Have you ever looked at something and wondered why? Check out any major media release—whether it’s music CDs, DVDs, or yes, books—and you’ll find a strange coincidence. They’re all (usually) released on a Tuesday. Smaller titles across the spectrum of media might pop up on the other days of the week, but the major titles, the Star Wars and the Stephen Kings? Tuesdays. Always Tuesdays. But why?
To answer this question, I rushed to the Google, certain it wouldn’t let me down. And it didn’t. Sort of. Lots of articles asking why, but no hard answers. The first thing I discovered, unsurprisingly, was not all books are created equal and few have a hard release date. This means they’re shipped throughout the days of the week and placed on store shelves whenever they arrive. These are usually mid-list authors or books without a lot of buzz behind them, and so their unequal availability makes little difference.
However, for the A-List titles (the Rowlings and Kings and Oprah’s Book Club picks), they’re shipped in boxes marked “Do NOT Open/Shelve Until <Insert Date Here>.” That date is usually a Tuesday. Again, why? Unfortunately, there are no solid reasons, but I’ll break down the ones that popped up most often in my searches. Links to the original articles are either embedded or listed at the end.
- Best Seller Lists – The most recurring explanation for a Tuesday release has to do with making the New York Times best seller list. The Times shrouds their formula in secrecy, but there’s speculation they compile their list based on a Sunday-Saturday week, with the data gathered on Monday/Tuesday and compiled on Wednesday to go into their Sunday newspaper. Therefore, publishers push their biggest names to a Tuesday release to have as much time on sale as possible to make the NYT list.
- Tuesday is a long way from Friday – Releasing on a Tuesday gives booksellers time to restock popular titles before the weekend. This is another recurring supposition that makes perfect sense. Release on a Thursday, sell out by Friday, and you’ve lost the weekend sales since your earliest delivery date is Monday. Tuesday, however, gives the sellers time to get one last delivery on Friday for the weekend rush.
- Retail Request – According to Nora Roberts (and who has the nerve to gainsay her?), the major big box retailers (Wal-Mart, Target, etc) wanted a single day for all new media releases. It originally started with music and movies, but video games and books were added later. It’s now called Super Tuesday (not to be confused with the political Super Tuesday).
- Slow Sales Day – Tuesday is a notoriously slow day of the week for retail sales. Tuesday release dates help bolster flagging sales for booksellers.
- Shipping –If the publisher is on the east coast, as most of them are, a Monday release date might mean a NYC or Atlanta Barnes & Noble has the book in stock by release but not, say, Powell’s in Oregon. A Tuesday release date ensures that all booksellers across the nation have the books in stock by its laydown date.
- No One Really Knows – The main reason, given by publishers and publicists, booksellers and authors, is that no one really knows why Tuesdays became the “official” release date of new book titles. But they keep using it because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I suppose.
- Morgan James Publishing: “Why do books publish on Tuesdays?”
- The Millions: “Ask a Book Question: #73 (Tuesday New Releases)”
- Chronicle Books Blog: “Why Are Books Published on Tuesdays?”
- Dear Author: “Tuesday: The Holy Day of Publishing and How It Forms Reader Expectations”
- RosePoint Publishing: “Five Reasons Why Books Release on Tuesday–Does That Include Indie Authors?”