posted about my production flow charts before). You'll note I started before my final photo-shoot in June because, well, I had to in order to stay on schedule.
This week I handed the whole thing in. Now all that's left is revisions, rewrites, a few new drawings, printing, publishing marketing stuff and in about a year the book will be on the shelves (Just in time to coincide with the touring production of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical).
That is if we come up with a title....