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  • Donna Hanson

Look at your book as though it were a product.

Updated: Aug 29


So my last two blog posts were at the request of members from book signings and my writer's group on my writing process. This wraps up that request unless you have questions--feel free to leave a comment or send me a note.


So when does the process used to manage a project used to build any product actually begin? For that, I'd need to go back to my roots as a project manager and say that if you look at a book as a product, then the product development process, regardless of which methodology or terminology you embrace, is basically the same:

  1. Concept

  2. Low cost/low effort into the project (okay to turn back!)

  3. Preliminary Design

  4. Low cost/minimal effort into the project (okay to turn back!)

  5. Prototype Development

  6. Moderate cost/significant effort into the project (okay to turn back!)

  7. Development (There's no turning back now!)

  8. High effort/committed to finishing the product.

  9. Costs include software, editors, marketing, graphic artists, travel, networking events, etc.

  10. Testing

  11. Revisions, revisions, wine, and more revisions. Include beta readers in this part of the process. May also be when you solicit agents and potential booksellers.

  12. Release

  13. It ain't over yet. Book signings, travel, podcasts, social media posts, blog articles, and don't forget teasers for your next book so your audience doesn't loose interest in you.

You'll note that I've indicated "gates" after each stage in the process. The reason is that until you actually commit to the book (the development stage), you can always just stop. Put the book on hold. Write something else. There will be some costs incurred to this point, but they're minimal by comparison to what you'll spend if you just push ahead without questioning whether or not to continue with this book, or maybe go another direction. In a more traditional product development process, this is where contracts are signed and big money changes hands.


If we were building a bridge or software application, we'd also need a "maintenance" stage of the development process. I suppose you could change the design of the book cover to add marketing information, reviews, or maybe add a forward, but the meat of the book won't change.


The concept stage of any product development process is where brainstorming takes place and you sketch out costs for the project and anticipated revenue for the product. Even if you have an agent and are accepted by a large publishing house, you're going to have costs: software licenses, conferences, pens, paper, and wine. And, you're going to have marketing costs during the project to court your audience, and post-product release for all of those many book signings. Don't forget business cards or whatever you're going to use as a leave behind for your readers, and don't skimp on your social media presence. Again, even if you secure an agent, these days you're going to be responsible for marketing yourself and your work.


The design and development stages are where you actually put words on a page--where you write the story. The testing stage is when you would send your draft to editors and beta readers. This is probably a good time to find an agent, or book designer if you're going to self-publish. Finally, it's time to release your work to the world.


I've only published one work under my own name and would say that, much like any product release, 80% of the work (and often 80% of the total cost of the project) comes after the product is complete. What I mean by that is as hard as it was to write the book, I've found it more difficult to motivate myself sell it and, to sell myself as a writer. This is where an agent would be helpful, but I've chosen to self-publish my first book, and to write these blogs as a prototype of sorts. Do I have what it takes to be a traditionally-published author? Is that my goal, or is my goal to write whether I'm published or not? Do I want to make that time commitment? Am I going to make any money from my writing? Really??? How much? These are all questions every person, every company who has ever manufactured and sold a product asks themselves: why am I doing this, and what are my expectations for the product?


Note: I earned my PMP (Project Management Professional) certification in 1996, but had been an aerospace contractor and project manager for 15 years before I was certified. I actually like the waterfall methodology of product development, but like any tool, use what works for you.


Another note: you like the image I used for this blog? It's a teaser...see how I did that?I'm writing another book. Stay tuned!!

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