Publicizing a book? What to expect & when

What happens next? — A question I am asked all the time when it comes to a publicity campaign for a book, especially from new authors and clients. It’s time to lay down an outline of the calendar so you are armed with enough information that you can move on to other things on your list.

Infographic-Publicity timeline

Publish, Release, Launch: Some of The What and When of Book Publishing

james pattersonI will let you in on a secret: no one, not even the big publishers, know exactly when to publish a book.  Yes, there are some givens, like making sure you are able to get into holiday and other promotions like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. Then there are books by authors that consumers are trained to buy in a certain month based on its availability.  I’m talking about Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and others who write at least one book per year.

I should also mention the reason a book is usually published on a certain date is because of marketing and publicity reasons.  We try to get books out there when they will be featured most prominently and when the media are interested in what the titles and authors have to say. 

For self-published authors I recommend that they publish the book as soon as it is ready.  I call this a “soft publication.”   Your “media date” or “hard publication” can be  whenever you think the stars are going to align with media coverage and the success of your marketing—or when you think you can sell the most books!

I’m going to try to break down what the norms are in terms of publication months, but first I need to address some lingo that is tossed around and needs to be clarified.

Publication: This means that your book is on the market and available for sale via any and all distribution channels.

Release: This usually means the date that books are shipped from a distribution center to online and retail stores.  However, I’ve seen it used interchangeably with “publication” but for some people it means something different.  I’m not saying you are wrong for using the word, but knowing that there are other meanings out there might help clear up some confusion.

Launch: This term is a pet peeve of mine, because using this word implies there is some kind of event attached to the publication of your book.  If you are a celebrity or famous person and/or your book has breaking news that is going to dictate an entire news cycle, then perhaps “launch” is a good word to use.  But I caution people about calling publication a launch, because I think there are inherent expectations associated with using the word that can potentially be cause for disappointment.  

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Having said all of this, here are some monthly breakdowns that I have generally experienced as the accepted publication patterns:

January (Or “New Year, New You”)

Self-help; diet; inspirational; business—if you fit into this category, this is what the media are generally interested in, and it’s what consumers are thinking about.


Self-help associated with relationships; debut authors; business; fiction—if you are a debut author, this month is not as full of new titles and there may be more promotion and media opportunities for you as a result.


Debut authors; mysteries; fiction


Women’s fiction


Beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies; books on mountain climbing


More beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies or other non-fiction that will appeal to male readers on vacation or for Father’s Day


Quieter month better for debut authors; more of what you saw in June


Debut authors; education related titles; narrative non-fiction by lesser known writers


Public affairs and politics; serial authors in fiction and non-fiction; cooking; highly publicized titles by debut authors


More politics; cooking; big non-fiction titles by well-known personalities and writers; higher end photography books; art books


Photography; art; gift books; big names; and anything else you can think of that will sell in the current budget year


Good month for lesser known authors.  A variety of books are published including late comers for Christmas or those titles that people want to get a jump on for January

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You may notice that the categories are not always dictated firmly in one month or another—this is what I mean about the secret.  In the end what everyone wants to do is get the book out there at the best possible moment.  But you need to consider what you can control and what you can’t.  After you make your best educated decision, you have to go with it and plan as if it will be the biggest “launch” you’ve ever seen! 😉

Review: Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall/House of Anansi Press

“But we were both shaken by what we’d seen. It was as though someone had peeled the mask off certainty and our first-world assumptions about safety. Bombs happened halfway around the globe, not nearby. We were used to abstract faraway injustices and violence. We’d been cushioned our whole lives, and had no idea how to act or what to think when faced with this disaster.

Today that episode felt like ten years ago, not four. I felt so much older, drinking whiskey in the morning so I could sleep. The things I’d seen since then. The gnawing in my bones of a kind of tired I knew wasn’t healthy. But I was so used to it, it didn’t matter anymore.”

Holding Still for as Long as Possible

Holding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall is a portrait of three people representative of the “Y” generation. These twenty somethings grew up after 9/11 in a society generously prescribing pills to numb the pain and anxiety of living in a culture on steroids. Texting their relationships; dousing their troubles with alcohol; and living in a fog, confused about who they really are, Whittal’s characters tenuously maintain a grip on their daily lives.

Josh is a female-to-male transgender working as a paramedic, and he spends his days and nights becoming more emotionally-distant from the terrible events he sees. He starts to take his emotionally detached feelings into his relationship with Amy, a rich girl who is trying to live a cool bohemian city life with her amateur film-making career. At the same time Josh is becoming distant, Amy is finding being around Josh is annoying her for no apparent reason other than their relationship is starting to become less exciting and more mundane.

Billy (real name: Hilary) gets thrown into the mix when her long-time girlfriend Marie breaks up with her and Billy moves in with Roxy, who is Amy and Josh’s mutual friend. Billy is a has-been child music star who came and went from the spotlight quickly, and blew all her money in the process. Billy tries to make a living by going to college (and constantly skipping classes) and working as a waitress, but her full-blown anxiety doesn’t leave her alone, and her ex-girlfriend is the only one who understands how to deal with Billy and her anxiety issues.

One day Billy runs into Josh and Amy on the street and immediately garners a crush on Josh. She’s too flirtatious and self-absorbed to care enough about Amy’s feelings, and immediately goes for the kill, although she uses self-protecting language at first, such as “Josh, I think you and I are going to know each other for a long time.” Josh and Amy eventually break up, though they remain together in the same apartment, and Josh continues dating Billy, even though Billy is starting to drive him crazy because she won’t fully commit to the relationship. In a turn of events, Amy starts seeing Billy’s ex, Maria, and although Amy acts as though she’s dating Maria because she’s attracted to her, there’s an obvious dig towards Billy for stealing Josh.

The characters in Holding Still for as Long as Possible are the most selfish people in Toronto, possibly the world. They never think about each others feelings, but only how others will react to them. Although Billy is self-absorbed and wallows in her anxiety problems, Josh is the most self-centered and insecure of the group. His skills as a paramedic of being unaffected by other people’s trauma has left him incapable of being expressive outside of the workplace. His impassive personality brought on the majority of difficulties in his and Amy’s romance. At one point she asks him, “You just don’t want me to be happy, do you?”

Josh is so consumed with his own feelings for the two women in his life that he doesn’t even see the problems going on in his coworkers’ lives, such as not knowing fellow paramedic Dave was gay—and even then, Josh turned it into his own problem: “He looked at me, just as close, and all of a sudden I saw that he knew about me.” When Billy and Amy get into an accident with a truck, Josh is furious at Amy for surviving, and although he is upset that Billy may not live, he still manages to spin his emotions so that he’s the victim and Billy’s the bad one: “For some reason, she thinks Billy’s the victim of my uncertainty when it’s the other way around.”

In the end, Billy and Josh deserve each other: they’re both so interested in themselves that they are a reflection of one another, two people Amy never should have had to deal with in the first place. Holding Still for as Long as Possible is a great book: there is a lot of egotism, but it’s all so realistic you’ll find yourself hating and loving the characters as they go about their daily lives and messed-up relationships. The book is honest as it captures the raw emotions of these young people who are just trying to survive the monotonous lives in which they exist. They are all trying to figure out who they want to be, but they don’t have the ability for introspection and deeper thought. Their world of technology and text-messaging, and stuffing real emotions, has left them unable to form bonds with other humans and solve their problems by sharing them face-to-face.

Review: A Happy Death by Albert Camus

At Claire McKinneyPR, we love books. Many of our daily conversations revolve around not just the books we work with, but those we read on our own time. So we decided to  post reviews, not just of books that are new, but classics and anything we happened to pick up at a local bookstore or library, and fell in love with.  Enjoy!


Camus Book Cover

“And Mersault, in silence, felt in himself  extreme and violent powers to love, to marvel at this life with its countenance of sunlight and tears, this life in its salt and hot stone-it seemed that by caressing this life, all his powers of love and despair would unite. That was his poverty, that was his sole wealth. As if by writing zero, he was starting over but with a consciousness of his powers and a lucid intoxication which urged him on in the face of his fate.”

-A Happy Death, Pg. 83

Senior year of high school my English honors class was required to read The Stranger by Albert Camus. The class was an hour and twenty minutes long and I devoured the book in less than an hour. No one appeared to have finished reading, and we had the entire eighty minutes for the next class to read the book as well, so I started reading it from the beginning. In two days I read The Stranger three times and loved every moment of it, from the character’s bored relationship with his girlfriend, to his indifferent shooting and slaying of a man, to his listless time spent in jail until his own execution.

A Happy Death by Albert Camus has very similar aspects to The Stranger-in fact, the book jacket quotes Time praising the book as its “preamble.” And a preamble it is: the protagonist, Mersault (who has the same name as the main character in The Stranger) murders an older, invalid man named Zagreus, whom Mersault was slowly befriending, and flees the scene. Mersault, like in The Stranger, has a girlfriend he has no real connection with and keeps around just because he’s bored. A Happy Death unfolds the weeks before and after the cold-blooded murder, not unlike Camus’ more famous piece.

Zagreus was introduced to Mersault by Mersault’s lover, Marthe. Although Mersault and Marthe appear to the audience to be in a relationship-they go to the movies, visit Zagreus, who is Marthe’s old friend, and spend quite a bit of time with each other-Camus uses Marthe to further depict Mersault’s inability to have an honest, loving connection with anyone. Calling someone his “lover” rather than his partner or girlfriend creates a distance between Marthe and Mersault because Mersault is a superficial character who is only interested in satisfying himself and making himself happy-which he is finding increasingly difficult to do in the pages of A Happy Death.

A Happy Death is a short novel with so much compressed into its pages, but Camus delivers with a simple and beautiful unraveling of the character’s story.  Like most of Camus’ works, A Happy Death is worth reading, possibly more than The Stranger is; in its pages is sadness, despair, loneliness, unhappiness, and existentialism. You’ll find yourself feeling sympathetic towards Mersault because he is obviously so lost and drowning in his own inability to understand happiness in both staying and going. His random surges of love and passion for life are constantly pulled back by his weighted despair of being.

Reading this book reminded me quite a few times of the novel Wittgenstein’s Nephew, another existential book by German author Thomas Bernhard. One point in the novel Bernhard states that “I am only happy when I am sitting in the car, between the place I have just left and the place I am driving to. I am happy only when I am travelling.” This line perfectly fits Mersault’s drive to travel as well, for when he is on the train from Prague he keeps switching his tickets to continue his train ride, never deciding to stop anywhere: “not for a single moment was Mersault bored…He loved these long nights when the train rushed along the gleaming rails, roaring through the village stations (pg. 73)…”

Book rating: 5/5
Similar books: Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre, Wittgenstein’s Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

Book Expo: How to make deja-vu new again

I have been attending Book Expo America for a long time, never in the capacity of a show-goer, but always as someone representing a publisher—big or small.  When I started out working in book publishing, we went all out with parties, huge booths, and galley giveaways in the thousands.  It was crazy.

Different publishers had different rules for the staff on the floor too, like no sitting down and to look excited and friendly.  Don’t let any important booksellers or media get by without a handshake, a pitch, and a smile.  Don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and if pressed, refer potential authors to the editor on duty (who might duck out at that opportune moment).

For the most part, the show has had its fair share of ups and downs, but there are some things that really stood out for me this year and made the experience somewhat new again:


1. The number one thing that made an impact for me this year is that I took someone from my office to the show who had never been there before.  Not only was she excited right up until the day of the show, but she doggedly went to stand in line for Lemony Snicket, Jim Carrey, Ann Romney, R.L. Stine, Snooki from “Jersey Shore,” and Chelsea Handler. She grabbed the swag, like free totes and after the first hour proudly sported an assortment over her arm.  Starstruck and thrilled are the two best words to describe how she seemed to experience the event.  An avid reader and book person, for her this was like heaven on earth.  How fun for me to see the show through her eyes!

2. Saudi Arabia, China, Mexico and other foreign entities have taken over where other domestic publishers have taken to cost-cutting and smaller booths.  Those banners were impressive, even though I did a double take, expecting to see the words Simon and Schuster across the sky.

3. Prospective authors are very different than they used to be. With the business of self-publishing booming, there are less people meekly approaching the booths.  There is definitely a stronger sense of esteem and affirmation—and “I have as much right to be here as anyone else” vibe, which is as it should be.

BEA4. Fewer familiar faces of booksellers and of course, a dearth of book editors.  There are a couple of things happening here.  One is I’m getting older and new people are replacing the old, and two the traditional world of book reviewing and “book media” is still downwardly adjusting for the digital market.  It is as hard as ever to get reviewed in print, but online opportunities continue to grow.

Things are always changing and for me this year the key was definitely to go into the show with an attitude of interest and anticipation.  It is fun to see old friends and co-workers and it is still exciting to be in the midst of an industry that in the face of all the challenges still boasts an underlying passion for its product.

Thank you to the Book Expo team.  See you next year!