The Book Launch Failure Nobody Knows About…Until Now

Author: Meredith Noble

Author Meredith Noble


In the world of independent publishing, Meredith Noble is defying the odds with her book, How to Write a Grant:Become a Grant Writing Unicorn. Quickly becoming a #1 release on Amazon in its category and garnering a multitude of reviews, here she shares some of the challenges in her journey to success as well as valuable takeaways.

If you bought my book between September 30th and October 16th, you are the lucky owner of a limited edition, never-to-be-published again version! Why are early adopters so lucky you ask? 

Now see if you can’t guess my failure by having a look at the back cover.

Can you spot why? Nobody else seemed to notice either. Zoom in a little. The issue is that in redesigning the cover, we accidentally dropped the last sentence of the book description. 

Ugh. Nooooooo!!!!!

I did not cry right away. I was realistic about figuring out how to fix the problem. 

After figuring out how to correct the issue for Amazon and IngramSpark – the two outlets I use for self-publishing, I went home and cried. Big ugly tears. I cursed myself for making such an embarrassing mistake. 

My book is about grant writing and I emphasize always having an independent review of your work. 

I had failed at my own advice! 

In between tears, I thought, “Is this supposed to be one of those moments where failure is a lesson I am thankful for later on?”

Wrapped in a blanket, I opened Medium and queried the term “failure.” I found nuggets of comfort. Surely nobody would write a post that said, “No you ARE a failure! Nothing to be gained here!”

A stand out quote from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner, said:

“There’s no way that you can live an adequate life without many mistakes. In fact, one trick in life is to get so you can handle mistakes.”

The positive talk on failure certainly helped. 

What helped the most, however, was a dose of perspective. I was in the midst of reading the book, Pieces of Me – Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters by Lizbeth Meredith.

Wow. Now let’s have a conversation about personal resiliency. About mental and physical toughness so beyond what most of us will ever know. It was a deeply moving story and a good reminder that my book cover problems were quite insignificant. 

While insignificant in the big scheme of things, failure is a hard emotion to shake when you feel like you let others down. 

135 people volunteered to be on my book launch team. They contributed 57 reviews on Amazon within two weeks and shared the book broadly among their social and professional networks. 

All provided encouragement. All had great ideas. It became OUR book and OUR launch. I would not have reached #1 Bestseller for Nonprofit Fundraising & Grants if not for this supportive group. 

Around the time I discovered the back cover error, I was losing steam and did not know what more I should do to promote the book. I was working late into the evenings and weekends.  

The trouble with a book launch is that there is not really an end to it. You are always thinking about how to better promote the book. I know for my book to be successful, I need to be in the top three spots on Amazon for the search term “grant writing.” That is not an easy feat. 

I ordered 50 books to have on hand for conferences or workshops I teach on grant writing. The box arrived and I could not bring myself to opening it. I did not want to relive my negativity around the pathetic back cover issue. 

What a waste of printing. I cannot possibly share these copies. Or so I thought…

My partner Lucas and his twin brother Lee urged me to open the box. I did so begrudgingly, and the first thing I noticed was a highlighter mark through the title “How to Write a Grant.” I was insta-furious with Amazon, wondering if everyone’s copies were being delivered with highlighter marks. 

As my eyes scrolled down the back cover, however, I realized that Lee had provided a new ending to the unfinished paragraph. It was hilarious! 

The second book had a new back cover designed by Lucas. Combined, these books made me cry again.

This time, however, it was tears of laughter. 

Failure really does take a little distance to fully appreciate. Here are my big takeaways from the experience: 

Take Full Responsibility. If you ask me what my core values are, I will tell you they are taking responsibility, hard work, and making each move count. I learned all three growing up a ranch kid in Wyoming. Lucas updated the book cover for me and made the design error. Not once did I feel angry or mad at him. It was not his fault. It was my responsibility to check his work before sending it to the printer. I am thankful that perspective is in my hard wiring. 

Always Have Independent Review Of Your Work. It was not sufficient to review the back cover myself. I should have sent it to my editor, Elena Hartford. My editor was busy after I fixed the cover, and I was antsy to get the new file uploaded to Amazon. I resisted uploading the new file, however, or I would not have learned my lesson. I waited until Elena could bless the new cover with her magical editing eyes. 

It Is Okay to Feel Sorry for Yourself for Exactly a Half Day. I have no regrets about laying in bed wallowing in my own self-pity. I read an amazing book. I gained perspective. I thought a lot. I recharged my batteries. When you move fast, mistakes are an inevitable reflection of making good progress. Go ahead and feel sorry for yourself from time to time, and then get back in the saddle and make each move count. 

Leverage Humor to Make Light of Learning Opportunities. It was an especially sweet finale to this whole learning experience to receive the edited copies from Lee and Lucas. They are very special copies that I will keep forever. If someone in your life fails, see if you can’t find a way to use humor to laugh at the situation with them. 

If you want a copy of the book with your own custom back cover, send me an email with your mailing address at mnoble@senworks.org.

If you want a copy of the book that has a proper back cover, you can grab a copy on Amazon here. You can learn more about this entire journey teaching people to be grant writers on my website www.learngrantwriting.org


Four Things I Learned from Maria Henson’s “To Have and To Harm” series on domestic violence

As I drove to Lexington, Kentucky yesterday from my temporary station in Louisville, I remembered the first time I’d committed to going.

In 1991, while taking Literature of Appalachian Women in Alaska that rocked my world, we students were given copies of the Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial series by Maria Henson.

Henson, who was later awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work addressing domestic violence, did something that was unthinkable at the time: she spotlighted how prevalent violence was in families,  published pictures of victims, their injuries, their stories, and published pictures and personal addresses of judges and officers who’d failed to protect victims.

(To see Ms. Henson speak about her work, click here.)

At the time of the class, I was likely between restraining orders, definitely on welfare, and edging close to a degree in journalism. Yet the closer I got to success, the scarier my estranged husband became.

I couldn’t believe how fearless The Lexington Herald-Leader was to publish the work. How progressive and tenacious Ms. Henson was. I naturally imagined myself one day, visiting Lexington, and maybe setting down roots there.

There were four takeaways from Ms. Henson’s work that transformed my world, nudging me to become a domestic violence advocate, tell my own story, and hold the judicial system accountable.

  • Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.

Rich, poor, white, brown, young, and old. The prevalence was not limited to Lexington Kentucky, remaining an epidemic worldwide today.Intimate partner violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.

  • Domestic violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.

 When victims are controlled and isolated, they will not believe in their own strengths, know about services and laws to protect them, and are more likely to blame themselves for what is happening, thus remaining stuck and feeling hopeless.

  • Until we believe that every person is equally valued, worthy of respect and protection, regardless of gender or any other factor, the systems response will remain inadequate.

Had the threat come up from a mugger, rapist, or holdup man, the authorities might have seen their duty more clearly. But this is what the law calls a “domestic case.” -Maria Henson in A Death Foretold about Betty Jean Ashby.

  • A stranger can make all the difference in addressing the violence.

By now, decades later, most of us are aware of programs like Green Dot training bystanders on what to do if they witness domestic violence. But look at the power of Ms. Henson’s work. She was in her late twenties when she decided to roll the dice and change her world. It was risky, publishing names and faces of those in her then-small community. She worried that her effort would cause further violence or even death to some of the victims, who’d agreed to go on record in the Lexington Herald. “If I put these women’s names in the paper, will they be in further danger?” she’d asked herself.

But less than two years after her work was published, legislation dramatically changed in how Kentucky managed domestic violence cases.

It had been a while since I thought about those columns. But when I saw the Lexington Herald, it all came flooding back.

I sat in my rental car and sent an email to Ms. Henson. I had to thank her for inspiring a revolution, and changing so many lives.

Including mine.

It’s Domestic Violence Action Month, a terrific time to make a donation to a local shelter, volunteer, or even share a DV shelter event on your social media.

I’m off to see family now, before going to North Carolina and visiting my esteemed Literature of Appalachian Women professor and dear friend, Dr. Virginia Carney.

Thank you for stopping by.