Whenever there’s a big, surprising, newsworthy event like a strange kidnapping or someone blowing the whistle on a spy agency and going on the run to a quasi-dictatorship, I often hear from aspiring authors who happen to have a novel in the drawer that just happens to align with the news. These authors want to know if they now have a leg up in the publishing process because everyone is thinking about this newsworthy event and thus they have the perfect marketing hook.
The answer: Nope. I’m sorry, guys. This is not how things work.
Here are two major reasons:
It takes at least a year to be traditionally published and everyone will have moved on by then
It doesn’t work to start re-querying agents just because a particular event is in the news. By the time the novel makes it through the publishing process that newsworthy event people will be on to different topics and no one will rush to buy something based on an event that happened a year ago.
When was the last time you bought a novel because of a real-life event you saw in the news?
My guess: Never? Maybe once in your entire life? Probably never?
There are absolutely some serendipitous cultural moments that can happen and propel an obscure work to bestsellerdom, such as a Kardashian being spotted reading it or it appearing on some leaked White House reading list. But this happens to books that are already out there, not ones that have not yet been published.
There are also times when the zeitgeist shifts and suddenly a particular genre or subject will become popular with editors and the reading public and a new book will rocket to success. But this isn’t about specific events, they’re about ephemeral cultural currents.
Sorry, folks. It’s sadly not enough to have serendipitously predicted real-life events. Novels will sink and swim based on their storytelling, not their prescience.
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Art: Der Hochpolitiker by Ludwig Kandler