Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall – Wait, What??
You read lots of announcements of deals and publishing plans, right? If so, you notice that books are slated for certain seasons – Fall, say, or Spring, or Spring/Summer. What does this mean, and how do publishers decide a book’s best pub “season”?
Though seasonal spans differ from house to house, a very general definition is as follows:
Fall: August or September through November.
Winter: December through March.
Spring/Summer: April through July or August.
Given that span, what informs scheduling a book for publication? Here’s my (by no means scientific or definitive) list:
1. The Obvious (with a few caveats): This is all about promotional opportunities surrounding holidays and other special events. Books about Back to School and Halloween should pub in the Fall season, right? Not so fast – most retailers want those books to ship in July, so they’re in stock for promotions that now begin in August (school) and September (Halloween). Books about Christmas can pub in the Fall months, but no later than October so they are in-store and on promotion early in the season. Black History Month and Presidents Day should pub no later than December (Winter season); ditto Valentine’s Day.
2. Timing is Everything: Perhaps your publisher wants to position your book as a lead title in the Fall season, and has plans to promote advance copies of your book at the spring conferences (IRA, ALA, BEA). If so, then Fall is the right season for you. Or the house believes your book will have more exposure (and perhaps marketing) on the spring list. If so, then take it – the spring list has long been thought of as a quieter list, but that’s no longer the case. You want your book where it gets the best promotion. And remember – summer reading assignments and in-store promotions happen in May and June. That’s good stuff.
3. You: Do you have other books scheduled? Your publisher will jockey for the season not already taken.
4. Winter: Not the Coldest Season: Guess what the new Winter trend is? Yes, indeed – gift cards! Most people who received a gift card for the holidays cashes them in during the Winter season. Retailers are looking for strong books to promote to catch the gift cards, and also to keep customers buying after the holiday rush. For some imprints, Winter is a smaller list, so your book might get more positioning than it would on, say, the Fall list.
So, is any one season “better” than another? No. We schedule books to appear in the season that is best for the project and keeps our list manageable for the sales team. As an editor, I welcome authors asking why we have their books in certain seasons. A lot of thought goes into it, and it’s a good conversation to have.