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The Anatomy of a Book Launch, Part I

surprising discoveries

Would you like to write and launch a book?

I have recently finished writing the fourth volume of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms, so I am neck-deep in finalizing the book and preparing it for launch.

Launching a book is a complex process with many moving parts. But it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business. Your book is your gift to the world. It is an excellent way to serve others by sharing your expertise on a subject that others want to learn about. However, the most worthwhile accomplishments in life are often the most difficult (think: marriage, parenting, and healthy living).

I’ve been through the book-launching process a few times, so I am going to break it down – from idea to launch – into manageable bite-sized pieces for you, because as they say…

The best way to eat an elephant is… one bite at a time!

Writing the first draft of a book is the easy part. I know, I know, if you are in the middle of that process, that is the last thing you want to hear, but it’s true. I read a great quote a couple weeks ago. Shannon Hale, author of 20 books, said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

You can't launch a book until you write it!

Your first draft of your book is the sand-shoveling phase. You set your brain to writing mode and you just empty out onto paper (or word document) the information that you have researched and collected for your book. Of course, some preliminary organization goes a long way to keeping your first draft manageable. Scrivener keeps me organized through the entire first draft of my book. If you would like to read more about the initial writing phase, here is a 4-part blog series on the subject of writing your book:


Once the first draft is written, it is time to re-write the whole thing! Because now that you have dumped your thoughts on paper, you need to go back through it in editing mode and rewrite sections and rephrase sentences so that it flows better. Tip: you should never attempt to operate your brain in both writing and editing modes at the same time – you will inhibit both your creative and analytical brain functions.

Once you have a second draft that you are mostly happy with, it is time to hand your book-baby over to an editor. Now it is her turn to tear it to shreds. (Eek, sorry!)

(In part II of this blog post, I’ll discuss my unusual, but fun crowdsourced editing technique. This process won’t replace professional editing, but it can make a big difference in your final draft and book launch.)

After a few editing cycles and back-and-forth sparring with your editor, you have a finished manuscript. But it’s not ready for print or launch yet.

If you are self-publishing, there are still several things that you need to accomplish before you hold your book in your hands and present it to the world. (If you are traditional or hybrid publishing, there are still many things to do, but you as the author are mostly finished for now.) You cannot do all of these jobs yourself, just as you cannot edit your own book (don’t even try it!).

For me, the next phase is to mind-map the whole project (if I haven’t done so already). At this point in time, I consider all of the parts of the book that I want to include, either in the text itself or on a supplemental CD or download page.

mind-map for book launch

For example, I want to include front matter (endorsements, copyright page, table of contents, map 2-page spread, dedication, introduction), and back matter (glossary, about the author, colophon). I also want to include:

  • Cover
  • Page layout
  • Large full-color photos with captions
  • Links to videos and additional photos
  • Narration questions
  • Pronunciation guide
  • Extra reading lists
  • Hands-on activities
  • Copywork
  • Timelines
  • Recipes
  • Menus
  • Maps

On my mind map (I use mind-meister), I assign each of these tasks to someone, either myself, my assistant or a freelancer who specializes in that task. I can do the page layout because this is something I learned way-back-when I was a teenager working for someone else, but most people will outsource this part of a book. There is definitely an art and a science to making text and photos look balanced on a page.

I also assign myself the maps and I assemble the photos I want to use. Everything else I assign to someone else. I set deadlines for everything so that we can keep the project and the launch on schedule. Then we all get to work. Project management is key, but it’s not difficult when you use great tools like mind-meister or trello.

Next week, I will continue with part II of Anatomy of a Book Launch by discussing the marketing and pre-selling aspects of publishing a book. I’ll reveal my unusual crowdsourced editing technique, my favorite video software and my process for paying the printing bill with pre-order book sales.

Stay tuned!

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