The Fleeting Lifespan of a Book

We all know the literary classics we’re assigned to read in school—Tom Sawyer, Pride & Prejudice­, almost anything by Shakespeare, and the list goes on. Twenty years or so later, our kids are reading them, and decades after that, their youngsters are. If you’re one who already has dreams of becoming an author, you envision having your work someday pass through generations like such tales.

I didn’t enjoy every classic I was required to read, but I admired their longevity and yearned to pen something that would stand the test of time. Truth be known, I’d be happy if one of my books would survive through just one generation. As I became more serious about my pursuit to write, however, I realized even that was a stretch.

While preparing for my first book release in 2015, I was stunned to discover from my research that the general lifespan for marketing a book is a single year. That means you have just twelve months to convince readers to read it, booksellers to buy it, and—if you’re fortunate—make the media notice it. Upon learning this, I didn’t want to believe it, reasoning it was a mere opinion and perhaps from authors whose books weren’t so great.

Looking at it as a reader, though, I began to understand its validity. Several times, I’ve rushed to buy my favorite author’s book, read it, and three months later, forgot he released it such a short time ago. The world moves quickly, especially since technology has boomed and allowed us to change conversations and tasks every few seconds. When somebody ‘likes’ a photo you posted three days earlier on social media, doesn’t it seem like old news?

With our constant stream of information and entertainment, I’d dare to say a book’s lifespan is ever dwindling. Regardless of how famous an author is, much of the hype of a new release wanes within weeks. So, does this mean we’re all doomed?

No, but it forces us to work harder and with more expedience. In the case of my debut novel, it didn’t take me long to see the truth in the one-year rule. While I had success early on with lining up signings, the interest in such dried up before too many months had passed. I also wasn’t proactive enough in seeking out book awards and fairs, which often require entries to be under a year old. There was no getting those opportunities back. I missed a one-way boat.

It’s almost been six months since my second novel came out, so the halfway mark is looming. To this point, I can report that my marketing efforts have been more efficient and—hopefully—more skillful. That said, I’ve had my share of disappointments, as many of them haven’t met with success. However, I’m pleased my taking the initiative has paid off on other fronts, including my acceptances into two book fairs this coming month.

The realization that the clock is ticking on your book promotion is a bit daunting, but we can’t let it distract us. Instead, we can only do our best to make the limited time we have count. Like with everything in life, there’ll be victories and fails, but gratitude and satisfaction is always within our reach.


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