What is a publication date?

The week that I started at the Press a new book arrived from the printer.  It was placed on my desk with the expectation that I would assign it a “publication date.” I seemed pretty new to the game to be handed this awesome responsibility but I consulted my colleagues and calendar before declaring, “November 14!” 

Since then I have received numerous inquiries from authors, customers, and co-workers about what exactly the publication date signifies. The best explanation that I have produced is, “It is the date by which all of the books that have been pre-ordered will make it through the distribution stream to the end retailer.” OK, and then I add a week for good measure. 

The hang up is that Amazon lists the availability date as the date that we project (months in advance) the book will arrive at our distributor’s warehouse.  This Amazon date is typically 4-6 weeks before our official publication date.  I’ve had multiple magazine book editors contact me to reconcile that difference in trying to time publication of a book review.

Earlier today I was pointed to this Linda Carlson piece about metadata on the Independent Book Publishers Association website.  She has provided a definition of the Publication Date:

There is no single definition of “Publication Date” in the U.S. book trade, so publishers can choose whatever pub dates they like. BISG Best Practices advises: “Publication Date is defined by many key accounts in our market as the date on which a retail consumer may purchase and take possession of a given product,” typically the date on which a book is on sale in bricks-and-mortar bookshops. “Where a book is sold via online or mail order prior to its appearance in physical stores, the publication date is defined by many key accounts as the date the consumer will receive the book.

So, there you go curious minds.

About michael

Marketing & Sales Manager since 2012