September 21, 2020

Is There a Best Time, Day, or Month to Release Your Novel?

By Paul Goat Allen

I’ve worked in the publishing industry in various capacities for almost three decades and as long as I can remember Tuesdays have been the days the vast majority of traditionally published titles are released. Since most major bestselling lists are compiled on Tuesdays, the wisdom seems to be, a Tuesday release gives the title a full week to garner sales and gain some kind of traction. Readers and booksellers alike look forward to Tuesdays because of the hot-off-the-press literary offerings.

But what about indie releases? Is there a best time, day, or month to release your self-published work? I asked numerous bestselling and critically acclaimed indie authors this question and was surprised at the variety of answers I received. Here are some of the most insightful responses:

Stephen Renneberg, author of the Mapped Space saga
“I don’t have a specific time or day that I prefer to release on. Considering the market is global, with ebooks available in most countries and print on demand paperbacks shipped worldwide, I’m not sure a particular time in one country is significant, considering every time zone is now included virtually simultaneously. I simply announce a new book is coming out months in advance on my website so the fans are aware it’s coming, then release it once it’s ready.”

Felicia Farber, author of Ice Queen
“I don’t think there’s a best day as long as the author has heavily promoted their book launch and created hype around its release. I recently launched my contemporary YA novel Ice Queen on August 1, 2020–a Saturday–and received an excellent response. Everything has changed now, too, with the pandemic so I’m not sure there really are any ‘rules’ anymore!”

Michael J. Sullivan, author of the Legends of the First Empire saga
“When I first started out as an indie author, I wasn’t aware of the ‘release on a Tuesday’ thing. I only became aware of it after signing with Orbit for my Riyria novels. Since then, I’ve continued using the Tuesday launch day for all my indie work as well. Why? Because Mondays are busy days for everyone and I think launching on that day may make it harder to break through the noise. I’ve even taken it a step further in that all my indie books are also launched via a Kickstarter, and I always go live with those on a Tuesday and try to end them on a Thursday. For me, I think the Friday to Monday days are a ‘dead zone’ and I don’t do any big announcements during those times.”

Virginia Nelson, author of the Billionaire Dynasties saga
“Some months historically are better. December is usually garbage—people are buying gifts for others, so they don’t do as many reading purchases due to being busy and having their money go to others rather than self. January is way, way better—people get gift cards and kindles, so they use them on books. Quarantine overall was good for sales as people were home and reading, but now we’re back to things like audiobooks and interactive books surging in price while the market seems to have stabilized for books in general into more normal patterns…”

Cynthia St. Aubin, author of the Tails from the Alpha Art Gallery series
“Early in my career as an indie author, I pretty much scheduled my releases around what was going on in my own small corner of the world. But the more I learned about buying trends and the carefully planned release dates and times in the traditional publishing world, the more curious I became as to whether aligning my releases with theirs would make a difference. Turns out, it does. In addition, I’ve often found that authors both traditional and indie will compile a round-up of new releases dropping on the same day and share this information with their readers via social media. Choosing a release day that allows you to participate in this supportive cross promotion has been especially helpful.”

S.J. Hartland, author of the Shadow Sword saga
“I’m not even sure what day I released my most recent book, The Sword Brotherhood. It was more or less when the formatter got it back to me! A bit haphazard, hey.”

Shelley Adina, author of the Magnificent Devices and Whinburg Township Amish series
“Indies tend to avoid Tuesdays, lol. As far as a particular day of the month, it’s all over the place. Because the Amazon algorithms respond favorably to regular releases, current best practices are to release on a regular schedule so that readers know what to expect. This creates a follow-on environment. So, using myself as an example, I’ve been using this schedule for a couple of years now:

  1. Release on the 4th Wednesday of the middle month of the quarter (i.e., for 2020, February 26, May 27, August 26, November 25).
  2. Newsletter goes out monthly. Previous month you include a cover and the blurb, then release month, then following month a snippet or some research fun. This gives the newsletter a rhythm and readers learn to expect it on the 4th Wednesday of the month.
  3. Preorder goes up as soon as the last book releases. So, the preorder for the August book would be available after the May book released, so that once a reader finishes the May book, they can preorder the next one right away.
  4. And, of course, new release promo is booked and tied to these regular release dates.

Just like a traditional publisher, an indie’s release schedule is a whole ecosystem.”

Brian James Gage, author of The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker
“Before the release of The Sleepwalker, I actually reached out to a few editors I used to work with in regard to the best day/month to release a book. And honestly ended up with more questions than answers.

For my next book, I’m actually planning to release it on March 20th, 2021—the Spring Solstice. Reason being, the book starts on that day in 1917 and a cult (the Thule Society) holds a very important ritual in the evening that is basically the book’s inciting event. So I thought the symbolism of releasing it on the same day would be apt. Subtle—I doubt anyone would actually pick up on it. But that’s my reasoning for the planned release date.

As far as the best day to release? Frankly I think it’s insignificant due to the wide variety of book promotional services, social media, etc. Meaning, you can get your message out to potential readers any day of the week by use of these mediums.”

N.L. Holmes, author of the Lord Hani mystery series
“‘I’ve never paid attention to the day of the week I release, but perhaps that’s just ignorance on my part.”

Scott A. Johnson, author of the Stanley Cooper Chronicles
“Well, most DVDs, music, and video games are released on Tuesdays because they’re tracked by SoundScan, which, for some reason, runs Tuesday through Monday. A lot of that is because Tuesday used to be a typically slow business day for video stores. But I prefer to release my books on a Wednesday because that’s typically new comic-book day, so it kind of fits with it. Also, I prefer to release my books in August to get people in the mood for reading in the spooky season. Because I write horror, I feel it’s the best time to drop a new book. It’s also close enough to many [award cycles] that people reading for contests (like the Stokers) won’t read it and then forget about it like they might if I were to send it in, say, February. So, yeah, my ideal release date? It would always be around or near Wednesday, as close to the middle of August as I can get it.”

Molly Harper, author of the Mystic Bayou series and the Southern Eclectic series
“My indie books usually come out on Tuesdays because that’s what readers are used to, but there are some advantages to avoiding competition and releasing on a different day of the week. And when it comes to scheduling over the course of a year, it’s a complicated dance to time them so they don’t come out too closely to my traditional titles and conflict with each other. I’m very lucky to work with some amazing, considerate and flexible professionals. I think you just have to find the spot that works for you, your schedule and your place in the market.”

Sara Lunsford, author of the Ambrosia Lane saga
“For my sales, personally, I see the most movement from January through August. September through December is a bit slow. I think because people are saving for holiday expenditures. I used to do Tuesday releases, but I’ve found I get more traction when I release on a Payday Friday.”

Michael Pronko, author of the Detective Hiroshi mystery saga
“I yearn for the day when I could be organized enough to pick an actual day of the week to release my book. The idea that Tuesday, or Christmas, or a long weekend, could boost sales sounds great! Like magic!

Unfortunately, that’s a level of planning and organization that would require, well, a large traditional publishing house! With someone to crunch those numbers, someone to handle the spreadsheet, someone to give a presentation to someone else inside the publishing house, to bust the news to the bookstores.

But is someone really keeping track of the day, month, weather for the books that take off into bestseller-hood? If so, that sounds like a type of publishing astrology. I’m as superstitious as anyone, I suppose, but there are a lot of factors that affect a book’s trajectory in the world.

If you think of a book as just a marketed product, I guess that days of the week, months, even specific times of the day all matter greatly. I live in Japan where marketing rollouts are startling in their intensity. A new sports drink, a how-to book, a new style of hair dryer, are all given intensive care and incredible push. Books, too. I watch the ads on the train video and am always intrigued by their cleverness and polish.

I wish I had that level of prep in some ways. However, I don’t think of my books as just product. I think of my books as a written communication that I create to survive the temporal tides of marketing. Call me naïve. But call that traditional thinking naïve, too. I want my writing effort to last, to stick in readers’ heads, to have ongoing impact, to be read and talked about, to connect to other human beings, whatever the first-release bump might be.

Anyway, I marked Tuesday on my calendar. For the next novel.”

Paul Goat Allen has been reviewing books for more than 25 years. In addition to BlueInk Review, his work has appeared with BarnesandNoble.com, The Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and more. He also teaches in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction graduate writing program.

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