From Richard Osman’s first crime novel to Caitlin Moran’s new memoir, almost 600 hardbacks are due to be published on 3 September in a “massive bun fight” of new titles, as books delayed over the summer due to Covid-19 finally make it on to shelves.
Autumn is the busiest time of the year in books, with publishers bringing out their biggest titles in the hope of hitting the Christmas jackpot on what has been dubbed “Super Thursday” by the book trade. But this year, the closure of bookshops for more than two months due to the pandemic means that many of the titles held back over the summer are now due to hit shelves this autumn, with a series of what trade magazine the Bookseller called “mini-Super Thursdays” lining up across September and October.
The third of September will see the publication of 590 hardbacks, 28% up on the equivalent day last year, with new releases including Ant and Dec’s joint memoir Once Upon a Tyne, Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club, Moran’s More Than a Woman and singer Will Young’s memoir To Be a Gay Man. Other books moved into the autumn include Elena Ferrante’s new novel The Lying Life of Adults, which has shifted from May to 1 September, the popular diet plan Pinch of Nom’s Food Planner, moved from June to 3 September, actor Ruth Jones’s new novel, Us Three, and Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain’s latest cookbook, Nadiya Bakes.
“My September and October previews are the biggest I have ever filed by some margin … It is just going to be a massive, massive bunfight,” said the Bookseller’s nonfiction previewer Caroline Sanderson. “It’s such a tough job getting any oxygen for books … It just does seem kind of crazy.”
Publishers have not made any adjustments for the competition for critical or promotional coverage, with Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate writing on Twitter last month: “I haven’t finished counting yet, but there are at least – at least – 105 books being published on 1 or 3 September, and all competing for about 10 or 11 review slots … September is always difficult for literary editors, but this is quite mad.”
Sanderson predicted big sales for titles including David Attenborough’s “vision for the future”, A Life on Our Planet, as well as new food titles from Jamie Oliver, Bosh! and Nigella Lawson. Alan Davies’s forthcoming memoir, Just Ignore Him, is “absolutely shocking and stunning and amazing”, she said, and also tipped Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian at the University of Oxford.
At Waterstones, Bea Carvalho said the autumn had already been packed with “some absolutely mega new releases, and with the shifting sands of the publication schedule this year it’s now home to a few that would have been published earlier in the year”.
But, pointing to titles including Philip Pullman’s new His Dark Materials novella Serpentine, JK Rowling’s new children’s book The Ickabog, new fiction from Bernard Cornwell and Ken Follett, and memoirs from Phillip Schofield and Claudia Winkleman, Carvalho is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a mega year, so it’s about finding space for all of those books and making sure each of them finds the right audience. This year we’ve found that bookseller recommendations and the power of that interaction has become more important than ever,” said Carvalho.
She said that Osman’s crime novel had been “pre-ordering exceptionally well”, as had Dolly Alderton’s debut novel Ghosts and Raynor Winn’s follow-up to her Costa-winning memoir The Salt Path, The Wild Silence.
“The Salt Path was absolutely huge for us, our booksellers adored it, so we’re excited to have the follow-up to that – it has exceeded our already high expectations,” said Carvalho, also tipping The Bookseller’s Tale by Martin Latham, who works in Waterstones’s Canterbury branch.
“It’s a love letter to books and to bookselling, which for bookshops is a real gift,” said Carvalho. “For me it’s not a worry about there being too much, it’s about making the most of an incredible seelction to make the bookshops as interesting and engaging as they can be.”