How to Make a Book Step 2: Set a Publication Date

In this eight-part series, I’ll walk you through the creation of a book using the next release from Practical Fox as an example. As I do the steps to make Life Among the Paiutes, I’ll write about it! Start with Step 1 here.

You’ve written your text, or picked a public domain text, or bought the rights to a text. However you got yourself some text, the book is ready to be edited. But hold on! It’s going to seem like putting the cart before the horse, but trust me, if it’s in your power to do so, pick a publication date now. Before editing, before marketing, before any of it. This will be your own personal map for making a book.

Real talk! I do not do always this. Setting a publication date early in the process is definitely a “do as I say, not as I do” practice. But maybe by offering this piece of advice to the internet, I will guilt myself into doing it consistently for every book I publish. Maybe.

Picking the Publication Date

First you’re going to set a publication day for your book to officially come out. This is the day it will be on shelves both virtual and physical, the day it can be sold by every bookstore in the land, the day you will throw the big party and maybe read a little from it for your friends and fans.

Yes, this seems totally backward, but that’s kind of the point. You’re going to pick that date and create a publication schedule by working backward from that date. A couple of pointers:

  • Pick a date at least six months away to give yourself time to build up your marketing machine.
  • Books are usually released on Tuesdays, so that’s a solid bet. But you can pick any day you like.
  • Try to pick a month without other obligations, like weddings or international travel. You’ll want to be on deck for the last-minute details of launch day.

For my novel Skull and Sidecar, I set the publication date for a Saturday in June, which is an unconventional choice. But it was the same date that opens the book, which is set in the summer of 1926. It’s entirely possible to read the book over the same week that it takes the main characters to ride across Oregon on a Harley-Davidson with a sidecar to rescue a skull stolen from an archaeological site.

Wind It Back

Once you know your pub date, everything else falls into line. Your marketing plan will start six months (or more!) before that date. We’ll talk marketing in a later post.

For Life Among the Paiutes, my current project for Practical Fox, I want to have a publication date of May 19, the Tuesday before the Memorial Day holiday. I began working on marketing in early January 2020, though truthfully I should have kicked this into gear before the end of 2019. It is what it is; moving on!

Here’s a sample schedule for this book based on that pub date:

  • Pub day: May 19
  • Upload ebooks: March 19
  • Ebook design complete: February 29
  • Upload to distributor: February 19
  • Proofread in layout: February 18
  • Paperback design complete: February 15
  • Hardcover design complete: January 31
  • Cover art complete: January 31
  • Assign ISBNs: January 31
  • Text proofread: December 31
  • Text edited: November 30
  • Text downloaded: October 30

Note that I gave myself plenty of leeway in case design goes awry, or the uploads don’t work the first time (they never work the first time).

I also give each major step, like editing and design, at least a month to complete. That’s because I’m doing these tasks myself for a book that was published in 1883. The editing is light and the design is not too challenging. If I were working with editors and designers, as I do for books I’ve written myself, I would allow even more time for revisions and feedback. I’d also factor in getting on the schedules of those professionals, which takes some scheduling.

There Are Many Minutes Better Than the Last One

You might wonder why I bothered to upload books so early if the publication date is in May. First, those are target dates. I have wrestled with uploading systems and persnickety design requirements for weeks with other books. It’s a system I call, as of right this second, “Tweak and Try Again.”

Second, having them in the systems that will sell those books to the people allows me to sleep better. Even if you don’t upload the full, completely designed interiors, you’ll want to get the basic info into your distributor’s systems so you can do preorders. A cover image is going to be key here, so you’ll want that nailed down early.

Doing all of the production work earlier in the process means that you free up time to do some major marketing moves closer to the publication date. Again, marketing basics are coming up in a later post.

Next Time

Even though I didn’t have to edit Life Among the Paiutes much, editing books is a huge part of how I make a living. So I’ll detail the editing process, from draft to proofread copy, in the next step.