Monday, February 06, 2006

What's a release date all about, anyway?

You've been waiting months for the next release by your favorite author.
You know the official release date is February 7th.
You start stalking the stores the week before, knowing that some places set it out early.
Finally, on Saturday afternoon, February 4th, you see it on the shelves.
Elated, you pounce on it, rip it off the shelves, sprint to check out, run to your car and sit in the parking lot for the next three hours until you've finished it. It's every bit as wonderful as you thought it would be, and life is perfect.

Unless you're the author and you're hoping to make a best seller list.

See, here's the way the best seller lists work. They are about velocity of sales, not total sales. Translation: how many sales does the book have in that week. Not in a two week period. In one week. So if you and a few other people buy copies the week before it's supposed to be out, those sales will be counted in a different week than the big upsurge.

Now, the way sales generally work is when a book hits the shelves, there is a swell of sales right at the beginning, when people who have been waiting for the book rush out and buy it. And then it settles down. A well-known author may continue to have sales for a while, but the big swell is over after a week, or two or three.

So, there is a small window of opportunity for those books to make the best seller lists, which are critical for future shelf placement, orders and contract negotiations.

Here's where the release date comes into play. If the release date is Tuesday, February 7th, but some stores start putting it out the week before, others put it out on the 7th, and still others are behind and don't get the boxes unpacked until the following Monday, then you have fragmented sales. The author might sell enough books to hit a best seller list, but she won't actually hit any lists because the sales are fragmented over three weeks, instead of a big swell all in the same week.

So, to support your favorite authors, don't go out and buy their new book if you see it on the shelves before release date. Wait until it's supposed to be out, and then buy it that week. Help those sales get the velocity they need that first week to make it onto the lists.

I cannot WAIT for Lori Handeland's new werewolf book, CRESCENT MOON and Laurell K. Hamilton's new book, MICAH to come out this month, but their release date is tomorrow, so I'm going to sit on my fanny and not buy them until then. Not that Laurell K. Hamilton needs any help in making all the lists, but it's on principle. It's tough enough for author's to make a living, so I'm going to my little part to help.


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