By Keri-Rae Barnum
What Authors Are Asking
As we approach the end of the year, I am receiving almost an email per day from authors who are seeking advice on when to release their next book.
Several had projects ready to launch before the pandemic hit and delayed for one reason or another. Others found themselves with unexpected time on their hands that led to them finishing a manuscript as stay at home orders were put in place across the globe. All of them were eager to publish sooner rather than later.
I understand the temptation to go to print as soon as your book is ready. Nevertheless, my response is more often than not, a word of caution: Publishing a book at the end of the year may hurt you more than help you.
What We See in Book Marketing
If you launch a book in November 2020, many people will begin thinking of your book as a year old as soon as the calendar flips over to January 2021.
No, I’m not crazy; and yes, I just said that.
Logically speaking we know that a book published in November has barely been out three months by the time January of the following year rolls around. However, you will be marketing a book with a 2020 pub date in 2021. And books are a bit like toddlers in the sense that the only people counting by the month are the parents. The rest of the world is perfectly happy to round up to the nearest year. Hence, an end of year pub date means your book looks a bit dated before it has even hit full bloom.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course.
- If your book is holiday themed – a Halloween inspired horror novel or a Christmas themed romance – the bulk of your online sales will happen within two months of the holiday. Launching the month before or month of the holiday can pay off big.
- If your book is likely to sell as a gift, a children’s picture book for example, publishing in October or November and cashing in on holiday sales can be a savvy move.
- If the information in your book is vital and will “age” before the New Year, don’t delay.
- Finally, if you have strategically tied your book launch date to a historical event or anniversary that falls at the end of the year but lends PR opportunities to your book, this is a calculated move that may be worth making.
It is important to note, however, that while publishing close to a holiday may result in online sales, bookstores and libraries typically order holiday themed books 4-6 months in advance. A book you hope to have featured for Hannukah, Kwanza or Christmas, may not release until November, but would ideally be pitched to libraries and bookstores between June and August.
- Who is my audience?
- Where do they shop (online, bookstores, library user, etc.)?
- When is my book most likely to be read?
- Is my book apt to be gifted to someone or bought for personal use?
- Is there a holiday or notable date I could use to tie my pub date to?
- How can I strategically plan my book launch for optimum interest and sales?
Taking the time to answer the questions above honestly may help you decide your launch date.
If your audience generally shops in bookstores and retail stores and you don’t have time to pitch those venues before your chosen launch day, it’s time to rethink your plan.
If you have a diet book, the week of Thanksgiving may not be the best time to put it on the market. (I don’t know about you, but I plan to eat enough pie this December to put Santa to shame. I’ll happily read your sensible meal plan and weight loss guide… in January.)
Unless publishing after October 15th of any year is a strategic and well thought out plan, I urge you to wait. Publishing your book in January or even March and give yourself the gift of time – to plan, to market and to succeed.