The Middle School Movie and the Mysteries of Book Release Timing

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 20, 2016

We are often stymied by publishing decisions: ski stories that release in May, paperback versions of the previous novel in a series released a month after the new hardcover comes out (instead of simultaneously), nonfiction that screams “Perfect Father’s Day gift!” saddled with a late-June release date.
Our current brow-wrinkler is the pub date of the new James Patterson-Chris Tebbetts Middle School series title, Dog’s Best Friend. It’s scheduled to hit bookstores on October 24, two weeks after the new Middle School movie hits movie theaters on October 7.
Since we are lucky enough to have the book’s co-author Chris Tebbetts in the neighborhood, we have a very cool event lined up: after the 4 p.m. movie on Saturday, October 8, Chris will field questions from the movie crowd about any difference between the books and the movie, what it’s like to co-write books with James Patterson, and life as the co-author of a #1 New York Times bestselling series. Then we’ll have a signing table outside the screening room so Chris can meet young readers and autograph books.
We’ll be selling all of their co-written Middle School titles, but won’t have any copies of the brand-new one on hand to sell. This feels like a huge missed opportunity! Kids will be so jazzed up after the movie, they’ll want the books. Longtime fans who have read all of the books in the series will wonder why they can’t get the new one at this special event.
Why is the delay a good idea?
Is it connected to the impounded dock issue that has held up shipments for many publishers?
Is the printer’s schedule so tight that the books cannot be printed and shipped any sooner?
If those are not the reasons, I can’t think of a motivation for losing out on two weeks’ worth of immediate-gratification buying after kids see the movie.
One of our staffers conjectured that perhaps the publisher was concerned that sales of the new title might cut in to sales of the movie tie-in version, but that doesn’t make sense, since the kids who have already read the series are waiting for the new title; they aren’t the customers for the movie tie-in of book one.
This feels like one of those areas where the priorities of publishers are shrouded in mystery. Publishers – you don’t need to address this book in particular, but can you shed any light on what kinds of issues affect release-date decisions? Inquiring booksellers wish to know!

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