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Publication & Review Copy Timing

Question: What are your thoughts/experiences about traditional versus nontraditional (i.e. off-season) publication dates? Can the small publisher benefit by publishing outside the normal Spring/Fall windows?

This is a very important question, one that goes right to the heart of the problem facing the small press or self-published author when competing for attention with the New York "corporate conglomerates", whose submissions tend to dominate the primary (and many of the secondary) review publications.

The Midwest Book Review receives, on average, about 1,500 titles a month submitted to us for possible review. That sounds like a lot! But Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and The New York Review of Books receive a monthly average of 2,500 to 3,500 titles!

So, in addition to the physical appearance of the book, the content of the book, and the quality of the Publicity Release and/or Media Kit, the very timing of submissions has a great deal to do with how the small presses can successfully compete with large publishers for a reviewer's attention.

The peak months in terms of submissions tend to be October and November (aiming for the December/Christmas season when bookstores make up to half or more of their entire annual sales figures). Therefore, October and November are the two worst months for a small press to send out review copies. The sheer size of the incoming book flow is an awesome thing to behold when you are on the receiving end!

The second worth months are April and May. This is because they are the "hump months" for the Spring Season releases for the big guys who have distinct Spring and Fall Seasons to their marketing, complete with Spring Catalogs and Fall Catalogs, preprinted reviewer request forms, and all the other tie-ins dedicated to capturing a reviewer's attention.

The best months for submissions (because they are the "slump months" for the major houses in terms of their publishing schedules) are January and February for the Spring Season, and July and August for the Fall Season.

March and June are relatively quiet, and the third best months to submit. September is fairly brisk, and December is fairly dormant.

Now a word about "days of the week" - yes, it can actually make a difference as to what day of the week your book arrives on the reviewer's desk!

Monday is consistently the heaviest intake day for review copies. This is because UPS does not deliver on Saturday, and neither the UPS or the Post Office deliver on Sunday. So the books that are in the UPS and Post Office pipelines over the weekend all show up added to the normal Monday intake.

As the week progresses, the flow of books tends to die down a little, with Saturday (and only the Post Office delivering) tending to have the least number of books arriving. But countering that low Saturday figure is that while the book bags will be opened, it's fairly frequent that the books themselves will simply be stacked and added to the Monday piles, before starting the process of examination to determine their status with respect to the review selection routine.

So, the two best days to have your book arrive for inspection are Thursday and Friday. Those are the days when the competition of other books arriving simultaneously with yours is the least - say, 30 other titles instead of the 80+ that a Monday would see, and the 50 a day that Tuesday or Wednesday averages.

With respect to Post Office deliveries, I have no idea how you can fine-tune a delivery date to the preferred day of the week. It is possible with UPS because they have a book tracing component and can give a fairly accurate estimate for time of delivery, in terms of how many days between receiving the book and its final destination delivery.

The patterns as I have described them are consistent and arise out of my years of experience with The Midwest Book Review. Past conversations with my peers in other review publications and organizations echo these experiences and observations - even when they are at PW or LJ and dealing with twice to three times as much book traffic.

Jim Cox
The Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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