I get this question quite a bit so I wanted to answer it sooner rather than later. The question is: does publishing season matter? Does it matter when my book is published?
The answer is yes and no.
Publishing Seasons 101
While there are four seasons, there really is only three publishing seasons. From my perspective, here are the seasons:
- Fall – September October November December
- Winter – January February March April…and sometimes May
- Spring/Summer – Sometimes starts in April? But mostly June July August
“Wait…” I hear you saying. “Those aren’t that balanced.”
The answer is no, they are not balanced. Not in the number of months, nor in the number of publications.
Let’s delve into the seasons a bit.
Ahhh fall. For me, in a university bookstore, this is back-to-school rush.
This is also one of the major blockbuster seasons. More hardcovers come out in fall than any other season. Literary titles abound, pounding on the doors of awards everywhere.
If a publisher is going to have one season, it is a fall season. That is when they will do up their catalogues.
Also in this time? Gift-giving season. Major blockbuster movie season. So many things in fall, it’s hard to keep up.
Genre takes over in winter–this is the season for the most science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books. After all, something has to counteract all of those self-improvement books that come out in January (which, by the way, is too late from a bookstore marketing standpoint. More on that under the non-fiction book example). End of March and beginning of April? All the poetry books come out for poetry month.
If a publisher is going to have a second season, it will be winter season.
Paperback time! Hardcovers are most likely getting returned around now and the paperback versions are hitting the shelf, ready to snatch up the end-of-vacation readers with newly-published discounted versions of the books they’ve been meaning to read ALL YEAR.
What else do we have? Lots of kid activity books. It’s the slowest season for new books. Why? Because it is vacation season. It is hard to advertise and target a reader when that reader is unlikely to be in the places they would usually be in, reading the news they would normally read. They are on the move.
What if I have control over when to publish a book? What season should I publish it in?
If you have input on when to publish a book or do a marketing push for a book, you want to think about your ideal reader.
Publishing Season Example: fiction!
Let’s say you have the perfect summer vacation book (Your audience might be… K-12 students? Beach readers? Road trip readers? Outdoor training audiobook listeners?). It’s a light, fast read to help time pass. If that is the case, you want to publish it in Winter, most likely between April-May.
I know. April-May is not when you are expecting your target reader to read that book.
Marketing a book is about repeated exposure of a title to the reader. If you want a book to get traction for, say, summer months, you want to expose your reader to it a few times before that reader goes online or in store to buy that book. You want to have had them see a few reviews in their favourite magazines/blog, a poster or two, glanced at it on a display when they didn’t have the time to pick it up and read it just then.
The aim is that when the reader comes into the store and sees that book, they will think one of the following:
- I keep seeing this book come up… (even if the reader didn’t read the full review)
- I’ve been meaning to look at that… (even if they don’t know what it is about)
- I saw so-and-so had this book… (yay influencers like bloggers and other authors!)
Publishing Season Example: non-fiction!
Non-fiction is much more season dependent than fiction. If you are targetting a specific mindset, you want to publish in the time your reader is most likely going to be picking up those books.
Let’s use an example of…productivity books. If you want to move a productivity books, your best selling season will be new years. Tail end of December and all of January will look like dollar signs.
So, this means you should do a countdown to the new year and publish first Tuesday of January, right?
When a bookstore is planning a new year new you display, we want books that we know are going to be in stock. If we want to do a new years sale or promotion, your book coming out near a holiday might not make it on time. After all, tons of distributors hold their shipping from as early as December 15 for the holiday shutdown. So if your book is coming out the first Tuesday of January (as Tuesdays are a very common publishing date for major publishers), you’re missing out on those end of December and very beginning of January sales because your book isn’t released yet. Your reader is going to pick up a different title that will scratch their itch come January rather than wait for yours. Especially if they have a gift card burning a hole in their pocket from the holidays.
For the same reasons as the fiction example, you want to publish your book before the holiday–at least before mid-December. You’ll want to have all sorts of articles running online from December to January giving helpful advice out for free to attract people to buy your book. After all, people will be reading these articles while hiding from or pretending to listen to family over the extremely stressful holiday season (I mean… that’s what I do. Other people do that, right?).
Have any more questions?
If you do, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer!