The Seasons of Books

Posted on Thu, Oct 26 2017 9:36 am by Dawn Frederick


One of my favorite parts of being an agent is seeing my authors celebrate the release of their books. It’s like Christmas, except it’s a figurative Book Christmas and it can happen almost any day of the year.

Yet what’s not often discussed is all the time it takes before those books reach readers and bookshelves. Many people and many steps lead to this happening, but also one important key in this process is the timing, specifically when publishers decide to release any book into the world.

The timing will come down to a few important factors:

  1. The number of titles that a publisher is releasing in a calendar year.
  2. The specific catalogs those titles will be associated with – Fall/Winter/Spring/Summer
  3. The aesthetics of each title, as every book is different.
  4. Special events that may surround the subject matter of a book

So let’s unpack this.

We’ll start with the number of books published in a year by any publisher. Due to the production costs, the necessary time to market and promote each title, and the desire to spread this out evenly, many publishers will try to release books in a reasonable span of time. Let’s say they have 100 titles to release, you can bet your bottom dollar not all of those titles are coming out at the same time. That’s just not physically possible for the staff coverage, let alone one’s sanity. It’s best to strategically have titles come out at specific times of the year.

This leads to the catalogs, as well as the aesthetic of the books. Some books are best suited for specific months of the year. This will be partially based on conferences and large-scale events that are happening, where booksellers, buyers and publishers come together to discuss these titles. Ex: it’s always known and assumed that if one attends BEA (Book Expo America), that there will be fall catalogs available. This will allow booksellers and book buyers approximately 4-6 months to dig into those catalogs, so that their stores are stocked and ready when the books are officially published.

Yet, another big player is the message/the feelings these books share with readers.  There’s always a good chance the publishers will think about the actual seasons (of nature) and what readers prefer during these times.  So if it’s summer, the likelihood you’ll see lots of books with a winter setting, let alone overly dark in tone, isn’t as likely.  There tends to be more of a “beach read” feel to the titles that are released in the warm months of summer. This doesn’t happen all the time, but generally that is the case.  The rotation of nature’s weather will inevitably be part of the mood factor of any publishing catalog.

Equally important is the timing.  If there’s a major event happening, let’s say an election, it’s assumed many titles will come out in the months leading to it.  This means the writers turned in those manuscripts approx. 1-2 years before the release in anticipation of that date; of which the publishers took the baton and ensured the books were published in advance of the big date.  This happens with many big events.  Ex: over the summer, I’ve seen quite a few women’s suffrage books in my queries, as everyone is ramping up for 2020, since the 100th anniversary is in August.  So be prepared to see many titles along these lines around Spring 2020 more than likely.

The seasons will always play a role in the lives of readers, the same goes for publishers.  The balance of the business of publishing, and understanding the habits of readers will always influence when any author’s book comes out.

Dawn Michelle Frederick is the owner & literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. Red Sofa Literary is a celebration of the quirky, eclectic ideas in our publishing community. Dawn’s previous experience reflects a broad knowledge of the book business, with over a decade of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores, an editor for a YA publisher, and an associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency. Dawn earned a BS in Human Ecology and a MS in Library & Information Sciences from an ALA-accredited institution. She is also one of the founders of the MN Publishing Tweet Up, which brings writers and publishers together over a monthly happy hour. Red Sofa Literary was voted as one of the Best 101 Websites by Writer’s Digest in 2012 and 2013.