The 3rd of September us due to be a very busy day for the world of literature. Around 600 brand new books are scheduled to be released in just one day, that’s around an increase of 33% compared to last year.
This kind of deluge is unprecedented and gives new meaning to the phrase ‘over-crowded market’. No retailer can possibly accommodate such an influx of new books, even Waterstones Piccadilly, the chain’s flagship London store, is feeling the strain with one of the team members writing on Twitter: “We are big and I doubt we’ll stock them all. No one has enough space for this.” They added: “We’ll do what we always do. Choose the books we think our Piccadilly customers will love most and those that we can honestly recommend.”
So what’s with this huge surge? Well mostly it’s to do with the pandemic. Bookshops closed down, literay events were cancelled and publishers moved many of their publication dates to later in the year. This will create problems for booksellers throughout autumn.
Waterstones Piccadilly has a large premises so will be able to provide far more of these new releases than smaller independent bookshops who are already struggling to survive 2020. These small stores rely on hard choices on what they should stock this autumn, making this yet another obstacle in the path of these struggling businesses.
For an industry that has suffered a series of shocks, including of course the collapse of wholesaler Bertrams, owing £25m to its creditors, autumn is going to be tough. Literary editors are also going to struggle as they preside over fewer and fewer pages for book reviews.
As ever though these problems wont effect autumn’s big releases. The likes of Martin Amis, Roberts Harris and Galbraith, David Attenborough, Elena Ferrante, Caitlin Moran, Nick Hornby, Ant and Dec and Will Young will find their books on shelves across the country, as will the new cookery book releases that always do well in the run up to Christmas. It’s the new writers, and the smaller publishers that will feel the pinch when the 3rd of September rolls around.
This raises questions about representation in publishing, and the necessity of overhauling the system that dictates who and what ends up in our bookstores.
Covid-19 has made it even more difficult for writers of colour, working-class writers and writers living with disabilities to find an audience for their words. The publishing and bookselling industries want to put the best stories in front of their customers, and with the pandemic making it more difficult for these marginalised groups to get their chance we can only hope that this huge influx of books won’t drown out their voices even further.