The campaign book is hot off the presses. The first fat-cat reception was a rousing success. The candidate is grinning, the staff is griping, and the speechwriters are grinding out the cliches.

In the past week, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) has transformed his race for the presidency from a largely uncoordinated effort to an organized nationwide campaign to unseat president Carter.

On Monday, a formal Kennedy for President Committee will open for business in a former Cadillac dealership on 22nd Street NW in Washington, headed by Kennedy organizations around the country.

Kennedy's formal announcement of his candidacy is just a matter of time. He is delaying, his staff says, for technical reasons -- the need to have a campaign in place before volunteers and money start to come in.

As politicians often do on the eve of such ventures, Kennedy has just published a new book -- "Our Day and Generation: The Words of Edward M. Kennedy" -- but it adds little of substance to his campaign.

The book is a scrapbook-type volume with fawning forewords from two Kennedy admirers, lots of photographs and snippets of Kennedy rhetoric. The brief passages quoted, many just one sentence long, are mostly generalizations that could have been uttered by any politician.

Over a large picture of troops in formation, for example, Kennedy is quoted as saying: "We need a defense that is lean and powerful; with more muscle instead of fat. . . ." A picture of downtown New York is accompanied by Kennedy's assertion that "we can make our cities citadels of the human spirit, proud beacons of hope in a prosperous and democratic land."

The book retails for $12.95, but many readers will get it free. Aides say it will be used as a gift for politcians or contributors who offer help.

Kennedy met Thursday night with a group of contributors, who, during a one-hour reception at the Manhattan home of his sister, Pat Lawford, pledged $150,000 to his campaign, aides said.

Kennedy spent most of the week on the road, delivering speeches in Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Worcester, Mass.

Except for a tough shot at Carter's Cambodian policy, his speeches did not directly criticize Carter.Instead, Kennedy draped his jab in political cliches.

But the Kennedy camp, in private talks with reporters stressed that Carter's supposed lack of competence as president would remain a central theme in the campaign. At the same time, the Kennedy people acknowledged that Carter is ahead in Iowa, which holds its precinct caucuses Jan. 21. Kennedy earlier said Iowa, not Florida, would be the first real battleground between him and the president.

Like most staffs in most campaigns, the Kennedy staff has adopted a stance of hostility to everything the opposition does.

The other day, Lawrence C. Horowitz, Kennedy's chief aide on the Senate Health subcommittee, complained angrily about Carter's use of federally salaried White House employes for political work in Florida.

Horowitz, who receives a Senate salary of about $48,000 a year accompanied Kennedy on political trips to Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. He said he was traveling with Kennedy on "off time."