At an American Book Producers Association panel in New York City on December 12, four book editors discussed nonfiction trends, predicting interest in wellness, modern mysticism, CBD and cannabis, home design, geek culture, gift books, and feminist-focused works will drive acquisitions in 2020.
Among nonfiction titles selling well now, the panelists generally pointed to illustrated nonfiction titles that featured photography or lush illustrations. Clarkson Potter senior editor Angelin Borsics highlighted The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, a bestselling 2019 lifestyle title jokingly described in-house as “the anti-Marie Kondo book.” Borsics added, “It teaches how to live with your stuff. You don’t have to throw out all your books.” She also mentioned Biblio-Style, a beautifully photographed 2019 book presenting an array of bookshelves in a wide range of private households.
Becky Koh, publishing director at Black Dog & Leventhal, showed off The Elements, a bestselling illustrated book on atomic science by Theodore Gray published in 2009, that, she said, is still the house’s all-time bestselling book. “It’s been translated into 26 languages, spawned several new science series at BD&L, and, even though it’s an adult book, it’s attracted big group of young fans aged nine to 12.” Koh also mentioned surprise hit Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, a 75th-anniversary edition of Edith Hamilton’s classic work that features a redesign with new illustrations and has sold more than 100,000 copies to date.
Marisa Vigilante, a senior editor at Hachette’s health and science imprint Little Brown Spark, switched the focus to popular health, pointing out Anti-diet, a new book examining the sexist, racist, and abusive history of dieting culture, written by Christy Harrison, a dietitian, journalist and host of the popular Food Psych podcast.
And Abrams senior editor Samantha Weiner highlighted successful acquisitions driven by several different trends: among them, social media (2015’s The Rap Year Book by Shea Serrano, who has 40,000 Twitter followers), feminism (Erin Willliams’s searing 2019 graphic memoir Commute: An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame), and progressive politics (Why I March, a global photo documentation of the first Women’s March in 2017).