What Time Of The Year Should You Publish Your Novel?

I’ve been getting quite a few hits lately from search terms such as “when do I self-publish my novel?” and “when does a book need to be published for the Christmas market?

I already pontificated on the issue of self-publishing for Christmas in this post, but that only dealt with one time of year. Now I’d like to talk in more general terms about seasonal trends in book sales. I have inhaled oodles of data on the subject. And so, in this post, and more to follow*, I’m going to take a look at questions like these:

  • Which month of the year sees the most sales?
  • Which month sees the least sales?
  • How many sales do you need to make it into the Top Ten Bestseller list? Are there times of the year when the target is lower and this might be easier?
  • Are there particular weeks in the year when sales increase or decrease significantly? Is that a good time to publish? Why?
  • Why are hardbacks still published? What’s the ratio of hardback to paperback sales?
  • What happens when one particular title sees a major sales spike? Does it cannibalise other book sales? What are the reasons for sales spikes?
  • How many books per 1,000 head of population do people buy in the UK? Or in Ireland?
  • Why, in September 2014, did  bestselling books have to have the word “Bone” in the title?
  • Why??

Over the past few months, I’ve been incubating some lovely numbers for you, nurturing them in the hopes that one day, I would actually have something to tell you. My internal Nerd Queen doesn’t want me to post this now, because I only have 5 months’ worth of data, but seeing as there’s obviously some interest, I’m going to start posting what I have, to hell with the consequences. (OOOH! Insurgent book data! Stop the madness!)

Who Is This Data You Speak Of? Am I Bothered?

In an utterly incontrovertible study (see what I did there), I collected the Top Ten bestseller fiction data for each week in the UK and Ireland, as supplied by Nielsen Bookscan and published by the Sunday Times (UK) and the Irish Times (Ireland). I don’t have data for the US, but as I explained here, the US doesn’t seem to have that data, either. There may come a time when I do it for the scant New York Times bestseller data available. We’ll see.

Although the base data obviously only includes the top 10 bestsellers from each week (and is in itself far from perfect, given the issues still surrounding e-book sales data) the exercise still suffices for what I want to look at: Trends. Sales trends and outliers, to be precise.

Here are some lovely initial graphs, which illustrate some of what I’ll be talking about. I’m just concentrating on UK data here but Irish data will also come later.

All of the gorgeous data behind these pretty pictures comes from, and belongs to, Nielsen Bookscan via the Sunday Times. But I collated it, averaged it and graphed it, so the pretty pictures are mine. (However that works out.)

When is the best time of year to publish your novel?

Marked drops in bestseller sales in July, August and September – but does this open up the market for you?

As you can see, August saw the least weekly average sales (hardback and paperback together), probably because more people were away during this month, having already bought their holiday reading. In October, however, you can see sales increasing quite a bit. This is most likely because the big titles, which would sell in their droves anyway, are all being released for Christmas.

What time of the year should you publish your novel?

More paperbacks are bought in June (for holidays?) but the highest hardback sales are in October (blockbuster releases for Christmas)

What Does This Mean For Self-Publishers Right Now?

More Heavy Hitters (i.e. long-awaited titles from authors so popular, they spit on you after they take your lunch money) are released between the beginning of September and the beginning of November than any other time of year. Why, if you are self-publishing, would you pit yourself against the strongest sellers in the business?

In general, I would want to do it when the market noise was a little quieter. I know that the run-up to Christmas would seem like the most obvious time to sell a book, hence the fact that the big industry players – the traditional publishers with the big-name authors – are saturating the market as we speak.

But there’s little point in trying to tout your book when all anyone can talk about is the first new book in aeons from Dan Brown or Lee Child, or the movie adaptation just out in time for Oscar season which is reviving the sales of that blockbuster. It doesn’t matter what your genre is.

Furthermore, even if I were counting on 90% of my initial sales coming from buyers I knew personally buying my book at the launch plus an additional 16 copies each as Christmas gifts, I might leave it to publish in the last week of November or the 1st week of December, after all the famous authors and biographers had shut up. In any case, that’s only going to work if you’ve actually printed it. Digital novels don’t translate to Christmas sales – at least not in my book.

That’s it for today. More data to follow next week. And graphs. Oh my Blog, how I love graphs.

 *Nanowrimo is coming. And I am doing it. November therefore seems like a fitting time for some bloody lovely data analytics which may actually be useful/interesting to some of you, while I try to write 50,000 words of actual fiction offline.

There is [sometimes] method to my madness.


Lights… Camera…. READ! How Writing Goes Live

Joyce and Beckett walked into a bar...One thing which made the transition from my business brain to my bookish brain lately was a certain trend in the music industry, which now seems to be making inroads into the book industry.

It’s all becoming more and more about live performance.

Part of what I do for a living (my actual living, which pays me actual money) involves looking at sales and (financial) performance trends in different industries. On a bad day, I’m forced to switch from the sales projections of ball-bearing manufacturers, to the financial ratios of insurance companies. On a good day, I can jump from looking at companies who make ridiculously expensive shirts, to pondering the machinations of media moguls (hence the thoughts which led me to this particular soapbox).

Reaching for mic stand

Ever since music publishing entered the murky era of music sharing, social media and bedroom record labels (which in the business is known as the “Nobody Knows What The F*** Is Going On” era), a few things have become clear, namely:

  1. Artists aren’t making as much money from album sales as they used to.
  2. Record companies aren’t making as much money from album sales as they used to.
  3. Record companies and (some) artists used to make obscene amounts of money from album sales. Nowadays, this is rare (unless you’re Adele, or Adele’s record company).
  4. Artists can still make a lot of money from touring, but that’s pretty much it (unless you’re Adele).
  5. Record companies without live music divisions are in trouble, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

So, How Does This Relate To Books?

Well, since the advent of e-publishing, and self-publishing, the book industry has been undergoing the same stresses. Book pricing has changed completely; even full-price books are cheaper online, and the majority of books in shops are being discounted anyway. Readers are flooding electronic devices with free content. Online fan fiction takes a huge chunk of readership. There are a hundred other reasons why things have changed, but the upshot is that there are far more authors on the scene, and those authors are all getting less money. And publishers are petrified, because their business models are becoming obsolete.

And here’s where the author performance events come in.

ah nice bookshopWhat originally germinated from small-ish literature festivals, book clubs, dead-of-night TV arts programmes and open mic nights has now become a whole new and important part of the entertainment industry, not to mention a major driver of books sales.

Big-name authors can now sell out concert halls for readings, signings and interviews. Some authors are becoming more famous for their live performances than their work on the page. But live “performances” – for that is what they are, whether they’re called interviews, signings or otherwise – are undeniably selling books. It’s the equivalent of the rock band live tour.

Some authors are huge and can sell thousands of tickets to their appearances. Some authors are small, and give readings to tens of people in bookshops.

But the parallels with the music industry are there too. Some garage bands dream of making it to the stadium; some want to stay indie because they believe it’s truer to their art. Either way, none of them want to stay in the garage.

I did a Spoken Word workshop recently, and it was a real eye-opener. But I also go to a lot of book events, and a good performance always makes me buy more.

Could I Get To The Point, Please?

The moral of the story is: whether you’re self-published or traditionally published; starting out, struggling, mid-list or heading for imminent superstardom – you must get yourself ready to perform.

Learn how to read your work publicly, in an entertaining way. (The old chestnut here is “Be the best version of yourself”.) Learn how to engage with an audience; learn how to engage with an interviewer. Practice reading your work out loud, and get feedback. Select well from your work, and ask for the opinion of others; the best piece (to you) could easily be the worst to read aloud, and fail to give an audience any reason to buy your book.

Opera CurtainSo if you want to be a hugely famous author, learn how to act. Put on a show. Any writer who wants to be successful nowadays must be able to entertain in ways which do not involve sitting behind their desk, or hiding behind their computer and crippling shyness. It’s all about the show today, folks, and the show must go on.

Do you agree?

What A Blank Page Says To A Writer

Blank pages. You know what they look like, right? Empty, white space?


A blank page can be full of things. Daft people – optimists and the like – might say they are full of possibility. But a blank page can be chock-full of insults, jibes, and taunts too.

Just look at what a blank page says to a writer.

One blank page said all this to me only yesterday

My blank page said all this to me only yesterday

You can tell it’s been one of those weeks already. I hope your blank pages are treating you better.

Unbelievable New Tax Reforms For Writers in Ireland

Money harvest

This is me, with my abnormally huge head and skinny little legs

Yup. That’s what I said, folks. Unbelievable.

The Irish government issued its annual budget on Tuesday. In it, there were plenty of teeny-tiny measures to please almost everybody just a teeny-tiny bit, but nothing targeted at the artistic community, or at writers in particular.

I reckon the government missed a trick here (particularly if, as I suspect, every second person in this country is writing a book; the other 50% are too busy grappling with real life).

With that in mind, I put my nerdy numbers hat on, and came up with a few schemes they should have included for booky types.

1. The Residency Royalty Scheme

In the normal scheme of things, to be resident in Ireland for tax purposes, you must be in the country for at least 183 days a year (unless you’re Bono). This requirement will be reduced to just 60 days for multinational writers, throughout which accommodation and meals will be provided, free of charge, in former hotels and closed-down Garda stations.

Once tax-resident in Ireland, writers will be eligible for a net effective tax rate of just 5% on all royalties earned. If royalties exceed €100,000, the rate will decrease to 4%.

2. The Hollywood Irish Tax Rebate

If a writer (Irish or otherwise – for equal opportunities purposes) bases a book in Ireland which features at least three drunk men, an extremely short person, some flat caps or a thatched roof, they will qualify as an Irish resident for tax purposes and be eligible for the royalty tax discount rate of 5%.

If they agree to appear on both Irish weekend TV chat shows and be photographed with the Taoiseach, they will be in net receipt of tax, and the Revenue Commissioners will present them with a cheque for €30,000.

Film and Popcorn the heavenly combination

3. The Film Fiduciary Benefit Scheme

If a writer’s book is adapted for the screen and the film is subsequently shot in this country (and the writer agrees to appear on both Irish TV chat shows and be photographed with the Taoiseach), they will become resident in Ireland for tax purposes. This will make them eligible for the royalty tax discount rate of 5%, unless royalties exceed $500,000, in which case the effective rate will reduce to 3.5%.

4. The e-Book Innovation Scheme

Ireland is a proud and staunch supporter of Research & Development, particularly in the areas of technology, pharmaceuticals, technology, pharmaceuticals, and, er, technology.

With this in mind, the Irish government will offer tax residency status in Ireland to any self-published author who has managed to learn how to format their own book for Kindle, which will make them eligible for a royalty tax discount rate of 4%.

is this the future of pen and paper illustrations

5. The Triple Irish

You’ve heard of the Double Irish tax hoopla which the Irish government dispensed with this week, meaning that naughty foreign companies must eventually stop exploiting certain loopholes which get Ireland’s bottom smacked every time we come back inside from the playground at lunchtime.

In the Triple Irish, any multinational writers earning over $1 million per annum will get a free Irish passport and a 2% effective tax rate on royalties if they base themselves in Donegal for 2 weeks of the year. If they also squeeze in a fortnight in Clare and a book launch in Limerick, they’ll get a 0.5% flat rate of tax, and a lifetime supply of brown soda bread and black pudding.


Right so, I’m off to Leinster House for a meeting. Thank you for listening; feel free to leave your own suggestions for tax reform or further budgetary measures below.

*Postscript: Did anyone notice what happened following my last post warning of the dangers of optimism…? Did they? Well, no sooner had I intervened to save us all from the forces of positivity, and the knock-on prospect of football failure, than Ireland managed to draw 1-1 with World Cup holders Germany! Sometimes I surprise myself, I really do. You can thank me later.

Look Away Now… It’s Irish Writing Kryptonite

Sheep in the rain

The sheep know a fraud when they see one

Tell me. Have you breathed any air, lately? Got up in the morning? Smiled, any time in the last 6 weeks? Yes? Well, pull up a pew, then, because you need to listen to this.

I don’t want to be the girl who cried wolf, here, because that could possibly ruin my cheap and nasty reputation; but I have just realised something, and it would be remiss of me not to make you all listen to it. (This is an extremely serious matter, so pull your chair a bit closer, there.)

An extremely dangerous virus has reached our shores. And the future of Irish writing is in jeopardy.

A dangerous streak of optimism (Futurus Maximus) has been spotted in certain pockets of the country where it had previously  been entirely unknown (mainly Leitrim and Louth; but also any county with a vowel).

Certain mutations of this strain of optimism have been known to wipe out entire waves of success in golf, stand-up comedy, football, big stadium bands, rugby, and river-dancing. And lately, it has been licking at the fringes of Irish literature.

I myself came down with a woeful bout of it, last weekend. At one point, during the Blog Awards, I was wearing a permagrin you could have strained soup through. On Sunday, I was heard singing in the shower (Spandau Ballet, I believe it was).

The problem is, I haven’t been able to write a thing since.

Not Failing Better

What is an Irish writer, without misery? What is literature in this country, without downtrodden, hopeless, damp, grey and scabby existences; without hope of salve or salvation? Where would all our greatest writers have been without the pestilence of addiction, poverty, desperation, anger, bitterness, along with the tendency to pretend that things are worse than they are, and that they care less than they actually do?

They’d be on the slush pile – that’s where. A thousand literary giants lurking on desks, never to be published because nobody wants their stories of bunnies and kittens and empowerment and enlightenment and happy childhoods and fulfilling careers, that’s where. Sure, half of them wouldn’t have written a word in the first place. They’d have been too content.

Generations of great Irish writers have successfully combined a putrid existence with ironic irreverence for misery in order to produce great works of art. They knew where the money was (it was in poverty. Or failing that, pugilism), and they followed it. And all the best writers had dank tales of denigration. Real success didn’t sit well with them at all: no sir. Great accolades were welcome only after death.

But with all this talk in the country of positive economic outlook and new jobs and hopes for the future; what with this making people think they might be on some sort of creative right track by handing out awards willy-nilly to bloggers from the West of Ireland without so much as a thought for what it’ll do to their genetically ingrained pessimism, we can kiss goodbye to artistic success.

This is what success does to Irish writers

This is what success does to Irish writers

You mark my words: unless someone dunks this country under a cold shower very soon, there will never be another Irish Costa or IMPAC winner, Hozier won’t take over the world like we planned (thus wasting three years’ hard graft by six government quangos, and Bono), and the Football Association of Ireland will be forced to join up with the Faroe Islands in order to field a team. And I won’t be able to write another word.

Oh, there’s the rain, now. Batin’ off of the window like a long grey streak of pain. Thank God.

I WON AT THE BLOG AWARDS! And, um, this outfit happened

So I wasn’t expecting that! (Obviously, or I never would have promised you a photograph.) But I won the award for Best Newcomer at the Blog Awards last night. And I’m so delighted I don’t even mind jeopardising everything I hold dear now, by showing you just how seriously I took the 1980s fancy dress theme.

It was marginally funny earlier when I realised that at least 50% of the people in the room had possibly never even heard of Dynasty, Dallas, or anything else involving Grade A shoulder pad abuse.

Which meant that they thought I dressed like this normally. Although you’d think hair big enough to invade a small country and the texture of candyfloss might suggest otherwise. And that’s even before you even register the horror of a pastel pink power suit. Thank God for the dazzling compère, Bunny, who was channelling much the same thing and shouting Joan Collins before I even got to the stage.

I swear this outfit happened on purpose

I swear this outfit happened on purpose

And here I am later, with an award, a massive smile on my face and a lovely spouse to inject a bit of levity into the photograph.

2 for the price of 1

No flashes were harmed in the making of this picture

Thank you to Lorna Sixsmith and Amanda Webb who put enormous energy and expertise into organising the 2014 awards and put on a bloody fabulous show for everyone last night to boot.

And a humongous thank you to everyone here for their messages, votes, laughs, comments, shares, tweets, e-mails, visits, and interaction in general. My first steps into blogging have turned into an utter joyride (not in the 1980s Dubin meaning of the word obviously) and more fun than popping bubble wrap in a champagne-filled Jacuzzi.

And just one word of warning. I think I saw Tark and Mara at another table last night. They may have their own take on the awards… oh dear.


The 2014 1980’s Blog Awards Are Here! Wait. That’s not right

Irish Blog Awards 2014

The 1980s Blog Awards 2014 are here! Hang on, that still doesn’t sound…

Oh yes. It’s the Blog Awards Ireland 2014, and on Saturday night, it’s the 1980s!

This Supreme Do takes place this Saturday night, and the theme this year is the 1980s. In two day’s time, I will be dressed in what I thought was the HEIGHT of fashion when I was in national school, aroundabout 1985. I will be a terrifying vision of pastel hideousness, but seeing as I will be finally fulfilling a childhood fantasy of ideal womanhood, I can’t wait to look awful.

Love the SuitThe fact that I managed to find everything I needed for my chosen outfit either in my own wardrobe, or well-known shops just 10 feet from my office, says either something about me, something about fashion, or something about Dublin; but let’s make it all about me for today.

Because on Saturday night, there will be seriously stiff competition for all the awards, and unfortunately for me, particularly so in the 2 categories in which I’m nominated – Best Newcomer, and Best Humour Blog. Which is the reason I’m so happy to have got this far. This blog is but a fledgling, and still reeling from having got a few more hits than expected, let alone making the finals of this competition.

I am therefore content enough to make the solemn promise here that if I win, I will do penance for the privilege, by posting a photograph of me here in full rig-out. If I don’t win, I won’t. (Yes. I am mean and horrid.)

Timeless Overloading Of AccessoriesAnyhoo, on Saturday, I’m going to party like it’s 1999 (which makes no sense, because 1999 was not in the 80s, and neither am I); I’m going to Push It, for The Politics Of Dancing; and I’m going to Fight For my Right To Party… All Night Long (All Night).

And there is just a teeny chance I just might do the Wham! dance.
See you next week, after the glitter settles.

* Update: In a bizarre, unprecedented and in no way hyperbolic twist, this also appears to be my ceremonially questionable 100th post! Woo-hoo! Double celebrations and libations for me!