The documentation plan is a useful and necessary project management tool before, during, and after a project. It presents information about the book’s scope, purpose, target audience, and goals, the book’s market niche, the standards and styles the book should adhere to, staffing requirements, the delivery schedule, and a detailed outline.
At the beginning, the documentation plan gives detailed information about the project to the publisher so they can make an informed choice about whether or not they want to publish the book. Once your idea has been approved, the plan serves to further clarify your and the publisher’s concept of the project. By writing down and agreeing to the scope and purpose, the goals for the book, and the schedule, you eliminate most of the causes of friction between you and the project editor.
During a project, a documentation plan is an effective scheduling and tracking tool. With each of the sections identified, you can gauge your progress compared to your original estimates. This information is helpful for avoiding writing crunches near the end of a project. With the schedule and outline information, you can also use the documentation plan as a tool for delegating sections of a project to subcontractors or other authors on the book.
Finally, the plan serves as a reminder of the scope, purpose, and goals of a book, a standard against which you can check your work. A documentation plan is essential for a post mortem analysis of the project. You can check your original assumptions and statements of the project against the finished product. By comparing your actual schedule against your estimates, you can pinpoint problems to avoid or plan for in the next project. This information is extremely valuable, as over the course of several books, you’ll learn how to estimate your time in each phase of a project very accurately. This can result in tighter schedules, which in turn can help you plan for more book contracts.