Mar 20 2007
I was looking at the March slate of releases a couple months back. There were so many awesome March releases that we could barely fit all the reviews in the last week of February and the first couple weeks of March so that the reviews were timely. It got me to thinking about Tuesday, the Holy Day of Publishing.
It’s on Tuesdays and no other day on which books are released. In fact, it’s not just books, but it’s movies, music, and games. Retailers call it Super Tuesday (not to be confused with the political Super Tuesday). When I first started researching why Tuesday was the release date over some other day of the week, I didn’t get any definitive answer. I went straight to American Association of Publishers (AAP) and received the response that if Tuesday was the day for release as I was asserting, it was unknown to them the reason why. I figured that was a source not worth following up.
I turned to a publishing insider who indicated she did not know, but speculated it might be because of the NY Times lists. My local bookseller thought that was the reason too. I researched more and sent an email to Dr. Alan Sorensen, a Stanford Professor, who has written peer reviewed literature on the NYTimes Bestseller list and queried him. He did not think it was related to the list itself and thought it was something much more mundane, speculating that Tuesday might be the most convenient day from a shipping and restocking standpoint.
I emailed the NY Times.
Rankings for The New York Times Best Sellers List are based on the traditional definition of a week. Thus, stores report their sales for a selling week that starts on Sunday AM and ends with their close of business Saturday night.
Our Mondays and Tuesdays are spent processing and tabulating all the retail reports, researching titles and all the activities related to producing the lists.
The NYT Book Review closes the section on Wednesdays, and this is why the final rankings are available then to subscribers to TimesDigest.
The publishers’ Tuesday release date phenomenon is unrelated.
This actually came from the BIG retailers (Wal-Mart,Target.etc). It started with the Music and video companies and books were added later on. They wanted one day when all of the new release big entertainment products would be on sale (it’s now called super Tuesdays).
[Aside: Frankly responses like this only encourage me to use Nora Roberts as an unpaid research wank in the field of publishing. I resist, however, as I know if I inundate her with frivilous (read any) emails, she will a) ban me and b) only be able to write 5 books a year instead of the usual 6 0r 7 making me the object of hate for millions. And frankly I need no help in that endeavor. ]
But why Tuesday? Unless I get someone from Wal-mart, Target, etc., I guess we may never know although I think that Dr. Sorensen probably has the right of it – that its due to some stocking convenience. That was the answer put forth by a commenter at this site.
Now, just because the official release date is on a Tuesday doesn’t actually mean that the books go on the shelves on Tuesdays. At my Waldens, books that have a release date of Tuesday but do not have a “lay down” date can be on the shelves the week before and usually Thursday at the latest.
On sale date or street date or laydown dates were the result of a number of independent bookstores backed by the ABA (American Bookseller Association) to level the playing field. Apparently the chains were getting in the books sooner than the indies and putting the hot books out early and thus gaining a competitive advantage. Lay down dates for certain books were then paid for by the publisher and penalties, such as future shipments being late, were meted out. The big retailers who wanted Super Tuesday in the first place are well known for breaking the street date for books, games and everything.
This is agonizing for readers and writers. It’s agonizing for readers because they want the book RIGHT NOW and they know that the booksellers have it in the BACKROOM and are intentionally depriving the readers of their CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to read the book RIGHT NOW! Authors are agonized because if the book is dribbled out a little here and a little there on different dates and different weeks, this can prevent them from getting on a list – any list.
Here’s what Release Days have trained people to do – each month, we look for the next new thing. When compiling shopping lists for April, we aren’t considering the books released in January, February, March. We are only considering April (maybe March but definitely not as far back as Feb or Jan). The reason for this is because we have already contemplated the previous months releases and have either bought or mentally discarded the slate of books. It is not within the consumer dialect to go back and reconsider what we have already discarded.
We are making judgments on how our book money is spent. Do I really want to reconsider some old books I’ve already deemed not good enough for my precious dollars when I’ve got all these new shiny books to consider? This is the mentality that readers employ and I believe this to be true because each month, my reader friends and I make out lists for purchase and not once have I remembered people identifying books from a previous month’s release. Because a mass market book has a shelf life of approximately 3 months. Because in looking at the Bookscan data for the top 100 romance novels of the week, a book is rarely on there after a month, let alone 3.
There’s been a lot of talk about how to make the RITAs have greater prominence in the readers’ minds. Essentially, when you want readers to seek out the RITA winners, you are asking them to reconsider books that they’ve already passed over. You are wanting them to ignore the shiny new books just released on SUPER TUESDAY.
I’ve offered any number of sugggestions but the best one I can think of is to re-issue the RITA winners or finalists with a big gold star and a special back that tells the reader that this book is one that she might have passed over, but should reconsider. Because it takes a lot of word of mouth to get a reader to reconsider her original judgment. A list of books released won’t do it, but a physical incarnation in your bookstore? With that gold star we equate with excellence from kindergarten? It just might.