So there is a Publication Date, and publishers talk about a Release Date and an On-Sale Date and a Shipping Date. It gets blurred, and I admit to being amused when people in the business a long time look harried when you ask them when a book will actually be available.
Publication day for River of Stars is April 2 in Canada and the States and for the e-book in the UK. (Physical books in UK are July, but they’ll be in Australia well before that, which is unusual … this is all about Australia’s laws requiring physical books to be in their territory within 6 weeks of appearance anywhere else. The UK is designing its own cover for later, but I gather they’ll use the blue North American one for Australia, New Zealand…)
But ‘publication date’ has always been a bit of a fiction. With exceptions like the later Harry Potter titles, books are usually on sale in stores some days before that date, depending on proximity to the warehouses. The underlying idea is that a pub date (not to be confused with authors celebrating over many, many beers) is the day when books may be safely expected to be fully distributed across a territory (Canada, the U.S.).
That, traditionally, is the first day that reviews were supposed to appear. The rule is mostly on a courtesy basis, but almost all newspapers and other media respected it. (Again, Harry Potter level ‘events’ are more formal, with embargoes of sales and reviews enforced by large men and threats of kneecapping.)
The idea is that someone reading (or listening) to a review of a book should be able to go, well, buy the book. The fear is distraction and forgetfulness. If it can’t be found for another week or two, the impulse to get it might disappear.
In the internet society some different rules have evolved, as I’ve discussed here before. And pre-orders online, often at major discounts, have become a big part of the bookselling process for major books, too. For example, Canada has already reprinted River before release (always good news) based partly on pre-orders.
I had lunch today with my publisher/editor. I gather from Nicole that books will ship late next week, which means they should start appearing in bookstores a few days after. I suspect the same timing will apply in the States. We know they are in the warehouses.
I have a copy of each country’s edition. (Identical, except for the logos, the quote on the front and the shading of the map on the endpapers. Oh, and the Americans used an embossed effect for the title and my name, and the Canadians have them flat. I didn’t even notice at first.)
I’ve spoken to younger writers often (everyone seems to be a younger writer these days) about how many stages there are for a book, but there’s no question that one of the biggest is actually seeing them on sale somewhere, and then spotting someone reading a copy.
When I started out, for years I never saw anyone reading one of my books in public. Friends would report sightings of Readers in the Wild: on subways, streetcars, in waiting rooms, a maternity ward (!) … but I never saw one. Took the wrong streetcars? I was convinced, I said, that my kind friends and family and publishers were sheltering me from the grim, dark truth that no one, ever, anywhere actually read me.
I am a little more confident now. Saw someone on a plane, once…