Novelists often ask me about timing their stories to the anniversary of a significant historical event. As with most questions, no definitive right or wrong answer exists. Here are a few thoughts.
Does the event capture the public’s imagination?
Since most Americans make yearly plans for the July 4th holiday, that event can offer perennial plots for novelists. But to time a novel to celebrate the 250th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence in 2026? The novelist would be well advised to start writing now and be confident of a publisher’s support that the public will be excited enough about this milestone anniversary for the novel to succeed. In my view, a better idea would be to write the book and have your agent pitch it. Then the publisher can decide if the novel needs a 2026 release date to maximize sales.
Would the story be impressive even without being tied to an anniversary?
This site lists several notable events that took place in July: History Extra.
In the first example, Henry VIII married Catherine Howard on July 28, 1540, as Thomas Cromwell was beheaded. An author writing to bring these events to life can be successful without waiting for the 500th anniversary of these events to occur in 2040.
We also learn that the bikini first arrived in July 1946. While that item could be of passing interest to fashionistas, building a powerful novel around this factoid may not be impossible but would prove a struggle for most authors.
Is my novel compelling?
The story itself needs to be strong enough not to rely on an anniversary to sell books. A compelling tale is worth reading regardless of its release date. Rather than timing to an anniversary, write your best novel that makes your heart race, that likewise will capture the hearts and minds of your readers.