Yesterday, book publishers across the United Kingdom raced to release almost 600 books in a single day. Known within the industry as “Super Thursday,” the massive push was planned in response to a growing backlog of titles that were supposed to be released throughout the spring and summer but, like many events this year, were delayed by Covid-19.
Thanks to the pandemic, the majority of book festivals and literary events planned for this spring and summer ended up canceled. Bookstores around the world have also shuttered due to lack of business: This April, reports Alexandra Alter for the New York Times, bookstore sales in the United States dropped more than 65 percent versus April 2019.
“If you’re a publisher and you had a big book coming out between April and August this year, then you probably postponed publication,” Scott Pack, a publisher and editor at London-based Eye Books and Lightning Books, tells Felicity Hannah of BBC News.
Even during a non-pandemic year, the weeks leading up to autumn are often some of the busiest times for new releases, as publishers jockey to fill bookstore shelves ahead of the upcoming winter holidays. But as BBC News reports, this year’s influx of new titles is completely out of the norm, representing a 24-percent increase over the number of books released in the U.K. at the beginning of September 2019.
Super Thursday itself has been around since at least 2008, according to Vice’s Nadia Khomami, but the so-called “biggest publishing day of the year” typically takes place in October, not September.
Among the titles on offer this Super Thursday are debut works by Zoë Sommerville, Richard Osman, Nydia Hetherington and Laura Waddell, as well as books by Raynor Winn, Kate Clanchy and “Great British Bake Off” winner Nadiya Hussein.
This colossal push to get new books into readers’ hands may seem like great news—particularly for bibliophiles and anyone in desperate need of a literary escape—but many of the newly released titles’ authors are less enthusiastic. For them, the release of a new work is a career achievement worthy of fanfare. Ensuring one’s work captures readers’ attention as they scan bookstore shelves buckling with options is already a challenge. Now, authors must navigate the added competition of 600 new releases fighting to do the exact same thing.
Natasha Randall, whose debut novel Love Orange was released on Thursday by Riverrun, an imprint of U.K. publisher Quercus, says she’s already feeling the pinch from this week’s book barrage.
“When so many books are published,” she tells BBC News, “there is an awful lot of noise you have to compete with.”
Combined with the competitive nature of trying to land a coveted spot on a bestseller list or a book review with a major publication, many authors see the suddenly overcrowded market as cause for concern.
Writing for the Independent, Eva Wait-Taylor notes, “[N]ow, more than ever, it’s important to celebrate and support the debut novelists publishing this autumn.”
In late March, Smithsonian magazine launched a series highlighting new book releases to support authors whose works have been overshadowed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Find it here.