I might not have time to follow up on this topic as much as I’d like, but I hope people will jump in and keep it going if the interest is there.

How did 9/11 impact the publishing world?

I don’t know if this topic has been discussed much, but I think 9/11 had a large impact on publishing. And not just the publishing world in general, but it changed the way some editors look at violence in crime fiction. My editor was walking to work when she heard the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

Nothing was really the same after that.

When compared to the enormous loss of life, it feels wrong to talk about books and business, but the immediate impact on publishing was a drop in fiction sales. Fictions sales fell... I think it was 13 -18% over the next twelve months. The following year it was another 23%. But I also noticed a shift in what editors wanted, and they were shying away for more realistic violence.


Anybody else have similar thoughts?

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It would be interesting if anyone had data on how WWII and the Vietnam War affected fiction sales.

My theory is, people were terrified. And this was war really setting foot on American soil, except it wasn't as easy as naming a country as an enemy. It's harder to fight an organization, harder to put a face on it, or point to a spot on the map and say, "That's where the bad people live."

It was easy to incite fear. People wanted reassurance, and people didn't want to be confronted with a high level of realism that would tear open wounds.

I did hear that books about Islam saw a huge increase in sales. We were reading Jihad vs McWorld and The Dream Palace of the Arabs at the time already, because we were going to North Africa on holidays. When we called our travel agent the first thing she said was, "Yes, you can get your money back" and we said, "No, we want to know if we can still go."

I think people needed to understand, on the one hand, and then they needed escape. However, back then, I wasn't even in this world at all, so I'm speaking more as a casual reader on my opinions. I've only been in the crime fiction/publishing world since post 9/11.
the immediate drop in fiction sales was because people were glued to their televisions. later, when they headed back to bookstores they bought a lot more nonfiction. that's when politics and religion sales soared.

I think people needed to understand, on the one hand, and then they needed escape

But the primary reason for genre fiction is escape.
Not for all of us.

And some genres are more of an escape than others. As Anne said, people were shying away from realistic violence.
I still see pleanty of violent books being published (and films and TV programs produced). I think the decline in book sales is more complex than that one event.
And I meant to say that people read genre fiction in order to escape, not that we write it for that reason. My guess would be that a fear of violence because of 9/11 would send more readers to cozies and other happy books.
Hmm, I didn't experience any editorial aversion to violence after 9/11. Perhaps, initially, there might have been an aversion to "Die Hard" type scenarios, but I don't think it lasted and a couple of years ago I had a black comedy about Islamic terrorism in Ellery Queen's. Of course, many people have suggested that the adult taste for Harry Potter and the growing interest in certain historical sub-genres were all connected with the desire to escape the reality of the post-9/11 world.

What I remember personally is that I stopped working on my new book at the time (my second) and didn't start again for two months because fiction, for a time, felt pointless. When I told my publishers why the book was late they all instantly understood and told me no one was writing and that very few books were being bought (by publishers). As with everything else, of course, time covered up the cracks.


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