Why Are Books Published on Tuesdays?
Many things within the world of publishing are cloaked in mystery. The jargon that describes a book itself (casewrap? gutter? headband?) is anything but mundane, as is the longwinded process—up to two years!—of actually making said book.
One curiosity in particular concerns the seemingly unremarkable day of Tuesday. Tuesday is…Tuesday. Its reputation is slightly improved by simply not being Monday, but it’s still just there, hanging around, not doing much. Unless you work in books, of course.
Tuesday is publication day. We call it pub day, although sometimes pub is used as a verb, as in a book is pubbing on a certain day. Perhaps you’ve seen the term “book birthday” on social media, and have astutely noticed that it’s (almost) always on a Tuesday.
But why? Why are books published on Tuesday?
Short answer: no one really knows for sure. But it’s an entertaining journey getting there, so stay with me.
I began by questioning Christine Carswell, publisher, who has been with Chronicle Books since 1994. If she didn’t know, I thought to myself, no one would know.
But alas, she replied back to me with the following:
“I actually don’t know the answer to this. And is it ALWAYS a Tuesday? It used to be we set pub dates for a Tuesday or a Thursday. I bet Liza would know. Back in the day, in the UK it was always a Thursday because you wanted it to be reviewed in the weekend’s papers. And you knew you could get it to all the shops in time and there would be more people shopping on the weekends. I think the shopping on the weekends thing explain why records release on a Friday. But given how shopping patterns have changed it surely doesn’t matter so much if it’s timed for in-store purchase reasons.”
Hmm…okay. So it could be connected in some way to shopping patterns, but Tuesday is so far from the weekend. Christine did prompt me to ask Liza Algar, the Executive Director of Marketing & Publicity, so that is precisely what I did.
However, like Christine, she wasn’t completely sure:
“I think it’s because the bestseller lists calculate sales from Saturday to Saturday, so an on-sale date early in the week allows for booksellers to get the books on the shelf in time for weekend sales. And because other industries also release new product on Tuesdays.”
A new theory! Liza’s thoughts are somewhat related to Christine’s in that they both circulate around weekend shopping, but this has a new twist of wanting to get as many sales as possible to make the bestseller lists.
When turning to trusty old Google, I uncovered a few articles that address this baffling tradition. Star Tribune, The Millions, and Dear Author all embark valiantly in search of a concrete answer, and end up largely at the same conclusion: no one is totally sure, but it’s industry standard, and it might have something to do with maximizing how much time books have to get on bestseller lists, or for shipping purposes.
I kind of love that something so big—something an entire industry rides upon—happens for perhaps no better reason than “that’s just how it is.”
Have you heard any theories, or know of a similar mystery in another industry?
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