Power in numbers: Why you shouldn’t lose your sh*t if someone’s publishing the same book as you

Courtney Maum
4 min readMay 4, 2021
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

As with retinol products and heirloom vegetables, book publishing also follows market trends. Writers, after all, are natural-born observers, our cultural referees. It makes sense that the issues that fascinate and concern one writer would also interest someone else.

Accordingly, there are publishing seasons in which it feels like everyone is obsessed with the same topic. Follow me back to 2005, when ankle bracelets and vampire-themed novels were hot. After “Twilight,” things got postapocalyptic: Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” catapulted onto the scene alongside Edan Lepucki’s “California,” and Ben H. Winters’s “The Underground Airlines” came out one month before Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad.” The Trump era dumpster fires made the postapocalyptic fire burn hotter, with so many books devoted to the collapse of civil society that The New York Times referred to this publishing trend as “a collective panic attack.” In the year behind us, werewolves had a moment, and I think yetis are next.

Anyone who has tried to submit a book proposal recently knows that nonfiction is even more subject to market trends than novels. In 2016, Rebecca Weller’s addiction memoir “A Happier Hour” was followed by Leslie Jamison’s “The Recovering,” which came out a few months before Kristi Coulter’s “Nothing Good Can Come from This,” a precursor to Holly Whitaker’s “Quit Like a Woman,” which on-and-off again Twitter user chrissy teigen catapulted to fame. In 2018, feminist motherhood memoirs hit like a tsunami: Meaghan O’Connell’s “And Now We Have Everything” was followed by Sheila Heti’s “Motherhood,” then Angela Garbes’s “Like a Mother” came out, chased by Emma Brockes’s “An Excellent Choice” and Kim Brooks’s “Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear.” (And this is just a sampling of that season’s titles!) Today, we’re seeing a veritable hunger for balsy self-help books like “Girl Wash Your Face” from the disingenuous influencer Rachel Hollis, Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k” series and Monica Sweeney’s “Let That Sh*t Go.”

With social-cataloging websites like Goodreads offering hyperspecific reading categories (“motherhood and ambition” is one example; “best positive change books” is…

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Courtney Maum

Book coach. Author COSTALEGRE, TOUCH, I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN HERE WITHOUT YOU + BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL. Horsegirl. Namer. Newsletter-> courtneymaum.com