When is the Best Time to Publish a Book?


Image Courtesy of UFC Libraries

Campbell Portland, Freelance Writer

Release dates are crucial to the successes of books. There must be some science around when the best time of the year is to release your new book. Obviously you would want to release something scary prior to Halloween, something romantic right before Valentine’s Day, something full of snow and holiday cheer right before Christmas. But what about the rest of the year? Are there days that are lucky for authors? Is there a time of year that can help you get more copies into people’s hands? 

J.K Rowling’s observations were that people prefer introspective works in the summer and mysteries and thrillers in the fall (that is when JK Rowling is releasing her next detective novel). Rick Riordan liked to follow the movie release schedule, releasing books whenever there’s a movie coming out in the same genre as his book. He also felt that people prefer laughter in winter months, “light and airy reads” in spring, adventure stories in the summer, and scary works in autumn. And if you’re trying to hit some bestseller list, release on a Sunday or Monday. That is not really proven, but among the author community, it is pretty much taken as law. According to industry data, that’s a good time for self-published authors. The best days of the month to release a book are between the 7th and the 14th. Once again, kind of superstitious but trends seem to follow through because 72% of books that make the New York Times Bestsellers List were released between the 7th and 14th of a month. The one thing that all authors seem to agree on is that there is never a bad time to release a book. It was never directly stated by any author, but it seemed to be implied. 

Also, traditional publishing houses have a rough calendar by genre for their release dates. Between January and April, they tend to release romance, self-help, business books, and books about cooking. May to August is adventure, fantasy, and travel, and September to November is academic, horror, and paranormal. Finally, December to January is children’s books, holiday cookery, illustrated, quizzes, dictionaries, and quirky fun books.

Finally, how are publishers and release dates responding to the COVID-19 pandemic? Emily Bestler, EVP and publisher of Simon & Schuster imprint Emily Bestler Books, said that every Simon & Schuster imprint has changed some publication dates. The process started in mid-March after the publisher made the decisions for workers to stay at home. Bestler said that since the demand for books by well-known authors has been high during the pandemic, some books had their publication dates moved up, such as the novel Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner, which was published two weeks early, on May 5. Other titles shifted many months forward, such as essay collection Keep Moving by Maggie Smith, which moved from May 5, 2021 to October 6, 2020, and memoir Everybody (Else) is Perfect by Gabrielle Korn and nonfiction Bad Medicine by Charlotte Bismuth, which both moved from June 2021 to January 2020 publication dates. “For books whose authors we planned to tour, it made sense to move some of those back and wait for travel restrictions to ease, and stores to reopen,” said Bestler. “Certain non-fiction titles dealt with subjects that would perhaps be overlooked during this period or were heavily dependent on media coverage which is no longer available, at least for the time being.” Bestler said the process was done “in collaboration with production, publishing, sales, publicity, editorial, and author and agent.”

Release dates do have a “formula” that publishing houses which statistics seem to follow and trends seem to follow through. Authors, like everyone, are having to rapidly adapt to the continuous changing of this pandemic, but once again like everyone creative strategies and plans are being adopted to release the books that they have been working on for long periods of time.