What’s the purpose of a release date? Why set a release date?
A release date is important to self-published authors because it’s there to build excitement and to give you a deadline. In my preparation chapter I outlined the importance of goals. Goals are your own, a release date is for your readers, your community. It’s to grow the anticipation of your release.
Make your release date flexible
It’s okay if your release date ends up shifting. This might seem a little weird to allow flexibility in the release date of your book, but this is self-publishing. Unlike having a publisher riding your ass, demanding deadlines and putting you in a sweat at 4am over the last chapters you haven’t written, self-publishing is a process that needs to bow around you and your life.
Real life gets in the way. Whether you like it or not delays are bound to happen. How long they take and how prepared you are to face them will make the difference.
When my clients come to me for a book cover design they are at various stages of publishing. Sometimes they’re near the end of their editing, sometimes they haven’t even finished the book. None of these stages are safe from delays. I’ve had projects delayed a week, I’ve had others up to a year or longer.
There is no ‘normal’ here. Your life is very different to that of the next author. Your roadblocks might come in the form of family, or sudden change in your life, of getting a job or leaving one. It could be your own personal fear around publishing, or any other confronting feelings that arise before you push that ‘publish’ button. Whatever those feelings, it’s okay. Self-publishing isn’t going anywhere.
When should you set the release date for your self-published book?
Focus on times of the year that work well with your book, Christmas, Halloween, Valentines, etc. Try to work the release date within the theme of your book. Beach reads should be sold on the cusp of summer holidays, horrors in the lead up to Halloween. Romance floods the market around Valentine’s Day. If you’re releasing a book about writing, unleash it in the lead up to NaNoWriMo in November. Alan Rinzler suggests that some self-published authors “published their memoirs to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
If no direct theme can be found in your book that you can tie to a date, consider focusing on the popular release dates that the trade calendar normally follows. Mick Rooney gives this great outline in his article specifically about the trade calendar for self-publishers:
January – April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cookery
May – August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
Sept – Nov: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
Dec – Jan: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, Dictionaries and quirky fun books.
Give yourself a 6-month buffer.
Whenever you think your self-publishing release date should be, I recommend giving yourself a buffer of six months on top of that. There’s no reason to rush the process, and it gives you plenty of time to leave open for any delays.