It’s coming up on that time of year again when authors start to wonder if releasing their book now makes any sense. Isn’t a late year release a bad idea?
The answer to that is: it depends.
Last year we had an author who released a book on December 15th. The book sold thousands of copies within the first two weeks of the release date. However, she had already built up a following of readers, hence why she sold such a high number right out of the gate. For most authors this isn’t always the case – they are either just starting out or haven’t really worked to build their super fan base.
In either case, releasing a book over the holiday season isn’t a bad idea if expectations are in check. Here are some common concerns I hear:
I can’t compete with holiday sales. Unless you’ve done a big ramp up for the book, you should not expect any holiday sales just because you released a book in November or December. Holiday sales don’t just magically happen, there’s a process to getting in front of buyers that time of year and this process involves some early marketing.
Everyone is too busy to notice my book. Most authors assume that the entire world will be too caught up in the holiday spirit to notice their book launch, and you know what, you’re probably right. However, the same could be said for any other time of the year. We are all busy and while I get that the noise does increase once we pass Thanksgiving, online shopping, searching, and discovery do tend to spike around November and December – so more people are actively looking to buy and spend money this time of year.
It’s really a New Year title. In traditional publishing a lot of motivational titles, diet books, exercise guides, and the like, are released in January because people are focused on reinvention. So if this fits your topic and you want to follow this strategy, don’t wait till January to launch it. Depending on the month you are trying to target, I recommend starting three months prior. Why? Because stuff takes time. Reviews take time to get, and especially when it comes to populating your Amazon page with reviews. You want to be sure that your book isn’t “naked” during the target month – and by naked I mean with not a single review. Most people don’t buy that way. People like what other people like and that likability takes time.
It will have an old publication date. Well, technically yes. Your book starts aging the minute you publish it, so that consideration is certainly there. Would you rather have a 2016 date on it or December 2015? Does it matter? Well, that will depend on a few things. Firstly, is your book time-sensitive? Most books aren’t that sensitive in terms of timing – but some are –so that’s a consideration as well. Fiction books, for example, aren’t generally time-sensitive unless you’re trying to news-jack a particular trend like Sci-Fi (with both Star Wars and The X-Files coming out).
No one will respond to my pitching. Some folks wonder if everyone just gets too busy to respond to pitches in December and there is some merit to that. However, you can also adjust your pitching time to accommodate it. By the same token, with January being a huge book launch month for major publishers, you may be running into the same thing with bloggers who have full schedules and/or already have their review spots filled up for the new year. The number of people backing off in December could be leaving bloggers with a lot of quality online real estate to fill up – grab that opportunity!
I must say that authors often misunderstand the “surge” that accompanies a release. Few books these days actually surge immediately. Unless you already have a huge fan base or are a popular name or a celebrity, it often takes time, and most books have a long runway before they actually soar. My Red Hot Internet Publicity book, which is coming out soon, will launch sometime in November. Technically this book has an expiration date because the material (social media) gets outdated. I used to hold the book to give it a current publication date but here’s the thing: that didn’t really matter – and I have the history to prove it. The publication date and the integrity of the content are not the same thing. So now I put it out as soon as it’s done because I know the clock is ticking and giving my readers current information is more important to me than having a 2016 publication date.
What I want you to take away from this is, think critically, but be fearless! In this competitive market where 4,500 or more books are being published every day, there really is no exact right time to publish. Instead, there’s a right and a wrong way to support your work. You can release your book whenever it’s ready, because no matter what you can’t just put it out there and sit back and wait for the magic to happen. You’re the driving force, do the marketing, do the promotion, or find someone to help you. No book will be a success without some dedication to getting it out there!