Monday, December 28, 2009

'Tis the Season

One thing leads to another, and yesterday, one of the Seekers mentioned Christmas stories, and I got to thinking, which can be dangerous, by-the-way.

Do most books come out in the month/season in which they are set?

I checked my shelves, and the only ones I can really tell about is the Love Inspired books because they have the month and year they were published. Most trade-size CBA published books just have the year, not the month they were published, so it makes it a little difficult to pinpoint exactly which month they were published without more time for research.

A quick spot check of Seeker books reveals that Ruth Logan Herne’s Winter’s End comes out in March 2010, and Glynna Kaye’s Dreaming of Home was set in the fall and also published during the fall of the year.

So far so good.

But further investigation reveals that isn’t always the case. Glancing at my shelves, I discovered a book published in August a few years ago that starts out in the spring. And I found another one published in April where the prologue is in September, but the first chapter starts in spring.

Ruthy says, “I've read lots of books in winter with warm weather settings, from all kinds of publishers. Not so much the other way, though. It seems winter books do better released in fall/winter, but nice weather books can hit the stands any time.”

That seems to sum it up nicely, don’t you think?

But it does make me wonder if publishers get too many stories with warm weather settings, too many Christmas books, not enough set around other holidays?

Do holiday-themed books sell as well as non-holiday themed ones? And if non-holiday books sell as well when released in November/December as they would at other times of the year?

And, finally, my question to you is, do you care?

Do you care one whit if the book you just bought in December is set in the sweltering heat of the desert, or on a beach in July, or the Appalachian Mountains in September?

Maybe if you’re like Mary with head-high snow drifts, you’re craving a book set in the desert!

Would you buy a Christmas themed book even if you don’t have time to read it? If you acquire such a book mid-year, would you hold on to it until closer to Christmas before delving into it? Would you be more inclined to purchase a holiday-themed book at Christmas than a non-holiday themed one?


Helen Gray said...

Hi Pam:

Interesting question.

Never gave it a lot of thought, but I do recall occasionally putting a book from my TBR box to read later if the story occurred in a season other than the one in which I was existing--especially if it was a Christmas book. Saved it for closer to the date.


Carla Gade said...

I would definitely buy holiday books around that holiday and not read them at other times of the year. Mostly, I think I enjoy reading books during the season they are set in. But sometimes it is nice to retreat into another time, say to warm up during the winter with something about a warmer climate.

Pepper Basham said...

Good mornin', Pam.

A good book is a good book anytime. Holiday-themed or not, if it catches my interest, I'll buy it. :-)

Though, I must say, I get more warm fuzzies when I read holiday books around the holidays- just because I'm a hopeless romantic and prone to emotional bursts now and then. But...I can have emotional bursts any time of year, so...:-)

Bringing some southwestern breakfast keish to the buffet this morning, along with a strawberry-peach-banana fruit bowl.

Pepper Basham said...

QUICHE! I meant quiche! LOL...don't know where the spelling came from.
Post Christmas trauma, I suspect

Rose said...

I would purchase a holiday themed book anytime but hold off reading it until the actual holiday.

But "season" focused books, I would buy and read anytime.


Ruth Logan Herne said...


Especially today because our overnight snow has everything very Currier and Ives in upstate NY right now.

Pam, thanks for quoting me. It makes me feel smart, a rare but highly appreciated feeling. ;)

I think the summer season/anytime effect stems from having so many Southern readers of all genres. For them, the wallows and waggles of winter are non-existent, so they're geared for gentle weather books 24/7/365 and that's a huge sales difference. And we northerners love the respite of southern books, the warmth, the fun, the quirkiness that makes them distinctive so we embrace them anytime of year.

My goal is to be invited to write thematic (you know, patriot series, Christmas anthologies, hometown heroes, First Responders series) books by invitation (Melissa, darling, are you reading this???) as well as my planned books. I love when publishers toss in those rewards for beloved writers. To me that means your readership is solid and you're dependable enough to be counted on, two important characteristics, and you gain experience by using new settings, new time periods, new seasonal attributes, all good for our writing skills.

And I'm with you guys. Christmas holiday books I buy and read in fall/winter. I wouldn't feel the same way about an Independence Day book, or an Easter book, or a summer book because it isn't quite as theme-pressured. Now that doesn't mean I wouldn't go back and re-read a beloved holiday book any time of year, but I wouldn't be drawn to by Jingle Babies or Her Christmas Present Fiance in August.

Christmas and Thanksgiving books have a strong time frame that kind of defies bleed-overs. This factor is closely related to why pumpkin and apple pie never taste quite as good in June. :)

Speaking of which, I brought food to complement Pepper's quiche. There's a full array of sweets that need to get cleaned up. Cookies, tiramisu (amazingly delicious, if I do say so myself), cannolis, a coffee bar with lots of solid Green Mountain coffee, medium strength and some of Gloria Jean's butter toffee...

Oh yum.

Dive in. We can talk seasons. I love seasons!


Walt M said...

I think a good story wins out, regardless of time frame. My favorite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street (the original version in black and white only), was actually a summer "chick flick" release.

Julie Lessman said...

Hey, Pammy, really interesting subject!! And I'm with Pepper on this one -- "A good book is a good book anytime."

BUT, I can certainly see the appeal of Christmas books in November and December BIG TIME!! Would I read a Christmas book any other time of the year? Probably not because if it's billed as Christmas, I want to use the magic of it to get me in the mood. But honestly, some of my favorite books (and movies) have Christmas scenes in them (Gone With the Wind, Meet me in St. Louis, Ordinary People, etc.), and I think that really adds to their charm, although I wouldn't label them as "Christmas books."

I am hoping to write an O'Connor Christmas story that details Marcy and Patrick's courtship (or lack thereof), which would be a simple, SHORT love story with a Christmas punch. My publisher says that Christmas books generally are a one-season run, so you definitely don't want to invest too much time in writing one, apparently, due to the short window of sales time.


Audra Harders said...

Good question, Pammy! Summer? Winter? Christmas? Independence Day?

Do they influence my choices?

Like Ruthy said, apple and pumpkin pies just don't taste as good in June and so goes my taste of Christmas books. BUT, I will buy them any time of year, I just won't open the cover to devour the contents until November at the earliest.

Now looking over my TBR pile, I see many warm weather books issued during the deep freeze of December. And yes, as soon as I have Christmas all packed away and the furniture back in place and bills paid, I'll treat myself to a summertime getaway : )

Not so much skiing and sledding in July : (

Okay, I'm tossing in leftovers that seriously need to get out of my kitchen! Chocolate covered pretzels and coconut-pecan-date balls are on the snowflake tray...I'll be bringing in a montage shepherds pie of leftovers for lunch.

Only 3 days left to pig out until my Weight Watchers membership gets renewed : )

Ruthy? Mary? Have you guys dug out and come up for sunshine yet??

Ann said...

Once I get started, I usually read clear through to the end -- season doesn't matter to me.

I like to read winter books in the summer and vice-versa.

It can get so hot and humid around here that it's nice to think about snow squeaking under your boots and stars so bright that they look like Christmas lights.

Or the great toboggan run at Pokagon State Park, which is like a roller coaster on ice. Ahhh.... And the best place to be is in the warming house watching DH and the kids fly by ;-)

Patty said...

Great question!

It doesn' really matter to me--I buy Christmas books year around, simply becuase I absolutely love them. And nothing helped me get through those tough Michigan winters like those books set in the balmy summer. As long as it's a good read, I could care less what time of the year I'm reading it.

Janet Dean said...

Wow, Pam, just looking at those stunning photos was reason enough to love your post!!!

I love reading Christmas books in December so I'll save them unless they're written by Seekers, then I have to read them immediately. :-) I don't care if the release date matches the setting of the story. A good book transports me to whatever location, year or season its set in.

Thanks, Pepper, for the delicious quiche. And Ruthy, the tiramisu was delectable.


Erica Vetsch said...

Good question. My first book was set in November and it came out in November.

Though the next one takes place in the spring and it comes out in February. :)

I'm reading a book called Winter in July (The setting is New Zealand) so if I read it in the right month, it's summer here, but if I read it in winter, the month is off...:D

Pam Hillman said...

Good morning all! I apologize for not being here to greet you earlier, but my son had a wheel-bearing to go out on the interstate about an hour from us last night.

Everyone is okay, but we didn't get back home and in bed until 3:30

And...I off to drive shotgun while dh takes his truck to the shop.

I'll be back in a few hours to yak it up. In the meantime, enjoy each other's company and the coffee and food Ruthy brought. Thanks Ruthy!

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Julie,
Marceline & Patrick's courtship. Woohoo! Count me in on purchasing that one. What a great idea - anytime of year ;-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

I tend to read Christmas-themed books only around the holidays. Not sure why, just part of the holiday mood, I guess. But outside of that, I love reading a good book no matter what the season or weather.

Cara Lynn James said...

If a book looks interesting I'll read it any time of the year. I especially like to read about the snow since I live in Florida and miss the north, except in the spring, i.e. mud season.

I read Christmas books in Nov. and Dec. but that's because that's when they're published. I love the covers so I buy them.

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

I see two different questions: would I read an off season book and would I buy an off season book.

I definitely want to read summer books in the winter. When there is snow outside, I don’t need to be vicariously cold in a novel. Vice versa for winter books read in the hottest part of summer.

I only want to read Christmas books around Christmas. Many books are not Christmas books but do have a Christmas in the story line. In these cases, I have to rely on the cover art. I object when the cover art is all Christmas and the story takes place over a year’s time and the Christmas part is only incidental.

I suppose this question assumes an “all things being equal” aspect. Location is often more important than season in my buying choice. If the book takes place in Italy, for example, I am much more likely to buy it regardless of the season. Next comes theme: if the story has a theme I like, and don’t see enough of, then that will trigger the buying and/or reading decision. (I like runaway bride themes but how many LI have you’ve seen lately?)

Also, author plays a part. If the author is on my auto-buy list, I will buy it at once but perhaps not read it for some time.

I do look for Thanksgiving stories around November and Christmas stories in November and December. I search them out. In these cases author and theme are not major considerations. In this sense a new author might find more readers by having a Christmas book. Also, an author who is growing in popularity and has her backlist still in print, might benefit more from a past Christmas book as her new readers would be perhaps more likely to order that book in season. If I really like an author, I am very likely to buy her Christmas book at any time of the year. I actually look forward to favorite authors writing Christmas books each year.


Mary Connealy said...

My book, Cowboy Christmas came out in September. I think that's considered the beginning of the holiday season for publishing. It has something to do with quarterly catalogues....maybe.

My reaction to this is that in so many books, the time of year isn't key. It might only be mentioned in passing that it's cold outside or hot or leaves are falling. So while that's part of setting the scene, the story really doesn't have that much to do with the season you have discovered, Pam, if the book is the least bit old...even a few months...the season is lost as far as when the book released because it's not marked on the book anywhere. So if the season does have an impact on's only for the first release time.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Pam, Great question. I'm like most of you. I'll read whatever, whenever, but have to agree with Pepper. A Christmas story is great for the emotions and makes me take time to sit down during the busy season.

Thanks for the quiche. And Ruthy, get those goodies away from me. LOL.

I have caramel truffle coffee though. Plenty of it.

PatriciaW said...

Where the season or occasion is a character in the story, I think I prefer to read them in or around their calendar timing.

But in general, I don't think it matters too much. It's about where my psyche is at the time. Nothing wrong with celebrating love with a good Valentine's book in October, or a Christmas book in May.

Myra Johnson said...

Thought-provoking topic, Pam! As the author of a Christmas novel, I've been giving this subject a lot of thought lately, as I'm anticipating fading interest in my book now that Christmas has passed. I can only hope the sales figures were good while they lasted!

It does seem that Christmas is the one season where time of year seems to matter in whether or not we choose to pick up a novel. The rest of the time I just enjoy the story whenever it's set.

Tahnee Andrew said...

I definately prefer Christmas books during the season. I look forward to reading them every November and December. I might buy them at other times but would most likely save them to read during the proper season.

I also prefer to read books set during the particular season in which I find myself. It's really hard to get lost in a book when I glance out the window to see something completely different, but maybe that is a personal quirk.


Missy Tippens said...

I don't think about it much except for holiday books. I want them near that particular holiday.

I had several readers write to let me know they were saving my Christmas book for closer to Christmas--mainly because they would have some vacation time. But I guess also for the atmosphere. :)

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

Your Christmas book is unique because most of the story takes place in the year between two Christmases. It could justifiably be titled a Christmas story but it could also be justifiably marketed without a Christmas title. As a ‘timeless’ story it could be reissued every Christmas. It could become a favorite gift that fans of the book give others at Christmas.

Do you have any thoughts on the publisher reissuing the book under a non-Christmas title? I don’t like this when the publisher is trying to make readers think it is a new book. However, if the book were issued for the first time outside the north American market, then a non-Christmas title may prove more effective and not deceptive. Also, if the book is reissued in the USA as a regular size paperback, then a new title might be appropriate if it is clearly marked as ‘formerly titled: “One Imperfect Christmas”.

I like the non-Christmas title: “One Imperfect Year of Hope and Renewal”.

Got to go. I have a contest to prep (or as Tina would say, pimp) for.


Mary Connealy said...

Myra, I've wondered about this too. Does a Christmas book have many sales after Christmas.
Does the Christmas in the title increase sales? Does a book like that have an appeal that lasts through several Christmas seasons?
We'll learn together. :)

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I never gave much thought to this. I go by storyline and not by holiday or weather. I am more inclined to buy holiday books before the holiday even if I don't read them until March. On some ice cold days reading about steamy hot weather is just what the doctor ordered! I am not a fussy reader and delve on into anything!

Myra Johnson said...

Interesting idea, Vince! I have no experience with retitled editions. Anybody else heard of publishers doing this?

LOL, Mary, with all the books you already have out and the ones I know are coming, I wouldn't worry too much about that Christmas book! People will buy it just because it has Mary Connealy's name on the cover!!!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh my goodness, the tiramisu is gone, the pot's empty and the cookie tray demolished.

And it's not even supper time! Hungry, huh???

Hey, Audra, great leftover snowflake tray. I can't see a snowflake that i don't think (read: have nightmares) about Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake method of plotting, writing, whatever it is ol' Randy does with snowflakes.

Me??? I walk in 'em. Shovel 'em. Sled on them. But I LIKE Randy, so don't go squealin' on me like a bunch of tattle babies, okay???

Anyway, I brought more food and this is interesting to note that while Thanksgiving/Christmas seems to be the only segregated season, most of us just like a good read.

And yeah, I can get into a snow chalet story mid-summer. And a beach setting mid-winter, especially if the author is adept at transporting me there.

Just not the holidays themselves.

Hey, I brought eggnog and hot chocolate to round out the fresh coffee. Because we're lookin' out for YOU!



Glynna Kaye said...

Great topic, Pam! One interesting thing is that if you have a Christmas Love Inspired that releases in October, it would be in the hands of book club subscribers by early August. I wonder if most read them right then or wait a few months?

It's nearly impossible to resist the Love Inspired Christmas covers. They do such a BEAUTIFUl job on them. Practically jump off the shelf and into your cart!

My October release, "Dreaming of Home," took place from "Talk Like a Pirate Day" in late September thru Thanksgiving Day. I loved the warm, woodsy fall colors the artist used and have had so many positive comments about the cover from readers. I believe good covers really DO make an impact on sales. Some just draw you in. I LOVED Missy's on "A Forever Christmas."

Need More Words said...

I tend to save Christmas stories for that time of year.
Reading a book about walks on beaches sits real good with me in the cold of Colorado winters.

Pam Hillman said...

Hey, I'm back!

Great comments about when we read our books and if we prefer to read in season or out.

I'm like most of you. I'll read anything at any time of year, but I probably wouldn't buy a clearly Christmas novel that appeared on the shelves in June.

But then what publisher would publish a Christmas story in June, or a Valentine's story in August?

And, Myra, I think Vince is right (of course he is, dear man!) in that An Imperfect Christmas spans a whole year, so it's more than a Christmas story. I'm all for an reissue next Christmas!!

Here! Here!

Casey said...

I don't really care what season or holiday a book is set around, though I wouldn't read some Holidays like Halloween- but I don't think any CBA books are written then. I recently read The Unfinished Gift, it's Christmas and I read it in September (or October -don't remember now. Ha!) The most important thing for me is that it is a good story, riveting characters and a fascinating plot. Good enough for me!

Pam Hillman said...

Casey, thanks for stopping by.

Looks like we all agree that if it's a great book we'll read it anywhere, anytime!

I know that's good enough for me.

I'd like to flip this on it's head: why do we only listen to Jingle Bells and Oh Holy Night at Christmas?

And...only watch It's a Wonderful Life at Christmas?

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

One word answer: Tradition.


Pam Hillman said...

Kinda like craving pumpkin pie and turkey only on Thanksgiving day, huh?

Makes sense.

Sherry Kuhn said...

I think (being the bookaholic that I am) a good book is a good book anytime. When I get lost in a story I'm there no matter what time of year the calendar might say. So I have no problem reading a 4th of July story in December or a Christmas story in July. Sometimes it's more enjoyable reading them out of season. Especially Christmas stories because although I love the idea of reading a Christmas themed story at Christmas, with all the things I have to do I generally don't have time to really enjoy them.

What a great topic for discussion. I loved reading all the responses.

piratequeen said...

Actually, I was given several books a few months ago that were "Christmas Books" and yes I did save them to read at Christmas time. I just finished one and the rest I will read next Christmas time. Ever since I was a child, I would read books that were set during the holiday like a spooky halloween story during October or a Christmas themed story during December. Is that strange?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hmmmm. I've never thought much about these things, Pam. Honestly, I've never been a reader of Christmas books. I just like a good story. But it is interesting to think about.