As we get ready to launch the festive edition of the ALLi Members' Showcase on December 15th, and so many authors are making their publishing plans for 2015, ALLi Advisor Mick Rooney, hybrid author and editor of The Independent Publishing Magazine, offers top tips on the best time of year for indie authors to launch their self-published books.
Work in Tandem with the Book Retail Trade's Calendar
No matter how you publish, books are tied into the trade and retail calendar. Whenever you plan to publish and release your book, make sure you plan and have a workable marketing plan to go with it. Remember, even if you self publish, and even if you are taking on everything yourself, you are relying on fan, reader and market reception for this. A lot of this relies on things out of your control.
I've worked in both the music and publishing trade, and the retail business. All of these businesses work months in advance. Space is premium, whether online or physical. When you plan a book release, you need to consider WHO and WHAT channels you are relying upon. Most of those channels are commerical, and are heavily influenced by seasonal holidays. As a rule, I tell clients not to release a book in August if that client is expecting significant response from media outlets. Unless your book is Christmas related, don't push with a release date after the first week in December.
How the Trade Calendar Works
Here is what happens. The music and publishing businesses pretty much go into wind down from the first week in December. Retailers from that date are entirely focussed on sales, not support – reaction and delivery times increase because everyone is under pressure. Businesses are made up of people, and that is a reality. They deserve a break too. While you as an author may be on a seasonal break, and free to get stuff done you haven't had a chance to do: remember, those you deal with consider themselves businesses or freelancers.
Yes, Christmas and seasonal times are huge time for sales, but that doesn't mean it is the ideal time to *start* publishing.
Whether Thanksgiving or Christmas, consider the freelance cover designer, formatter or editor you contracted in November/December for a book project is unlikely to be responsive to replies on December 24th. Likewise, whether you are dealing with an assisted publishing service, or Ingram, or whoever, make sure you are aware of their availability. It's one of the reasons why I never suggest publishing in December, unless you are absolutely sure you have made a proper publishing plan and your support network is available during that period.
After Christmas could actually be a better time to publish a new book. Right now, you are perferctly placed to plan and hit a Jan pre-order timeline, with late Jan/Feb to execute the build up to Valentine's Day. February is a great month for releases, people have got over the Christmas hangover, the credit card bills have been settled, the days are becoming brighter and warmer, and it works well with romance, which chimes in with the themes of change, hope, new beginnings, and opportunity.
Best Timing by Genre
Mood and market reception are really important. Certain books work better at various times of the year.
- January – April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
- May – August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
- Sept – Nov: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
- Dec – Jan: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books.
It's a general guide. There are no hard and fast rules. Try and tie your book into an event or occasion when you want to promote it.
Best Timing for Fiction
Fiction is hard to judge when is the right time., but understand which genre your novel falls into before choosing a date. Literay fiction is the unruly boy or girl in the class. There is no right or wrong time – they are usually slow burners.
The mood of a book has a lot to do with when to publish. Every good book sings a song. Know the song your book sings.
Readers look for two things: information or inspiration (sometimes both). And your message of information or inspiration will depend on whether your book delivers at the time they are looking for it.
Political, kids and celebrity books do well late in the year, because they are considered easy gifts.
While I know we berate traditional publishers here, it's also one of the reasons why they will race a book out, or decide to delay a book for up to 18 months.
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