This year! Books!
This will be the last “This Week in Books” of our godforsaken year 2020, and I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the year that was in the book world.
While I was recovering from COVID in early April, I interviewed publishing industry sage Mike Shatzkin on the effects the pandemic would have on the publishing industry. Many of our predictions proved true in the remainder of 2020:
- Barnes & Noble faces an incredibly challenging environment even as it adapts under new leadership.
- The industry’s wholesaler behemoth Ingram has continued to cement its importance. Just look at the rapid rise of Bookshop.org in 2020, which is essentially built on Ingram’s infrastructure.
- Already-lean print book supply chains were stretched past the breaking point in 2020, which has wreaked havoc on publishing schedules and print run fulfillment.
- Industry consolidation continued apace as Penguin Random House looks poised to become a mega-publisher if its proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster clears anti-trust hurdles.
But while it’s certainly been a difficult and chaotic 2020, particularly for independent bookstores, one thing that has struck me in 2020 has been the resiliency of the traditional publishing industry. Overall book sales have remained steady despite the struggles at bookstores, and while there have been some layoffs, we haven’t seen the widespread shuttering of imprints like what happened in the Great Recession (at least for now).
This summer’s Black Lives Matters protests also forced a reckoning about racial justice, inequities, and a lack of diversity within the publishing industry, and the industry showed more signs of making genuine change, with several major publishers establishing new imprints oriented toward diverse voices and breaking with precedent to hire promising talent from outside the industry. Skepticism and vigilance is warranted here given the industry’s track record, but the changes do seem more substantive than in the past.
Lastly, I know you’re reading this because you care about books, but wow did 2020 give us all a deeper appreciation for just how important books are to our lives. In an immensely stressful year where our physical movements were constrained and nearly every stress reliever was closed to us, even seeing loved ones, books gave us escapism and meaning and insight at such a crucial time. I don’t know how I would have gotten through 2020 without them.
Now then. On to the books and writing links from the past week!
This week in books
We lost yet another great in 2020 as spy thriller master David Cornwell, better known as John le Carré, passed away at 89. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is one of those perfect novels that almost makes you want to quit writing because it’s so good.
A recent New York Times op-ed highlighted in stark fashion the publishing industry’s lack of diversity, estimating that between 1950 and 2018 95% of all books published were written by white people. Not shocking unfortunately, but stark to see the statistics and visualizations.
When you’re at Stephen King’s level you get to be totally honest about which film and TV adaptations of your books you loved and hated.
Fresh off of his Center for Fiction’s Medal for Editorial Excellence, editor Chris Jackson is partnering with Jay-Z to launch a new imprint called Roc Lit 101, which will features “books at the dynamic intersection of entertainment and genre-defying literature,” starting with books by luminaries such as Meek Mill, Lil Uzi Vert, and Yankees legend CC Sabathia.
In writing advice news, Christine Carron has advice on how not to take critiques personally, and Jennie Nash has an excellent perspective on how writing memoirs is and isn’t like writing a novel.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
- A Time for Mercy by John Grisham
- Deadly Cross by James Patterson
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- The Return by Nicholas Sparks
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
- Bag Man by Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz
- The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge
- World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Young adult hardcover:
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Cousins by Karen M. McManus
- Essentially Charli by Charli D’Amelio
Middle grade hardcover:
- The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
- Rowley Jefferson’s Awesome Friendly Adventure by Jeff Kinney
- The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
- Food Network Magazine: The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook by Food Network Magazine
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- What to expect when you work with a freelance editor
- 12th annual Heifer International fundraiser!
- Build a smooth progression in a query letter (query critique)
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
Comment! of! the! week! goes to Ken Hughes, who has a helpful shorthand for remembering the difference between developmental edits, line edits, and copyedits:
Rule of thumb:
Developmental editing is on the scene level.
Line editing is on the sentence (line) and paragraph level.
Proofreading is on the word level.
And finally, I’ve had a lot of time for reflecting this year and have spent more than my share of time thinking about what might have been. I loved this essay by Joshua Rothman on the lives we might have lived.
Have a great weekend!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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