When is the Best Time to Publish a Business Book?

future-calendarI often get asked “when is the best time to publish a business book?”  It’s a great question. Every author wants to exploit any advantage the marketplace allows. However, while I do not think there are any real silver bullets when it comes to timing publication of a business book, most of the assumptions about the best month to publish have endured for decades.

For as long as I can remember publishers have chosen the fall to publish their biggest business books—particularly in September and October. For example, Jack Welch’s Memoir, Jack: Straight from the Gut, was published in September (unbelievably, it was published on September 11, 2001).  Jim Collins multi-million bestseller, Good to Great, was published in October of 2001, just a few weeks after the Welch book. So, too, was the $7- million Warren Buffett book published in October of 2008 (The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business Of Life). 

Not all fall months are great publication months. Late November and December are often bad months for business books, since Thanksgiving and Christmas can derail the effective distribution of a business book. That’s because most business books are not regarded as gift or Christmas books. Coffee table books, new best-selling fiction or big biographies are much better candidates for the holiday season. There are of course exceptions: big personality books in business can see a big spike in sales in December, as can other business books that appeal to a certain segment of a market (avid investors like day traders may find a trading book under the tree on December 25th). 

The other great month for business books is January, and for similar reasons that make September so desirable. People make New Year’s resolutions in January that often involves money,  which makes January a good month for personal finance books. Similarly, September is strong because of the whole back-to-school mentality in which people return from their summer vacations eager to learn and enhance their skill sets.

Lastly, summer was always regarded as the worst time to publish a business book. But that is becoming more myth than reality, particularly in this tough market environment. Few managers take long vacations these days and when they do, they might take a business book to the beach. However, most executives are still far more likely to read Tom Clancy than Tom Peters on those rare vacations far away from the home office.


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