By Emily Evans-Miller
With contributions by Michelle Webber and Kristin Perry
Planning your release date (also called the publication date) can be tricky, especially for first-time authors. The publishing process is never set in stone, and there are plenty of internal factors to consider. But external factors–like retail pitching and buy calendars and seasonal trends–are just as important. They can make or break how successful your book becomes. To help you give your title the best possible chance at success, we’ve broken down the market trends you need to consider when plotting your publishing timeline.
General Words of Wisdom
- Industry standard release dates are on Tuesdays. This isn’t an arbitrary choice: the media world is flooded at the beginning and end of every week, so Tuesdays give books the best chance at being covered and making a splash. At Mascot, we typically schedule new releases on the first Tuesday of each month.
- Be available around your release date. This is when media and outlets will give you and your book the most attention, but they won’t be as interested in an author whose schedule isn’t flexible. If an opportunity for coverage arises, you need to be available to promote your book and capitalize on attention.
- Make sure you have stock. At Mascot Books, we take care of this for our authors who have opted into distribution. If you’re distributing your book without us, take extra time to confirm the retailers with whom you’ve partnered have ample stock on hand.
While a broad category, novels tend to thrive in spring and fall. March and October are the two most common release release months in the book world, and fiction fits well in either. Depending on your subject matter, June is also a strong release date for books you’d consider beach reads: romance, chick-lit, health, humor, and some memoirs fall into this category.
Business books are relatively unbarred by the seasons or holidays. Because they tend to be highly specialized, you might consider releasing your book around a large conference or other important company event. Avoid November, January, and December, which are historically challenging times to release a book given the busy holiday season.
Memoirs or Biographies
Tying your book to an event or anniversary relevant to your story is a good platform for biographies. Like business books, personal memoirs can succeed at almost any time of year with the right marketing strategy.
Unlike essentially every other genre, January is a great month to release a self-help book: people are going back to the gym, eating better, and buying books for their New Year’s resolution. If you’re writing about personal finance, consider releasing your book in April for Financial Literacy Month.
Politics or Current Affairs
Political and policy books should be timed with the the campaign and political cycles of the topic you’re writing about in mind. Waiting for an election year is a good idea, and releasing in late summer in anticipation of the November elections is a good goal.
Current affairs titles should be released while your topic is still at the forefront of the masses’ minds. It’s hard to write a good book quickly, but do what you can to anticipate the direction and timing of the dialogue your book will enter and write to a timeline that keeps relevance in mind. Publishing a book two years after an event happens is tricky unless that event had a large, enduring impact and is still relevant. This genre is one where time really is of the essence.
If you’re writing about a sport or athlete, it’s a good idea to base your release on your sport’s professional season. August to February for football, March through October for baseball, October through March for basketball, and October through May for hockey. If your book features a certain team, consider releasing around the home opener or a big rivalry game and market your book around this event. The Super Bowl, the World Series, NBA Finals, or the Stanley Cup playoffs are all great events off of which your book can springboard.
Coffee table books are another any-time genre, with spring and fall still reigning supreme. If your title is specific to a topic or aesthetic, think of a good time frame related to it. A photography book of beaches would be perfect in late spring or early summer, while an art book about Washington, D.C., would be perfect around cherry blossom season.
Releasing a cookbook should take into account the kind of recipes it contains and, if you’re a chef, restaurateur, or food blogger, you should think about when your business is the busiest. If you’re focusing on holiday recipes, that’s perfect for an early fall release. Got a great idea for a tailgating guide? Aim to release before Memorial Day. If your business is on the beach, release just before tourist season.
Children’s titles are good to release anytime of year, except in January or December, even if it is a Christmas or holiday-themed book. Buyers start making decisions on their holiday displays and stock in July. By December, retailers are slammed meeting holiday demand and very seldom consider new titles. January is typically a tough time for most books because of post-holiday buying fatigue. For children’s books, think about the rhythm of the school year. September (back to school) and May (pre-summer reading) are great times to release children’s books.
If you’re writing about Halloween, Fourth of July, or another holiday, a good rule of thumb is to schedule your release date for at least two months before the holiday your story is centered around. That means getting your book to the printer at least four months in advance of the target holiday. If you have a Christmas or Hanukkah book, think about July or August. This may seem like a lot of time, but that’s valuable marketing time and an important window for buyers. This approach also works for cultural appreciation months like Black History Month in February or Women’s History Month in March.
So, when should I start my book?
It’s hard to give a set timeline for every project, as every book we come across has a unique path to publication. We typically set release dates four or five months after going to print, so be sure to budget that time in when figuring out your project’s timeline.
The most important thing to remember is to give yourself plenty of time! Taking time to ensure your book is the best product it can be is the best way to set yourself up for marketing and sales success down the line.
If you’re a seasoned author, do you have any tips for first-timers? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @MascotBooks!