From The Observer:
The coronavirus crisis has affected business on a global scale, and its impact has been felt throughout the world of publishing. But while most bookshops—both independent and chains—have been hard hit or had to shift their business model online, publishing itself remains buoyant.
This is partly due to the fact that although some release dates have been altered, and supply chains have had hold-ups, members of the public are turning to books for solace and entertainment during a trying time. “If there’s any good news to share at this moment, it’s that readers are coming to books. And books seem to be providing an escape of sorts,” Paul Bogaards, executive vice president of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group tells Observer.
That’s not to say the industry hasn’t had to adapt to changing circumstances. Unsurprisingly, throughout the crisis reading tastes have altered in response to events both globally and closer to home. “On a week to week basis, we’ve seen different categories of books doing well,” explains Bogaards. “One of the early trends was a spike in children’s books, workbooks, craft and game books. There was also a micro-trend which saw a spike in bread-baking books, which coincided with an 800 percent rise in yeast sales!”
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“As we got deeper into the pandemic, people started coming back to fiction,” explains Bogaards. “But they were coming back to fiction they were familiar with. Some of it was driven by viewership—for example Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere. In terms of hardcover fiction, familiar brands like John Grisham, James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks and Steven King,” also proved popular.
Readers also favored backlist books (those titles published 12 months ago and more) rather than opting for newer releases. “Backlist books accounted for a higher percentage of sales than previous years, while new releases (front list titles) sales were roughly 1 percent to 20 percent lower than backlist sales,” Priya Doraswamy, a literary agent at Lotus Lane Lit, tells Observer.
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James Daunt, CEO of Barnes and Noble saw a similar trend, “We had significant bestsellers in non-fiction, and especially in the wake of Black Lives Matter, books that deal with questions of race. Also books about empathy and understanding,” he said.
This increased desire for diversity in our reading may be a sign of a longer-term shift, according to Daunt. “We’ve been locked for a long time in a very static group of ‘brand name’ authors, James Patterson, John Grisham and others. And what’s astonishing is how little they’ve changed—the author can die, but brands can still carry on. For example, Virginia Andrews became Virginia Andrews ™. A lot of this is fuelled by sales in supermarkets and on Amazon. I think that may begin to change—we may start to see a more concerted effort to introduce new authors.”
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“We’ve seen a lot of submissions [from literary agents] by diverse authors, and that’s been a welcome change,” says Bogaan. “And we’ve made some acquisitions, which has been heartening.”
Link to the rest at The Observer