Publishing Industry Wrestles With Crowded Fall Schedule

Delayed publication dates begin to stack up

Bookstore
Bookstore in Maastricht.
Bettina Miera/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / June 2, 2020 7:30 am

It’s a familiar story: due to concerns over the coronavirus, the scheduled release date for a creative work is pushed back until later in the year. As anyone who’s paid attention to the way blockbuster film release dates have been juggled knows, it’s been an ongoing concern for plenty of industries. But there’s one that’s experienced this particularly acutely: publishing.

A new article by Alexandra Alter at The New York Times explores the dilemma publishers have found themselves in. A number of high-profile books slated for release in the spring were pushed back to the fall — which is already a busy season for the publishing industry. Factor in the election and the ongoing pandemic, and you have all the ingredients for a logistical nightmare.

The article offers a glimpse of some of the books that have had their release dates moved:

Delayed titles include literary fiction by Elena Ferrante and David Mitchell, a book about manhood and parenting by the actor and comedian Michael Ian Black, “God-Level Knowledge Darts” from the comedy duo Desus and Mero, and nonfiction by prominent public intellectuals like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Pankaj Mishra.

As Alter notes, the decision to shift publication dates is one that has varied widely from book to book and from publisher to publisher. Hachette, for instance, has changed the release dates of under 20 percent of its scheduled books. And some high-profile books, including novels by Stephen King and John Grisham, have not seen a change in their publication dates.

On the other hand, certain other books have seen their publication dates pushed back to 2021. A factor here is the role that bookstores can play in the sales of a book — several books cited in the story as benefiting from the support of indie bookstores were delayed until stores would be (hopefully) fully functional again. (That remains an ongoing question in and of itself.)

But with a potential glut of high-profile books due out in the fall, and competing with the election for readers’ attention, it could be an interesting season for readers, booksellers and publishers alike.

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