In itself, the publication date is not significant. An exact date is only important for a relative handful of bestselling authors. For readers, it increasingly matters little, with all books becoming variously available for sale at different times in different parts of the world through online databases and retail. But the month is helpful to have something to hook the marketing systems around. We generally gear any publicity we do around the month of publication and the few months following rather than a specific day. The book will be available for sale when it arrives at the warehouse.
- Scheduling publication: We do not schedule the publication date for the book until we have the text and cover files finished, fully edited and proofed and ready for the printer. We give both files a final proofread after you see them in the Production Workflow stages. The following month, we set the publication date, for ten months later (e.g. for a title finishing production in January, the information will go out in February for a November release), and send the information out. More in the introduction to Chapter 9. We aim for the same publication date for ebook and paperback.
- The exact date: We have a nominal publishing date of the last Friday in each month (except December, when it’s the second Friday). We aim to get copies of the book to the warehouses in the USA/UK six weeks prior to publication, with advance copies usually coming a couple of weeks before that (which come to the office rather than the warehouse).
- Variations: The book may be released earlier than that in some places, later in others. We cannot coordinate printings in the USA and UK and other countries to arrive at the warehouse exactly at the same time, and there are large variations between how long it takes to get to particular accounts (more on ordering in Chapter 13). Books can sometimes take several weeks to get from our distributor NBN on the East Coast through customs at the border and on to Vancouver on the West Coast, if, as is usual, the store has requested lowest-cost delivery. This is something we have no control over. This does mean that you may see different release dates appear in different accounts. Amazon for instance will only show the book as published when they receive the stock. We can get the books to the distributors earlier, but if books arrive at the warehouse more than two months prior to publication date the distributor will bring forward the publication date (e.g. if pub date is 30 March, if it goes in before 1 February then the publication date changes), which then confuses everyone further.
- The difficulties of this earlier release: You can sell your book at your own events/launches as far in advance of the publication date as you like, once there is stock in the warehouse. But there are disadvantages to this. Once the book gets to the warehouse, it is "released." We cannot supply you and hold it back from other accounts/readers. It will appear on Amazon and similar wholesalers as "published." Bookstores, who work to longer timescales, do not like to see potential sales "pre-empted". So they may cancel any orders they have placed.
- Exceptions: We cannot comment on the optimum timing here for individual titles—there are too many variables, different in different parts of the world for different markets. In general, judge that the book will be available the month before publication, and that earlier releases than that may possibly be counter-productive.
- Amazon US: Amazon UK datafeed accepts two dates: availability and publication, but Amazon US accepts only one. To align the policy of making books available to trade and readers after they reach distributor warehouses, we have to make the publication date the first of the month on Amazon US.