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Why Are Debut Novels Failing to Launch?

Last fall, while reporting Esquire’s “Future of Books” predictions, I asked industry insiders about trends they’d noticed in recent years. Almost everyone mentioned that debut fiction has become harder to launch. For writers, the stakes are do or die: A debut sets the bar for each of their subsequent books, so their debut advance and sales performance can follow them for the rest of their career. For editors, if a writer’s first book doesn’t perform, it’s hard to make a financial case for acquiring that writer’s second book. And for you, a reader interested in great fiction, the fallout from this challenging climate can limit your access to exciting new voices in fiction. Unless you diligently shop at independent bookstores where booksellers highlight different types of books, you might only ever encounter the big, splashy debuts that publishers, book clubs, social-media algorithms, and big-box retailers have determined you should see. Read more

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