Poornima writes in with this question:
Why is it that new hardcovers seem to always release on a Tuesday? I have noticed this pattern a lot and I wonder if there is a reason.
The Tuesday release date is an industry standard, and not just for books; new CDs and DVDs are almost invariably released on Tuesdays. Before we get to why this might be, though, a quick note about book releases: 99% of books don’t have a hard release date at all. Generally, books are set to arrive during a particular month, and bookstores just put the books on the shelves when they arrive at the store. Only the most popular books merit a street date that is actually enforced. These books arrive ahead of the date in boxes marked “Do not open before…” and they sit there until that date arrives. For Oprah picks (and other big TV book club picks) these boxes don’t even have a book title listed on them. The box might just be marked “Oprah book club selection.” I suspect that not many books have specific street dates because, for many stores, it wouldn’t be feasible to store all the books that have been shipped but can’t yet be offered for sale.
In the book world, street dates exist for books that will have a large, unified publicity push behind them. They include the “book club” books noted above and generally any other book by a recognizable name. In the fiction world, for example, Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic are set to hit shelves on the first Tuesday in August. But why Tuesday?
An Ask Metafilter thread and a Google Answers item offer some clues, though both focus on music and movies. Among the theories thrown around on those pages, a few would seem to make the most sense for the publishing world:
- “If a Tuesday release is selling well, there still is time to order more before the weekend.” This makes sense, as it can often be difficult to gauge just how popular a release will be.
- “Consumers know when to look for new releases.” This explains why new releases continue to be on Tuesdays but not why it was decided they should be on Tuesday in the first place.
- Consolidating the releases to one day greatly reduces the costs to the distributor. (This doesn’t explain why it has to be a Tuesday, nor does it account for the fact that new releases often arrive at stores prior to Tuesdays.)
- Tuesday is traditionally the lowest sales day of the week, so popular new releases boost otherwise weak sales.
My theory, somewhat inspired by what I read in the above links and somewhat drawn from experience is that releasing a new book on Tuesday allows for several full days of book-related hype in the media to get people interested leading into the weekend when most of the shopping happens. Allowing a weekend to break up the media hype cycle too soon might let the new book fall from people’s consciousness before they got a chance to buy.
Anyone in publishing got the real story on Tuesday releases? Let us know.