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Authors Delay Releases of New Books! Does Anybody Care?

April 8, 2020

With all the crazy stuff going on right now ( I probably don’t have to list the crazy stuff), authors of new books are thinking about holding off on their release dates until things get back to normal.

This makes sense.  Book stores are closed.  Sales of new books have plummeted.  If I were an author of a book with a release date this month, I’d think about moving it back too.

But from a book reader’s point-of-view,  does anybody care?

I don’t mean to sound uncaring or snide or unsympathetic. I feel for authors in who have to decide when to publish their books.  For some authors, their books might be their only opportunities to make enough money to live on.  Most of these authors won’t make much long-term money from any individual book, so they need every sale they can get.

Then again, some authors might need money right now, even if it’s not as much as they could get with a delayed release.  For some authors, this could be a really important, life-changing decision.

But then I looked at the Publisher’s Weekly page that lists books  being delayed.   I didn’t recognize (yet) many of the books being postponed.  One exception was the author Eric Van Lustbader (I was in junior high when he published his first book) who is delaying the release of his latest novel The Nemesis Manifesto.

No offense to Eric Lustbader.  He’s had a really good run, but are there any Eric Lustbader fans that scream “NOOOOOOooooo!” when they hear that his newest book is being postponed for three months?

Chicken Soup for the Soul books are also being delayed, but those will probably be okay, no matter when they’re released.  If an author has a Chicken Soup for the Pandemic Stricken Soul, this actually might be the time to release it.  Authors all over the world are probably writing their COVID-19 books now.  By the time the books are released, everybody will be tired of the topic.

I don’t think there are many authors that readers crave.  Maybe the public would clamor for a new Stephen King book and get mad if he delayed a new novel, but there are already a bunch of Stephen King books out there.  James Patterson sells more copies of books than any other author today, but if he delayed a book (or stopped writing altogether), I don’t think anybody would care, except for his coauthors.

This slowdown of book sales isn’t necessarily bad for every writer. Unknown authors about to have a book published can move forward with hopes of getting their books on a bestseller list, even if the book doesn’t sell many copies.  There isn’t an asterisk for books that are bestsellers due to COVID-19.  And bragging rights are forever.

Lazy authors could blame this situation when postponing completion of their late expected novels.  George R.R. Martin blew his opportunity to blame plummeting new book sales when he announced that he’s using the quarantine to force himself to finish Winds of Winter (which should have been finished five years ago).  He also could have claimed to have contracted COVID-19 and then used that as an excuse to not write.  All the fans who have been angry with him would suddenly become more sympathetic.

Authors of non-fiction, especially those who write about current events, are in a difficult spot.    If a journalist (or a Washington insider) has written an outrage book about Donald Trump and has to wait a month, the current outrage in the current book will have been replaced by a new outrage in a month.  Any international situation that authors have researched and written about is going to look completely different in three months.  Nonfiction authors could write update chapters, but they will probably make the rest of the books outdated.  Aaaarrrgh!

Authors might be desperate for book sales, but there is a last resort; they can publish their books on toilet paper.  At least that way their books would sell.


What do you think?  Should authors delay the release of their latest books.  Do any of these delays matter to you?  Would you read a book that was written on toilet paper?

  1. I think it matters, but to them mostly, and the people closest to them, who might appreciate it, it’s not a good thing but what else is there to do?

  2. That’s tricky. On the one hand, you’re right – nobody is going to bookstores now. On the other hand, everyone is stuck at home reading e-books, so maybe now’s the time to release a new book in electronic form. I’ve no idea if books tend to be released in both formats at once, but e-books could really clean up right now. (By the way, I’m an exception. I don’t read e-books. I like paper books.)

  3. Look at this from a reader’s point of view. Locked down, no cinema, theatre or contact with friends – what do you crave? Something to read. The more books – especially new books – the better. Even if they are not great literature. Bookshops aren’t the only way to get books. Amazon, mail order e-books – I assume all these are still in operation.
    I’ve not finished my stack of library books yet. So not yet reduced to finding reading matter on the back of cereal packets.

    • “So not yet reduced to finding reading matter on the back of cereal packets.”

      Haha! That and the Chipotle bags. I actually miss the essays that used to be on the Chipotle bags.

      • What is Chipotle? I’ve never heard of it.

        • It’s a fast-food chain that used to have short essays written by famous authors on their take-out bags. The last time I checked, the essay was about how environmentally conscious they were. I miss the literary essays a little bit, especially since I’ve finished reading all my library books.

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