Mental and Practical Planning for a Book’s Release

Carole’s recent post about letting go of control got me thinking about my own tendencies. My debut picture book, Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Taught the World About Kindness is scheduled for an April 2016 release, barring another delay. Fingers crossed. It’s been a long road since the editor first expressed interest in 2011. Now that the release is six months away, I’m in both reflective mode, and pre-release planning mode.

So much has changed for me since 2011, and certainly since I began playing with the story in 2008. I’ve grown and evolved as a writer. A lot! Since this book went under contract, I’ve written four books for Capstone, sold En Garde! Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words to Peachtree (that release has been moved to 2018) and, in August, sold King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara, also to Peachtree (2017 release). I’m honored to have been awarded the SCBWI book launch award for Step Right Up, and a Work-in-Progress Grant from SCBWI for my as-yet-unsold picture book biography, Tomboy: The Daring Life of Blanche Stuart Scott. My cup runneth over. It is unlikely it that I will ever see this abundance of good fortune again. And all before my debut trade book releases. I am inhaling the sweetness of it all because, for now, my words are insulated from the world.

As writers, the only thing we can control is the words on the page. Up to now, all positive feedback related to my books has come from my agent, editors, publishers, and other select publishing professionals. Even the inevitable rejections along the way have been contained within the industry. I am acutely aware that, in six months, when Step Right Up appears on book shelves, my words and I will be exposed to the court of public opinion. Yikes! I will have no control over reviews, awards, sales numbers, the reaction of young readers. None. Nada. Zilch! What if people hate my book? What if they call me names? What if my research is questioned, or someone criticizes…something? What if, what if, what if?

There is only one way I can think of to prepare myself emotionally for public responses to Step Right Up: to remind myself that I wrote the book for me, or for the ten-year-old girl I was. And for the children today who share my sensibilities: my love of animals, my curiosity and wonder, and my deep desire for a kinder world. A part of my heart went into this book. When review copies are finally sent out, I will tattoo this reminder onto my psyche in hopes that barbs won’t sting too badly, and that any (hopeful) accolades will stay in perspective. None of us should worry about what isn’t within our control. But we do. I do.

The other side of preparing for my book’s release is thinking ahead to marketing and promotional ideas. Fellow EMU Debuter Laurie Thompson once shared her fantastic spreadsheet detailing her marketing plan for How to be a Changemaker. I can’t find it now, but it was truly impressive. Sadly, I’m not as tech-minded, and I am the queen of shortcuts. For the past few years, this composition book has served as my drop-file repository of marketing ideas.

IMG_9678 FullSizeRender 2

You can tell that it was never intended for public viewing, hence the organized chaos of it. I approached it the way I approach my change jar, where I empty the contents of my wallet when it gets too heavy. I have categorized sections of the composition book by reviewers, swag, website development, book trailers, book fairs and conferences, lists of people who should be notified about my book, swag, social media tips, launch party ideas, nonprofits relating to my subject, school visits, awards, notes from publicists, and random flyers, directories, and miscellaneous information that might spark a promotional idea. Whew!  Unlike the change jar, I can’t put a quantitative value on my ideas. There are lots of guesses involved when planning a promotional effort. What works? What doesn’t?


Ultimately, in these months before my book releases into the world, there is quiet amid the anticipation. Amid the planning. Amid the adrenaline rush. Before My book becomes the world’s book, I am secretly coveting the unblemished euphoria of having created, while weaving a piece of my heart into the text. That’s what all writers do, when they write for themselves, right?


Donna Janell Bowman is a Texas author witIMG_0595h so many stories and so many curiosities in her head, they sometimes spill out in the form of books for young readers. You can learn more about her at her temporary website, which is currently being redesigned.


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21 responses to “Mental and Practical Planning for a Book’s Release

  1. Sounds like you are going to do great. You already are! Give thanks for all you’ve accomplished and hold on tight.


  2. Luke Reynolds

    “Weaving a piece of my heart into the text…” — so profoundly moving and inspiring Donna! Thanks for this beautiful post!


  3. Elly Swartz

    Donna, this is such an honest and thoughtful post about the inevitable blend of trepidation and pride felt before a story is shared with the world. Your heart and hard work will, no doubt, be warmly embraced by your readers. And… I love your composition notebook, my compilation of stored tips looks quite similar : )


  4. I wish you much success with “Step Right Up” and hope you’ll never get bad reviews of it!


  5. Donna-excellent post! A word of caution—Hang on tight to that composition book. It looks amazingly handy!
    And you’re right about this: “There are lots of guesses involved when planning a promotional effort. What works? What doesn’t?”
    So we just have to go with what feels right for us and be happy!


  6. On the other side of the debut book – the now published, now out in the real world side – I can SO relate to that fear of public critique. Agent Erin and Editor Annie (AE and EA!) both gave me SUCH wonderful advice about inhabiting this place…and that was to remember, always remember, that the people who you want to touch with your book (the ones who will FEEL your heart in it, who are just like the girl you were) will never ever let you know that they have been touched and moved and changed by your book. But they will be (touched, moved and changed.) They will feel like you wrote this book for THEM. For every public bit of criticism or praise you get, there will be scores of those silent people…the people that matter most. It has been strange to think of it that way, to focus on those people who I will never ever know about…but it has also been magical and even a relief to know they are out there.


  7. Donna: love this post! My first in a series of three picture books is scheduled to release this May and, like you, the initial elation has suddenly morphed into, “Oh my God! What if people hate it!??”

    So it’s good to hear other authors grapple with this pre-pub panic as well. All the best to you!


  8. mariagianferrari

    Donna! Your heart has touched mine, and I cannot wait for Step Right Up! As a fellow lover of animals, I know I’ll love it!! ❤ ❤


  9. What a truly inspirational and mindful post! Thank you for sharing – and I’m so happy for all your upcoming releases! Can’t wait to read them all! Congratulations!


  10. Pingback: Cynsational News & Giveaways – Michiko Katsu

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