(Pictured: First Second’s Winter 2016 season)
Publishers divide their books up into ‘seasons’ within the year.
This is so that, as well as dealing with all their books one at a time on an individual basis, they can deal with them in clusters for purposes like conventions, bookstore visits, and catalogs.
First Second publishes our books in three seasons — Winter (January through April), Spring (May through August), and Fall (September through December). We generally publish six to eight books every season.
How do we build our list for a season?
When we acquire a book, we put a final art due-date in the contract, and assign it a season accordingly, building in time for the production process. Frequently, however, this contract-assigned season ends up not being the actual season we publish the book in, because the book is early or late or our printing and production dates have shifted.
So now’s the part of the piece where you probably expect me to say something like: we build a season by balancing all the aspects of all the books that we’re publishing and creating a perfectly structured list that has no overlap in age category and genre and structure and format. The individual snowflake-ness of every single book on the list is emphasized as much as possible! We couldn’t possibly publish two middle grade fantasy-adventure books on one list!
But really, the biggest factor in figuring out our seasonal schedule is: what books are done?
Because we print most of our books in China, our production process tends to take a significant amount of time. It may take an entire year from the time you turn your book in from the time that it comes out in stores because of important steps like designing, lettering, cover design, copy-editing, proof-reading, and reviewing printers proofs of the book. And also shipping books from China takes forever, too. (They come on a boat! It’s the craziest.)
We try not to make that gap between an author turning in their book and the book going on sale any longer than it has to be!
Of course, sometimes there are reasons why we might put off a book to a future season, even if it’s done. If an author somehow manages to turn in two books within a few months of each other, we may delay one to give each the proper promotional space. If an author’s spooky, monster-y, perfect-for-Halloween book is ready to be published in February, we might hold off a few months so that it comes out closer to Halloween. If an account like Barnes & Noble or Amazon comes to us, saying, ‘this book is perfect for this promotion and we would like to buy lots! But can it be published at X time?’ we’ll definitely consider moving it to a different season. If we’ve somehow managed to construct a season that has ten books being published on it while the following season has five, we may move a book or two so there’s more balance.
Once we’ve balanced all those factors with what books we have in and ready to go to the printer, we’ve got our catalog.
And that’s how a season comes together!