Choosing A Release Date

A question for my fellow indies: How do you plan your release dates? In the past I never set a release date until the novel I was working on was in, at least, its fourth draft and at that point I sort of just plucked a date from the near future and didn’t put much thought into it. But now that I’m being forced by circumstances to prolong the release date of my next book, I’m also trying to use it as an opportunity to be a bit more strategic about it. Here’s the thing, this series I’m working on is sort of make or break for me. Not in the sense that I would stop writing completely if it didn’t take off. But in the sense that I can legitimately see myself having some kind of psychotic break if it fails. Because I want this. I want this so badly and I’m trying to make every decision count.

So here’s my theory–finding success as an indie author has to do with three specific things: Luck, Drive, and Momentum. And while I know that there’s nothing I can proactively do in the luck department to make myself more successful, I can manipulate and maintain momentum. So far my plan of attack looks like this: Publish Book 1 of the series in May, Publish Book 2 in June, and Publish Book 3 in July, accompanied by an epic blog tour (possibly professionally hosted) with a gazillion giveaways to introduce new readers to the first in the series. Pretty ambitious, I know, but this story is the most commercial thing I’ve ever written and if I can just get it in front of enough people, I know it can do well.

I know of some other authors who put out new releases so close together like this so I’m just wondering if anyone has found personal success with this method or if they know anyone who has. My first three books were ushered very quietly out into the world and even though I contacted reviewers and gave away lots of free books, they just didn’t gain the kind of momentum I’d hoped for. But the truth is I also could have done a lot more. I’ve always been wary of doing too much marketing but I’ve realized that not taking every opportunity to put my books out there is only holding them back. It’s holding me back. But I’m ready to commit even more to this dream of mine and I’m ready to take some risks. All I’m asking for is a little guidance from those of you who’ve been there and who’ve done it because we really are all in this together. So who out there has a fool-poof method for marketing success? Or maybe just a great touring service you can recommend? And what are your tips and tricks for launching a successful blog tour?

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14 thoughts on “Choosing A Release Date

  1. I wish I could offer guidance, but I’m in a similar boat. I’d love to learn more about how people self-promote. Thank you for posting this! 🙂

    • Yeah me too. There are certain topics that lots of indie authors don’t mind discussing but details like this often get overlooked, though I know there’s got to be a strategy behind it.

  2. Have you thought about releasing the first two books in the series at the same time? That way, you can discount the first one (for a week or so) and readers will be able to immediately read the second book after they’ve finished the first. You could then release the third a few months later, building anticipation, etc. Readers will be more excited to read the third book because they should be entrenched in your series by the second. Anticipation is a good thing.
    Summer is not usually a great time to release a book. Why not release the first two books in late August/early September. And then release the third book in late November/early December. These are good months for getting sales, after all.
    You could also launch your books ‘quietly’ so that you can get some reviews, first. Once you have some reviews you could then start promoting properly, i.e, blog tours, book trailers, interviews, advertising, etc. This way, those who land on your book can read those reviews. They might be more inclined to buy it that way.
    Since you’ll have a few books out there, you should make the most of marketing. I wouldn’t spend month after month promoting my books, but you could definitely spend a month or two promoting.
    Good Luck.

    • Cassandra, thanks for all of this great information! This is exactly what I was hoping for. I’m actually going for a similar effect to the one you suggested and plan to discount the first book once the second goes live. But I wanted to release them a month a part so that I can (as you also mentioned) gather some reviews and create a small bit of buzz first. I agree that anticipation is good but sometimes I worry that in that time between release dates, readers will forget about the book or be distracted by other releases. Like I mentioned, gaining momentum has been a big issue for me and I know my relative obscurity is mostly to blame. That’s why I thought releasing the books so close together and planning a blog tour that was essentially three months long would help.

      I noticed you also pointed out that the summer isn’t the best time to release something and I totally wasn’t aware of this. Is this your personal experience or the general opinion? Like I said there really was no reasoning behind the dates I picked other than that’s the soonest that I expect to be able to finance all of this. Also, since I’ll have been sitting on this project for a little while by the time early fall rolls around, I actually already had something else I was planning on releasing then. I might have to reconsider these dates and shoot for late summer/early fall as you suggested. Or maybe I could release the first two in late Spring and save the third for August or September to create some anticipation, like you said. Do you know if Spring releases tend to fare better? I guess I just hate the idea of them all just sitting around especially since, when I hold on to things too long I have a tendency to pick at them which can be really counter-productive.

      You’ve given me so much to think about. Again, thanks for all of your advice!

      • Wow, you write fast! I know what you mean about leaving things for too long. you just have the urge to change things, over and over again. Not good!
        Actually, in the past I wanted to release something in the summer, thought people would read a lot in the summer because many teenagers/students aren’t at uni, etc, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. According to some writers, sales really dip in that period. Spring, I hear, is a good time to release something, too, so maybe you could do what you said: release the two books in quick succession in Spring, and then hold of on the third one until late August. That sounds like a good plan.
        And if you do have something in mind for fall/winter, that’s even better. You’ll have lots to promote! As long as you keep on thinking of these things, you’ll soon come up with something that works for you.

        • Well, actually it’s just an illusion. In truth it takes me about 8 months to finish a book. I just didn’t publish my first until I was through the 2nd draft of the next one and was working through the first draft of another, so that bought me some time. I started the series in question back in the early Spring of 2013 but since it was my first I wanted to write all of the books at once for consistency purposes, which is why now I’m about to have three completed novels when I just published my latest back in September. I’m going to seriously consider dropping the first two in the Spring though, like you said, maybe March and April. That seems strange to me as well that the summer months show so much of a decline, I remember I used to do a ton of reading on family vacations. But hopefully that timing will build just the right amount of momentum. Thanks again for all of your help!

  3. Wow that’s really quite ambitious. I hope you have the success you want. Let me know how you get on, I’d be really interested. 🙂

  4. I never got to choose a “release date” for my book, mainly because iUniverse (the company I foolishly paid to publish my book for me) just kind of released it one day and sent me an email letting me know. Very professional, lol.

    I don’t know if this helps, but I noticed that blog traffic and book sales actually fell off in the summer. So maybe publish in May … and then wait until September? I think it might have something to do with cold weather cooping people up inside and giving them more chances to read.

    • Oh wow, so I’m assuming that gave you no time to build up anticipation before hand with any kind of promotion. It sounds like you second Cassandra’s point though that the summer isn’t the best time for a release. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past couple of days and I think releasing at least the first book in the spring–probably April–would be a good way to go.Thanks so much for your insight! I’m so glad you guys brought all of this to my attention, especially regarding summer being a bad time for releases, it’s all been so helpful!

      • And I think a big part of that is people are so busy going out and enjoying the lovely summer weather that buying ebooks isn’t exactly on the top of their priority list. Whereas once you’re back at work and sitting at a desk all day … you’re much more in need of a mental escape 🙂

        In regards to my own book release … yeah, it was kind of out of the blue! I mean, I had a vague idea that it would be published sometime in January, but not knowing when was really annoying. Plus it actually went live before I found out about it … and they actually sent out a proof copy AFTER it went live, so when I inevitably found some changes I wanted to make, people had already bought the book and gotten it shipped to them. I guess the long story short here is don’t publish with iUniverse, lol.

        • Oh no! What a mess! But unfortunately it’s not the first horror story I’ve heard about iUniverse. And I think you’re right about people needing more of a mental escape in the spring/fall/winter months. I tend to binge read more when it’s colder too but when it came to my own release date I hadn’t even considered that summer might not be a good time. I feel like I’m definitely in a better place to make an informed decision now thanks to all of your advice. Here’s to hoping that April will be the perfect time to put out something new!

          • Well, my April theory (probably dreadfully wrong) is that adults are starting to prepare for their summer vacations and looking for new books to fill up their eReaders … and students are winding down in school and have more free time on their hands to perhaps pick up a new book.

            • No, I think it makes a lot of sense and from looking back at the release dates of some of my favorite books from 2013 most of them were released early spring (February-March) or in September-November. So I do think that’s a legitimate factor playing into sales. And hopefully I’ll have some evidence to support it even further with a successful release of my own novel and I’ll be sure to share everything I’ve gathered here on my blog.

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