Ignore This Holiday Self Publishing Timeline At Your Own Peril

self publishing timeline

If you want to publish in time for the holidays, your plan should include room for all the production processes and your publicity push. This self publishing timeline will get you published and ready for holiday sales.

Summer is the time for cookouts, pool parties, outdoor concerts, and much more. Around the BookBaby offices, it’s also the time of year we field a lot of questions from authors looking anxiously at the dwindling pages of their calendar. The year is more than half over and many have hopes of publishing their books before the end of the year. To put your mind at ease, I’ve compiled the four most frequently asked questions about your self publishing timeline so you can hit the shelves in time for the holidays. The good news is you have plenty of options.

Q. My book is almost done. I want to publish so I can take advantage of the holiday buying season. Can I get it done in time?

A. Absolutely – if you’re willing to put in the work between now and the fall. Last summer I wrote up a timeline for publishing your book in time for the holidays. Have a look, the dates and deadlines still hold true. Here are some of the key milestones.

self publishing timeline calendar iconNow through Labor Day: Finish your book. At this point you need to be honest: Are you really just a few chapters away, or does your book need more than just a few marathon writing sessions during the dog days of summer? If you are close to finished, then go for it! Stay inside with the air conditioning and focus on making the best book you can. If you’re really not that close, don’t despair. Read on, I have some ideas for what you can do a little further down.

self publishing timeline calendar iconSeptember: Consider your self-publishing options. You’ve probably already thought about how you’re going to publish, but now it’s time to get serious. Take the time to check out all of the self publishing services – including BookBaby. Yes, it’s important to compare prices, options, distribution channels, and all of that. But be sure to check out the reputation of every company you consider. Writer Beware is a great resource to learn about other authors’ experience. Type in each company’s name in the search box and read all the articles. Is the company you are considering rated on neutral review sites like Trust Pilot? Do they offer a satisfaction guarantee? These are important questions to answer so you feel confident about the self publishing option you’ve chosen.

self publishing timeline calendar iconOctober: Find an editor. It’s an absolute truth: Every book needs to be edited by a professional. But what kind of editing do you need? Developmental editing helps with some essential elements of your story, including the setting, timeline, characterization, plot, story structure and pacing. Line editing is just that: a line by line examination of your book. Editors will look for typos, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies. Copy editing comes at the end of the publication cycle. It’s the final check before the book is printed or, in the case of eBooks, before it is published and sent to distributors.

Find a professional book cover designer. A cover sets the tone for your book. Find a professional who will work to creatively represent your work. Find a designer who specializes in creating book covers. Book design is a specialized art form, with knowledge needed in trends in imagery, colors, and typography – and expertise in print production and/or e-book presentation.

November: It’s go time! Call your self publishing service provider in early November and get going. If you’ve chosen BookBaby, you’re in good shape to have your book in all the online retail stores for holiday sales.

Q: That schedule is a bit ambitious. What if I can’t get my book finished until later – say December 1st? Am I out of luck for the holiday season?

A: No, there’s still time to get your book out there, but you have to have an edited and formatted manuscript PLUS a finished cover design by that date. If you still need design or editing work on your book, it’s best you set your sights on the New Year. Your holiday sales distribution will be limited. It’s likely too late to be distributed to many online stores like Amazon until late in the month.

Now the good news: BookBaby authors have a tremendous way to make last minute holiday eBook and Printed Book sales. Authors can send readers directly to their BookShop page, our free direct-to-reader eCommerce pages. Best of all, you earn more royalties when you sell through your own custom BookShop page. Read more about BookShop on the BookBaby website.

Q: I’m not going to get my book done for Christmas after all. Have I missed out on the best selling season for my book?

A: Not at all. In fact I also covered this topic in the blog post “Self-Published Authors: Your Sales Season Is Around The Corner (i.e. After The New Year!).”

Here’s the key point: Established authors target holiday sales periods because it’s a safe, easy gift choice for a lot of folks. The same can’t be said for most self-published authors. These relatively unknown authors’ books need to stand out and attract the interest of potential readers. This kind of discovery and browsing usually doesn’t take place in the hectic holiday time frame.

From talking with dozens of BookBaby authors, we think one of the best times to publish a book is right after the holidays – at the start of the New Year. People are going to have more time to spend reading during the cold winter months, and it’s a fact that book sales soar during January and February. Thousands of new eReaders given as gifts during the holidays need content. There’s no reason why it can’t be your book!

Q: OK, forget about a holiday release. I’m shooting for some time in 2017. When’s the best time for me to publish my book?

A: There’s really never a bad time to release a book. One idea might be for you to follow the patterns set by the book publishing trade. Traditional publishing houses have a rough “calendar” by genre of their release dates:
January-April: Romance, Self-help, Business books, Cooking, Design
May-August: Adventure, Fantasy, Travel
Sept-Nov: Academic, Horror, Paranormal
Dec-Jan: Children, Cookery, Illustrated, Quiz, and novelty books

My advice is to not worry so much about “when” you publish. In fact, the worst thing self-published authors can do is NOT publish their book because of some perceived timing advantage. It is often said that self publishing is a marathon and not a sprint, and authors shouldn’t worry so much about the placement of the starting line. Just publish it!


Free BookBaby Catalog - Your path to publishing


Related Posts
Making Your Own Christmas Miracle – A Book Publishing Timeline For Holiday Sales
What Type Of Book Editing Do You Need? And When?
Product, Payment, And Profits… Bookshop And Your Print On Demand Success
Self-Published Authors: Your Sales Season Is Around The Corner (i.e. After The New Year!)
Scrivener For iPad And iPhone Is Here


Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.


  1. Most freelance editors I know (myself included) are booked in advance, usually between a few weeks and several months out, so waiting until October to begin vetting editors is probably too late. Authors should begin searching now to allow time for conversations and sample edits.

    • Thank you! I was thinking the same thing. I was also thinking that the whole process of beta-readers, editor, fixing what they found and then having them look at it again and then fixing new errors, all takes time. This does not happen within a months time, if you want a high quality product. Those who can write flawlessly in the first place and only have minor editing errors, may be brilliant to work with and can do a fast turn around, but that is not the reality of everyone.


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