The One About List Launch
Hello! So in my last post about how books are scheduled, I mentioned something called "launch," which seems like a fairly worthwhile topic to cover, as people often volley it around without knowing what it actually entails.
Publishing houses have a series of meetings for every season of books that they publishing. The "biggest" of these meetings, you could argue, is list launch. There's a lot of preparation that goes into it, especially from the editorial side. I won't bore you with the details of titlesheets and selling points, but in addition to writing presentations and working on other editor-type things for the company's internal systems, the editors will, ideally, have all of the manuscripts for that season "in." "In" usually means that the uncopyedited manuscript is posted somewhere on the company's network for employees to download and read before they hear about them at the meeting. Buuuuuut many manuscripts aren't ready pre-Launch. it's not always a big deal if they're not, but it's definitely a nice bonus if you can get them up in time--it leads to a better discussion on how to position the book, and people can pipe up and say that they enjoyed the story, too. In the case of a book not being ready, an editor will post a proposal or chapter samples to tide people over.
Anyway, so while this prep is going on, the "launch deck" is being created. Simply put, it's just the Power Point presentation with all of the titles (because, did I mention, EVERY title on a given season is presented?), organized by imprint, in the order they'll be presented. This gets printed off and distributed at Launch for people to follow along with and take notes on. Any employee that lives and works outside of NYC--such as a sales rep--is sent a package with this information in it, and they follow along via teleconference.
Simply put, the purpose of Launch is to allow editors to introduce upcoming titles to the entire division for any given season. When you're an author and you hear that your book is being "launched," it doesn't mean they're shooting it off somewhere for public consumption. It just means that it's being presented by your editor (or a stand-in for your editor if they can't) to Sales, Marketing, Publicity, and the other important divisions that make the publishing world go 'round.
By the way--I only had to give one presentation, right towards the end of my tenure as an EdAss, and it was the single most terrifying experience I had in the entire time I worked there (including interviewing for the position). The mood of Launch totally depends on the house, as I've come to understand. That Launch... tough crowd. At my new company, we got candy.
Anyway, what an editor chooses to say about the book totally depends on--you guessed it--the editor. Some like to talk about why they fell in love with the project, or what it has going for it commercially; some even choose to read a passage that's particularly lovely, or give the back-story on how they came to acquire it. The more unique and interesting a presentation is, the more likely the different departments are to remember a title. Everyone else just sits back, eats their snacks, takes notes, and basks in the glow of how awesome the list is. I really like it when people get a discussion going about the titles, personally. This is especially true with Sales, who often talk about how an account received the author's former books, or question whether or not it might be a good idea to change a title or cover design.
(This is also the point at which we realize we have, like, ten books on the Great Depression on the same list.)
(Also, it's pretty typical for books to be presented at multiple Launches if they move seasons.)
Launch itself is an all-day event (at some houses, it's a two-day event!), but after a week or so passes, Marketing, School & Library Marketing, Publicity, and Sales all start to do brainstorming within their groups. That's the other important component of Launch--the brainstorming for each book that comes afterwards. School & Library Marketing, for instance, might pick out authors they feel they should pitch for conferences; Marketing, taking a look at the list as a whole, might realize they have a ton of Zebra books, so they dream up plans to do a joint-Zebra-Book promotion or poster they can give to Sales to use for accounts. So on and so forth. They'll later present these plans at a different meeting down the line (Pre-Sales and/or Sales Conference)
So, yeah! That's pretty much it. Launch is nothing to be worried about as an author, but it's ~shrouded in mystery~ thanks to the fact that no one outside of the company really gets a peek inside.