Fall 2020: The smoldering crater in the publishing schedule

Lord help you if you are planning a nonfiction book launch in the fall of 2020.

Normally, agents would be pitching such books to publishers around now. I’m betting those are some bizarre conversations.

A successful book launch depends on media and word of mouth. You find writers, bloggers, and podcasters who would be interested in your book and you pitch them. You create spreadable content — video and infographics, for example — and spread it on your social media feeds. You need people to read what you wrote and then talk about it.

Word of mouth is like oxygen for a book launch, and oxygen will be in short supply in fall of 2020.

In September, October, November, and December of 2020, the only thing people will be talking about is Donald Trump and whomever the Democrats nominate to take him on in the presidential election. This is the most consequential election of our lifetimes and everyone knows it. Trump’s attacks and his opponents responses; foreign meddling in election returns; contested ballots and people waiting in long lines; foreign trolls on social media spreading lies; whether the loser will actually concede — these topics will swallow up all of our attention. They will blanket every media channel, swamp social media, and dominate face-to-face conversations.

If you launch a book on a business trend in the fall of next year, no one will pay attention until 2021.

No one is going to be talking about personal productivity tips, investing strategies, or finding your true self. I wouldn’t even want to launch a cookbook around then.

How about a book on politics? Forget it. Anything you write now and submit to your publisher next spring will be obsolete when it’s published in the fall. Events will unfold in an unpredictable fashion. Your thinking will be out-of-date before its published.

I can’t wait to see the fall lists come out from publishers and examine the sacrificial lambs they have lined up for slaughter.

You don’t plan an outdoor wedding during monsoon season — it’s a foreseeable catastrophe. So is fall 2020 for nonfiction books.

Counterintuitive fall 2020 strategies for authors

So what should you do if your book is ready to come out a year from now? Here are a few ideas:

  • Write a book that will soothe the soul. I could see people searching desperately for something to comfort them during the 2020 election.
  • Write a tell-all compilation of Donald Trump’s misdeeds. That might prove popular next September.
  • Write a historical review of the evils of socialism.
  • If your idea is marginal and you’re concerned about whether you can get a publisher, now is the time to pitch. The competition will be less, and I’m guessing acquisitions editors will be feeling a bit desperate to put something on the Fall 2020 list.
  • If your pub date in the smoking-crater election zone, do a soft launch. Then restart your publicity campaign in January. You could even use the results of the election to inform your strategy.

There’s always hope. Just don’t ignore the election, because it’s all anyone is going to be talking about.

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  1. So there will be nobody buying anything? Nobody marketing anything? Nobody trying to figure out what’s next in their business and career? Nobody consuming any media but American politics? There are no sales? The shopping malls close? Production stops? Nobody starting up a new venture? I simply don’t agree. Politics can be all-consuming for some, but most go on about their lives and are trying to get better work done. It’s an important election. Most are. It will be business as usual – for new business books or otherwise.

    1. I guess we’ll have to wait and see, Mitch. You may be right. But I think it will be very hard to launch a book during this period and get any attention at all.

      1. There will be more politics. That’s for sure. I just don’t think book publishing stops or getting attention or holding events or having something important to publish gets sucked in this US election vortex. Let’s see. 🙂

    2. That’s not Josh’s point. Josh isn’t saying no one will buy anything – just that the election in 2020 will suck up all of the oxygen, leaving less room for everything else. Marketing anything is about knowing the landscape and the likely trip hazards. And for Fall 2020 non-fiction books, the election is a big one.