The Next Big Book
(Formerly posted as my website home page text)
The Saturday Evening Post recently picked up a pandemic-influenced story I wrote. It is about a chain of events that could happen to anyone, but are different because this is 2020.
Writers are wondering how the pandemic will impact what people want to read. Will novels written in 2018 remain relevant with the social changes experienced this year? As racial, economic, political, and geographical divides widen, can any one person truly write the American story? Can writers still tell the stories they want to tell or do changing cultural norms define what a writer is allowed to write?
This whole chain of questions sent me to Publishers Lunch to see what publishers were buying for their 2021 offerings. As the economy weakens, the first lesson is that publishers are buying fewer titles. The second observation is nonfiction titles are bubbling along at about the same clip. A third observation is the presence international and diversity in fiction and memoir.
Of course more titles will flood the market through indie presses and self-publishing than the traditional route so what 2021 will bring to book consumers is largely unknown. No one can predict whether new books released will match consumers’ pandemic-era interests. You can bring a book to market, but book readers chose what they want to read.
In 2010 Time magazine named Jonathan Franzen the great American novelist. That’s been a title bequeathed to mostly middle-class, middle-age, white men. Depending on your age and reading preferences, it can be difficult to find yourself in their work. As 2020 rolls toward 2021, Franzen’s work reflects an indulgent white upper middle class perspective that always felt odd, but now is purely outdated. Something is surely replacing that tradition. Which brings the original question back into play– how will the pandemic impact what people want to read. What will be relevant?
And how does a writer respond?