The Book Project Folder: How to Keep it all Together

As I sit here in my office after moving it from one side of the house to the other, I realize I have a lot, and I mean a lot of book ideas. Not just fiction, but a lot of non-fiction books as well. I don’t know if I will ever have the time to actually write them all, or do I know if I will want to. I do believe I am fortunate enough to have enough ideas that I should never find myself in a place of not having something to write for lack of ideas.

I recently overhauled my production schedule. This change became necessary after re-evaluating my goals across the entirety of my life. After rephrasing and reprioritizing goals, I set up basic action plans and general scheduling to achieve those goals. I still have to go through and solidify those action plans and make a hard schedule, but the process has begun.

I want to share with you, one of the ways I keep track of those book ideas. This process is reserved for those ideas that have some substance to them but aren’t quite ready to get their own Scrivener file. For me, this means they could have a digital file, but I’m not ready to write it yet. Plus, I am one of those people who also need a physical file of information.


How do you keep track of future projects?

I do my best to record an idea in some way when it first presents itself. Whether that means jotting it down on a post it, in my notebook, or even emailing myself a note. I know I will forget, so I know I must get it down somewhere.

What about you? How to you keep track of possible story or book ideas?

Most of those ideas eventually find their way into my writing notebook where I try to flesh the idea out a bit more. Once every quarter or so, I go through my notebook and take any ideas that feel like they have more potential and create a book folder for it. I know a story is ready for this part of the process if I can at least develop a working title for it.

What is inside the folder?

There are technically two folders for the book folder. The first is a plain file folder, the second a project folder. (The project folders vary depending on where I bought them, but in general they all work the same.) I do prefer the expandable project folders because I will keep printed drafts and notes within the file before transferring it to the book binder.

On the front of the file folder I staple the Title Fact Sheet. This sheet contains all the title information including publishing information and basic marketing information. It is basically a quick reference sheet.

On the backside of the file folder cover, I staple a second version of the Title Fact Sheet/Management form. It is basically a list of information, rarely is everything filled out, but more so checked off.

On the back of the inside of the file folder I have the Production Schedule attached. Each sheet covers two years. If a story is going to take longer than two years, I will attach more copies of the schedule.

The first section of the Schedule lays out the Editorial/Design and Manufacturing Track. This includes the drafting, publishing, and production stages.

The second section covers the Sales/Marketing Track. This process usually begins before the book is ready to be published, which is why is it listed for both years.

The second year has the Sales/Marketing Track that covers post-publication sales and marketing tasks. It also lists the Post Publication Track. It is a broad range that I have not clearly defined. I will include anything including audio book creation and tie-ins for series. This section could also include entering contests, interviews, signings, physical product tie-ins, and so on. While some tasks could be considered marketing, they cross lines.

Loose within the file folder: Production Checklist, Marketing Plan Checklist, P&L (profit and loss), and checklist of Tasks to Include on Publishing Timeline.

Once the book becomes an active project, the files will fill up quickly. More documents find their way into the file as I check items off each of the checklists.

The P&L

The P&L statement is not something everyone needs. If you plan to submit your work to a publisher (any size), they will create their own. But if you plan to self, independently, or use your own small press, a P&L statement is a very valuable tool. The version I use is fairly in depth. I slightly modified a version I saw in Publishing for Profit by Thomas Woll. (If you plan to publish by yourself, regardless of means, I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy of this book by the way.) Not everyone will want or need all the information on the version I use, and it isn’t impossible to find other versions just by doing a quick Google search.

Putting together your P&L statement is not necessarily an easy task, especially when you are not sure where to find the information you need to properly fill it out. Depending on what your publishing goals are, using every field I have on mine might not even make sense, it may make sense to have more fields. Every publishing house uses their own version, and I highly recommend you doing the same. The purpose is to determine before you publish, what you can expect to make by publishing and selling the book. Will the book be profitable or not? Before spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on editing, covers, and printing, determining a realistic estimate of revenue the book can produce is key if one of your goals is to make a profit from writing.

Your P&L can also help you determine a marketing and advertising budget. Because a lot of research is required to complete the P&L, if you have already published books, you will want to use the data from those previously published works. If you have not published before, or don’t have a lot out there yet, researching similar books is key.

I have to admit, this task can be daunting. To make it a little easier on myself, I start filling in the basics first. I don’t try to go line by line either. Rather I fill in what I can when I get data gathered. I also don’t go too deep into creating one until after the first draft is complete. I don’t outline, so the way I intend a story to go, may not be where it goes. (I’ve had genres change, standalones branch into a series and vice versa, novels turn into novellas, and so on.)

A key point I’d like to make is that if you will be using POD printing, determining your manufacturing costs won’t be easy until you get closer to having your final formatted copy. You can usually get a decent estimate if you know the approximate word count total and the average word count per page the final copy will have, along with format and trim size. I tend to err on the side of caution and over estimate a little. (Too much can be bad too though.) For example if I think the final copy will come to 500 pages, I’ll get a quote for 550.

After I have as much information filled out on my P&L as I need, I create my budgets. I do one overall budget, marketing/promotion/advertising budget, production/manufacturing budget, and a time budget.

Project Folder

The project is the title or working title. I also include a series title if there is one or I know what it is.

The task chart is where I will keep track of when each step starts and stops. I don’t put anything here until that step actually starts. Otherwise I end up crossing things out.

Project Contacts is where I will list contact information for anyone other than myself that works on the project. Editors, cover designer, proofreaders, and so on. I don’t include beta readers or reviewers here, but I would include someone who critiqued the work. (I would keep a separate list for betas and reviewers.)

Documents enclosed usually consists only of the most recent complete draft.

The notes section is self-explanatory. The back of this particular folder is also lined for more notes. Sometimes I use it a lot, other times I never have anything on either notes section. Usually any notes I make on the file consist of when and how I contacted/communicated with a freelancer or a research note. I might include the expected return date from an editor or cover.


Each of the checklists I have are very broad. Not everything listed on them is necessary for each project. It is just easier for me to have one main checklist and only do what is required or helpful for that particular project. I do plan to create separate fiction and non-fiction checklists just to narrow them down some, but for now these work fine for me.

Based on your goals, I would suggest creating checklists that works for you. What can you and what are you willing, wanting, or needing to do? Use these as a starting point. Make yours as general or specific as you want.

After I update my checklists, I will upload the new versions on the downloads page for you.

Title Fact Sheet

Back to that front page. The top section is where all the book information is kept. Title, publishing season, pricing, formats, initial order information, and so on. If you plan to use POD only, the shipping and initial order information could be used for any bulk purchases you plan to make for family and friends or book signings.

The rest of the form is where you keep copy that you will most likely need over and over again. It isn’t necessary to write out the entirety of each area on here. I usually just list the file information from my computer and where to find that file or files.


Until I have completed the first draft in Scrivener, notes such as character sketches, maps, relationship trees, and so on all find themselves stored here or in a notebook dedicated to that project. After I complete that first draft, compile it, and print it, I begin set up for the book binder.

The folders themselves remain in my active drafts file box at my desk even after the binder is set up and in use. I keep a complete copy of the last draft version in the project folder, while in the binder the current updated copy is being compiled as each scene is edited or rewritten.

Once the book is published I do keep the proof copy in the project file and move that section of the file from my desk to the filing cabinet. The basic file folder with the checklists, P&L, and other forms stays for now.

The ultimate purpose for the Book Project Folder is to have the relevant information I need for that project right at my fingertips for the creation to the publishing phases. While I also put together a book binder for each project at some point, there is generally a lot of information within the binder. The binder is more about what is inside the story, rather than what is happening outside the book. The business side of it, if you will.

Although it would need some modification, the folder set up could help if you plan to submit to publishers and/or agents.

Feel free to download any of the forms or checklists I show you here and modify them to fit your needs and wants. Download your free set here. Book Project Folder Docs

And as always, let me know if I can go into more detail or if you have any suggestions or recommendations of your own to share.

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