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Building Your Publishing Program:
A Step-by-Step Guide

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Whether you’re planning a publishing program for three books or 300, the same process and principles apply. It always pays to plan ahead and know where you are going. When you create a planning process, a planning routine, and finally a publishing plan, you will be well on the way to your publishing destination.


Step 1: Create a Planning Process

It’s important to establish a process that will let you plan consistently far enough in advance to meet your publication and sales targets. For example, let’s say that it takes your company about 12 eight months on average to publish a book, from the time you sign on the author to the time you have books in your warehouse. You will then generally need to think at least 18 12 months ahead, assuming that it will take about sixa few months to find the right author and negotiate the contract.


Activity Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Prospecting X X X X X X X X X X X X
Identifyingy authors X X
Selecting authors X
Signing contracts X
Manuscripts to p bound books X X X X X X X X


So what do you need to do to create your planning process? Some items should be year-round planning activities while you can focus on others during one-, two-, or six-month timeframes. For instance, at all points in the schedule, you’ll want to record your thoughts and observations regarding new book projects, whether they’re based on conversations, articles in newspapers and magazines, or any other source. a mu

To make materials accessible when you need them, oSetting up file folders is arganize them in file folders with headings such asit isit:

  • Articles from newspapers, magazines, and websitesonline
  • Author pProspects
  • Project files for each book that you are working ons.
  • Trends and statistics.


Step 2: Create a Planning Routine

Establish a routine that works for you. It probably makes sense to review publishing prospects, ideas, and plansplans formally as follows:

  • Weekly or bi-weekly
  • Monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

In addition, it’s a good idea to have brainstorming sessions with the entire staff once a year to generate new lists of book ideas. And, of course, it’s wise to pay attention to–and keep track of–book ideas that come from sales calls and sales reps.


Step 3: Create a Publishing Plan

Once you have both a planning process and a planning routine, focus on elements of the bigger picture, specifically:


  • Vision and mission.


      Do you have a mission statement for your company? Do you have a mission statement for your book-publishing program? You need both and they should be consistent.


  • Audience.


      Do you have a clearly defined audience for your books and series? Are you targeting consumers, professionals, or both?


  • Scope.


      How many books do you plan to publish each year? How many each season? How many books do you plan to publish in the next three to five years?


  • Product.


      What is the “mix” of titles you’re planning to publish? Are they single titles, titles in a series, or both? What is the format; are they hardcover, paperback, or some of each? What is the price range? The average page count? Which books wWill the books be revised?


  • Timing.


    Are there specific promotional opportunities, special occasions, or times of year that you can take advantage of toin launching particular books? Do you have a schedule for revised editions?

When you’ve thought these issues through, you can then create a publishing plan by using this sample worksheet.


Publishing Plan Worksheet
Title Author

Publication Date

Page Count

Format Price

Priority (A, B, or C)

Revision Timeframe

Status Notes


In fact, it’s a good idea to review and revise your publishing plan as often as necessary as you gather feedback, as the market shifts, and as your own thinking changes. Enjoy the journey!


Kathleen A. Welton is a 25-year veteran of the publishing industry who has been involved in all aspects of the business, from building publishing programs and working with acquisition teams to sales, marketing, and licensing. She has helped create publishing plans and best-selling books for at Dearborn Trade, John Wiley & Sons, Adams Media Corporation, and Random House.

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