Your Publishing Timeline For Holiday Book Sales

holiday book sales

The blazing sun and summer calendar don’t change the fact that the holiday self-publishing crunch has already begun. This updated 2021 book-publishing timeline will help you manage the calendar and score holiday book sales.

Updated June 2021

“It’s Christmas in July!”

Local merchants use this marketing gimmick to entice customers into their stores during the dog days of summer. Big guys get into the act, too. Jeff Bezos and Amazon wheel out their mid-summer Prime Day to discount anything and everything.

But there’s another audience that should heed these words: Self-published authors. Especially those who want to take advantage of the holiday season to launch and sell their books following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note the emphasis on sell. Everyone knows the holiday season is one of the biggest printed book and eBook sales periods on the calendar. Online and brick-and-mortar book retailers report that over 40 percent of all printed and eBooks are purchased during the critical timeframe of December 1 to January 15, including online gift certificate redemption. It truly ‘tis the season to find your readers — the ones who have their wallets open for holiday gift giving.

(If your book isn’t going to be ready to launch before the holiday — don’t worry! Many savvy self-published authors find tremendous success by deliberately avoiding this time frame.)

So how do you go from summer barbecues in July to your holiday book launch party in December? I’m not going to lie to you: It’s going to take some work and discipline. You control much of the self-publishing timeline in how quickly you approve or reject design proofs and stay on top of the production process.

It will require your time and dedication to the book. You’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into this labor of literary love. You owe it to yourself and your promising book-in-progress to allocate the necessary time to create the best product you can for the marketplace.

The great disruptor

And while it seems unnecessary to say it, COVID-19 has disrupted just about everything you can think of, including publishing. Last year, many publish dates were put on hold, so thousands of additional titles are hitting the marketplace this year. In addition to that, the global event has disrupted the supply chain for everything — from paper and ink to the cardboard boxes that ship your books. It will take at least a year for everything to get back to normal. So bear that in mind as you approach your self-publishing journey.

But, with BookBaby, you’re not making this journey along. We’ve helped over 70,000 authors edit, design, and print their books — many destined to be launched for the holidays.

The biggest success comes to those who pay close attention to the schedule and hit all the key deadlines. The book-publishing timeline presented here will help you manage the calendar. Some books take longer than others. Don’t take these suggested dates for guaranteed deadlines. Use this as merely a guide.

Before we go any further, there’s one more point to share. It’s never about which author can get his or her book out the fastest — great holiday book launches are never rushed, and neither will yours if you start today, while the sun is shining and the kids are splashing in the pool.

You can do it — and BookBaby will be right there beside you all the way. So let’s get started!

Your holiday book publishing timeline

book publishing timeline

Now until August 1: Finish your book

You’ve got just one focus: Get to “The End.” Let someone else mow the lawn or take the kids to Six Flags. My best advice: try to trim a few days off this target if you can. Every production day will matter! In this post-COVID summer, there might be a few barbecues and happy hours you’ll need to skip. It’s a small sacrifice for turning your self-publishing dreams into reality.

If you need some inspiration or helpful advice to get re-engaged with your writing, here are some BookBaby Blog posts to peruse.

When Is The Right Time To Write?
Establishing A Writing Routine: 10 Tips For Aspiring Authors
Write Fast, Right Now

book publishing timeline

Early August: Editing

Is your book all finished? Congratulations! But wait… it’s really not done until you take one more step. Every book needs to be edited. Yes, even yours. One of our marketers came up with this great line: The only page that doesn’t need professional editing is blank.

There’s no shame in admitting you need an editor. The truth is, readers notice when your book isn’t edited. They’ll leave negative reviews about the grammar, misspellings, and more. These reviews will crush your book sales, because reviews are the first thing a book buyer will see.

So what kind of editing do you need and how do you find the right editor to help you? Here are a few resources to help you out:

What Type Of Book Editing Do You Need? And When?
The Three Key Phases Of Book Editing
Book Editing And My Self-Publishing Experience

Editing is the single best investment you can make in your book. To help you plug this into your publishing budget, BookBaby is offering you a 20 percent discount on either line or copy editing. Just use the code EDITING20 after you’ve uploaded your manuscript and check out.

If you work with BookBaby, the editing process can take anywhere from 8–12 days for the initial edit, depending on the length of the manuscript. Then it’s up to you to review the work the editor has done. As soon as you are notified that your editing is finished, get to work! Here’s where you can either save a week or delay your project by three weeks if you don’t review your edited manuscript. This timeline allows the entire month of August for you to have a final, edited version of your book.

book publishing timeline

Mid August: Assemble your team

It’s time to get your publishing team lined up! While your editor is combing through your book, take a few moments to call or email the publishing specialists at BookBaby to get the ball rolling. Trust me, we’re not going to try to sell you anything right off the bat. We typically start the conversation with, “Tell me about your vision for your book.”

This is your chance to start learning about the world of self publishing from your personal publishing expert, including:

  • eBooks. You’ll learn how we convert and distribute your files to Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and dozens more.
  • Printed books. Beautiful, printed books are your best profit source with book signings, giveaways, promotions, and more.
  • Print on demand. Print on demand is how independent authors are able to sell their printed books in bookstores around the globe and online.
  • How to successfully launch your book. We’ll give you book launch tips and ideas that you can start on right away!
  • Book marketing services. Our specialists will tell you how authors are using Facebook and Instagram ads to attract new readers.

book publishing timeline

Late August: Think about your book cover and design

While you’re making the final edits to your book, take some time to make key decisions on two other essential parts of your book: Your cover design and book formatting.

A well-designed cover is the first assurance a reader has that the book is of high quality, both in content and delivery. Nobody would give me credit for having the most artistic eye, yet even I can spot a homegrown cover a mile away. And so can you. When I see them, I usually think: “If the author didn’t want to invest any time, effort, or money on a decent cover design, I can only imagine what shortcuts he/she took inside the book.”

Here are a few articles for you to consider:
A Look Inside the Mind Of Your Book Cover Designer
How To Get Stunning Cover Design For Your Book
How To Work With A Self-Publishing Company
How To Get Cover Design And Formatting That Fits Your Story

Book formatting is another critical component to a successful book. We old-school authors sometimes call this typesetting, but it goes far beyond simply choosing fonts, font sizes, and positioning type on a page. Skilled book designers can provide a pleasing reading experience for your readers while adhering to industry standards with details such as forwards, title pages, acknowledgments, and dozens of other possible book elements.

Here’s how I explain the value of book formatting: It’s what makes a book look and read like a professional book. My blog post, “Book Formatting and Cover Design Make Your Manuscript… a Book,” tells you all about it.

book publishing timeline

September 1: It’s go time!

(Bonus points and more holiday selling time is awarded to the authors who beat the calendar and have their books ready even earlier.) At this point you should have everything you need to get started and to choose your publishing package and upload your materials to BookBaby. The process is easy, but your publishing specialist can help. It’s going to be a busy next few weeks for us — the BookBaby team and you — to hit all our deadlines.

If you’ve ordered BookBaby design, you’ll need to pay close attention to your email inbox. Your cover design and formatting team will be sending you proofs that you’ll need to approve on a timely basis. Every day lost during this stage can wreak havoc on your planned schedule. Make this communication a priority and sign off on your proofs as soon as you’re happy with the finished product. You’ll need to allow 4–6 weeks at this stage.

The key to a successful book launch: Pre-orders

What’s the best way for you to maximize the release of your new book? It’s very simple: Make your eBooks and print-on-demand books available for pre-orders.

What is a pre-order? Pre-orders are the most important promotional tool for self-published authors who want to improve the visibility, discoverability, and sales of their new releases. A pre-order is an advance book listing at the online retailer for both your eBooks and print-on-demand titles. Pre-orders allow readers to place an advance reservation for your book. For most online stores, all these pre-sales orders will count as sales on Day 1, pushing your book up higher in the rankings! The reader’s credit card is not charged until the book is released to them when it officially goes on sale.

How do you set your eBooks and Print On Demand books for pre-orders?

For eBooks: During the sign-up process, you’re asked to list the release date of your book. Be sure to make it between 45–90 days following the day you upload your materials.

For print-on-demand books: After you’ve uploaded all of your materials, you’ll be asked to provide a release date of your printed book. Be sure to make it between 60-90 days following the day you upload your materials.

It’s worth repeating to make myself clear: The minimum pre-sale period for printed books in Amazon is 60 days. That cannot be changed. If you want your book to be available in all of the online bookstores on or around December 15, you must have signed off on all your design proofs and manuscript for final approval by October 15. It will take the full 60 days for your distribution network to be set — and there’s no way to speed up that process. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)

book publishing timeline

Mid October: Launch your promotion

The countdown has begun! If you’ve kept to the schedule, your eBook and print-on-demand titles will be distributed and listed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other stores in the pre-sales status. You’ve received your shipment of printed books and you can’t wait to get them into the hands of your readers! Now is the time to throttle up your book promotions and start getting sales momentum.

Here’s where I’d start — focus on getting attention to your books now listed on Amazon, B&N and all the rest. There’s so much you can do to maximize your pre-sale period.

Many of our authors recognize the power of social media for announcing book launches and gaining new readers. Authors who advertise on Facebook and Instagram have the power to understand, attract, and engage online with literally billions of potential readers. BookBaby’s Ads for Authors program will help you tap into these huge user bases with your own targeted ad campaigns. Thousands of authors have used our Facebook, Instagram and now LinkedIn campaigns to attract the attention of readers.

Here are a few more ideas to rev up your holiday selling efforts:
10 Book Launch Don’ts
The “Do’s” Of Planning A Book Launch
Facebook Ads: My Self-Publishing Experience
Planning And Capitalizing On Your Book’s Pre-Sale

book publishing timeline

Early December: Book launch day

The exact date is all determined by the planning you (and your BookBaby publishing team) have put into your book. This is the day you’ve been waiting for! Your summer sacrifice is about to be rewarded in the form of new and eager readers who want your book. Today your eBook and printed books are available for sale. All of the pre-orders you’ve racked up in the last few weeks all get counted today. In fact, you might be able to crack some of Amazon’s Top 100 genre lists if you’ve been working the program.

Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the season. The seeds you planted last summer are going to be harvested in the form of holiday book sales.

Happy holidays!



  1. I am just spellbound by the writer, Mr. Steven Spartz. I have written some novels and tried to use various platforms of the social media for publication. Offers from some publishing houses kept pouring in in the meanwhile but all of them wanted me to pay from my own pockets.

    This is the first time that I see a ray of hope. I am still not sure if my long-cherished dream of being a published author will ever be a reality. All I can say is I will give it a try before August 1st, god willing.

    Thanks for all the help and information. Thanks for the wonderful article again. God bless.

  2. Mr. Spatz:
    Thank you for your articles (very helpful)! You will hearing from me very soon. I am putting the finishing touches on my manuscript. The light is bright at the end of a long tunnel. My story is going fit the schedule above perfectly. I’m planning to provide copies of my book to at least 150 selected leaders on Capitol Hill and the White House.

    Thanks again!

  3. I find so many useful thoughts and ideas on Book Baby. I hope one day soon to again self publish a memoir. Thank you from Shirley F.B. Carter

  4. I have completed a second children’s book. The first was completed about four years ago. It is very popular with children and adults and was released by another self-publishing firm. I have sold the books at author events, to friends and some schools. However, It is not on E-Book which was a mistake on my part by not knowing much about writing a book or working with a publishing firm. “Morgan” is a porcupine who goes looking for a friend.” He found one in the first book, however, people kept wanting a second book, and a look into his newfound life. This was a harder book to write since the first book was already in my head before I sat down to type the first word. But I believe “Morgan and The Great Cascade Mountain Fire” has lots of imagination, truth, and excitement. (It’s about Bravery) I have not had the book edited and am interested in Line Editing and seeing it through to the hands of a child. Because of the Pandemic, my expenses have dwindled and I WORRY about getting into a financial bind with another publishing. I would though, like to know what you think, if you can take a look at this story and see if publishing is affordable at this time. I have two other longer adult books ready but “Morgan has to come first. Thank you.

  5. Hey Steven,
    Go Ducks! I am ready to launch my first book and so excited to work with BookBaby. I ran track for U of O back in the day. I was there when Bill started Nike with Phil. I got a degree in Communications from the University of OregonI then went on to get another degree from Brooks Institute of photography before moving back Portland where Nike was my main client for over 15 years. We then up and moved the family to Maui and bought a destination wedding company. where I shot over 1500 weddings I have traveled to over a dozen countries doing humanitarian photo assignments and even go to do a Tedx Talk. I now teach photography and have developed a new way to teach photography that I want to share with the world and BookBaby will be a vital part of getting this message out.

    • Go Ducks indeed, David! My daughter just loaned me her copy of Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and I’m going to dive into nex weekend. My freshman dorm room on East 15th was facing Hayward Field and I could watch all the track meets while I was studying(?). Have you seen the new Hayward construction? Amazing world class facility. Win The Day with your first book!

  6. Thank you so much for your articles about self publishing with Book Baby! I’m inspired to finish my first time hopefully by August! Now getting my new computer going this weekend! No one has ever explained the process of editing in detail so I greatly appreciate your articles.

  7. This all sounds like very good advice. I’m impressed by the advice provided by Steven Spatz and the thoughts I’ve received from my Publishing Consultant at Bookbaby, Tom Harnett. I’m very happy that I’m at least 4 weeks ahead of this schedule. My new book, “Ablaze – Ten Years That Shook The World” is now in the final stages of editing (as of July 2) and so I expect to deliver the manuscript and cover to Bookbaby in July, so as to have a release date in mid to late September. The Bookbaby Facebook/IG ad for my last book “Music vs The Man” seems to be generating a lot of likes and comments, and if those translate into sales I’ll be buying that for the new book as well. Hoping for some strong holiday sales for both books.

  8. Excellent information! I have never utilized the Pre-order on my first two books I have published here at BookBaby. I have just uploaded my third book, Love And Protect Your Children this week. Is it too late to have the Pre-order set up and how do I go about doing that? After reading about it here on your blog, I believe I should try the Pre-order step. I already have three excellent reviews from Reader’s Favorite. I would also like to know how to use them to the greatest advantage to promote my book.
    Thanks so much, for the great quality of the books produced here at BookBaby, the customer service is great, and I’m just now going over the information here more thoroughly.
    Joan Jessalyn Cox


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