Last night I was talking to Kristen of BookNAround about Winter Institute (she's there and I'm jealous. She is sending me books.) We were talking a lot about what ARCs she was seeing, what authors she met, and she asked what she might pick up for me. "More nonfiction" I requested. "I haven't seen much" she said.
And yes, I know! I love nonfiction, but I have looked at oodles of "What We're Looking Forward to in 2017" articles and posts and there are practically no nonfiction books on them. It feels to me like they're 85% fiction. And I felt like last year, a lot of the big nonfiction books snuck up on me. I didn't know in advance that they were coming out until all of a sudden, Hey, there's a new Michael Lewis! And a new Tracy Kidder! And Mary Roach! And Candice Millard! I feel like I had no advance notice of any of these books, and they're all huge, all of them are big authors who I follow and whose previous books I've read, and yet, there was no advance hype. All the hype seems to be for fiction.
I am hoping that's what's happening this year. I don't want 2017 to be a year of no (or no good) nonfiction. But I am not overly worried. Here's my suspicion:
Nonfiction is easier to sell. It's easier to get media for. Those authors are easier to interview, so they are more likely to appear on TV shows and in magazines. Therefore fiction, especially first novels, are the books that publishers really have to put money and effort behind. Therefore, those are the books with ARCs circulated very early in large quantities, looking for blurbs, and so those are the books that people in the end of 2016 (and early 2017) have heard about for next year. I mean really, if you were booking for a TV show, say Ellen or The Chew, who would you have an easier time writing interview questions for: David Sedaris or Elif Batuman. If you're saying "Elif who?" then you see the problem. I think Ms. Batuman's novel, The Idiot, is going to be big this year, and I've seen ARC giveaways and blurbs all over the place for the last few months. I doubt many ARCs will be circulated for Mr. Sedaris's latest memoir. It's easy to ask someone questions about facts, about the past, about history. It's a lot harder to ask anything at all about fiction (especially without giving away spoilers, which is also rarely an issue with nonfiction.)
So I have my fingers crossed. I believe there will be as much excellent nonfiction this year as in past years, but so far, it looks like there's nothing but fiction as far as the eye can see. I'll just have to be prepared to have them sneak up on me.