The Hugo Award and Publication Dates, Part 2

In Part 1 of this Chaos Horizon report, we looked at the relationship between US publication dates and Hugo Best Novel nominations from 2001-2014. Now, we can turn our eyes to actually wining the Hugo Best Novel for that same date range. Here’s a breakdown of winners by month for 2001-2014:

Hugo Winners Month

A couple of notes: I didn’t include the 2011 Hugo winner, Connie Willis’s Black Out/All Clear, because it was published as two separate volumes, one in February and one in October. I felt that this dual publication was an exceptional case; including it would muddy the analysis. That still leaves us with 14 winners, because Paolo Bacigalupi and China Mieville tied in 2010 for The Windup Girl and The City & The City.

It appears that May and September are far and away the best months for Hugo winners, at least for the 2001-2014 time period. With only 14 winners, we shouldn’t put a huge amount of stock in this chart, but May and September make a certain amount of sense. May is the beginning of the summer book buying season, and September the beginning of the Fall/Christmas book buying season: having your book published early in those cycles might maximize exposure and sales. The more people know about your book, the better a chance to win.

So—going back to Part 1—even though May (10), June (9), July (9), and October (8) yielded the most nominations, only May yielded a good number of winners. In terms of ratio, September was by far the best, with 4 out of the 6 September nominees going on to win.

Let’s look at the amount of winners per season, 2001-2014:

Hugo Winners Season

Except for the dismal winter, that’s a pretty even bar graph. Summer does dip a little, but that’s an exaggerated due to the small number of winners (14). Essentially, I’d estimate a novel has roughly the same chance of winning from the Spring, Summer, or Fall.

The window is still in full effect, though. Almost all our winners come from that May-October period, 2001-2014:

Hugo Winners Window

The only two novels to win out of that time period were authors with already established reputations: Jo Walton for Among Others, published January 2011, and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin, published in April 2005.

So, tl;dr: if I were publishing a novel and wanting to win the Hugo, I’d request a release date of either May or September.

Tomorrow, we’ve got the boring Part 3: Methodology and Data.

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