Monday, March 16, 2020

I'm curious about the impact of COVID-19 on publishing

Hi Janet -
I'm curious about the impact of COVID-19 on publishing. We all know brick and mortar bookstores - especially our independent friends - are at risk of losing business* as the country hunkers down for the foreseeable future.

But what about the industry behind the scenes?

As a debut writer who's been on sub to editors for about a month now (seconds in publishing years, decades in Fretting Writer years), I'm curious to know what if anything this means for those of us who have our work out in the world on editors' desks and computers and Kindles. Business as usual? Extended wait times? Too early to tell?

Any insights are appreciated.

Stay well and get some sunshine.

- A Fretting On-Sub Woodland Creature

*Support your local bookstores.

Too soon to tell.

It's really hard to focus and concentrate, but that's usual when your routine is in tatters. I can't imagine how the parents of school kids are coping given NYC shut the schools for a month with less than 24 hours notice.

While almost everyone I know is working from home, it's too soon to say what that will mean for acquisitions, or signing new clients or any of the normal daily stuff.

My big concern isn't the short term of what will happen this week or next. It's the long term economic impact. While a company like Random House won't suffer too much, there are a lot of smaller fry in the industry.

Smaller presses, even flourishing small presses, can be hard hit when people lose their jobs and cut back on spending.

Or when people are afraid of losing their jobs and so they cut back on spending.
Or people running small businesses stay open but see a 90% drop in customers and thus income.

And that's what we're looking at here with massive closures like all Broadways shows. Not the actors or musicians, protected in their unions, but the bars and eateries in the area. Hotel housekeeping workers.  Hot dog vendors. Taxi drivers already hard hit by the medallion crisis. Dog walkers, day care workers.

We're a week into this and the uncertainty is really hard to deal with.

I'm proceeding as normal. Following up on client submissions, sending work out.
Absent information on new protocols, there's no other way to conduct business.

I'm reading incoming queries, and requested fulls.

In other words, your normal torment continues until further notice but Christmas is not yet cancelled.


KMK said...

Thank you for asking this, OP, and thank you QOTKU for the honest answer. I am six weeks out from pub date and very quietly scared out of my mind. My better angels are focused on keeping my family safe and doing my real job helping keep the public informed. My inner devil is screaming: "BUT MY BOOK!" All I can say is thank Heaven for social media...and merlot.

Mister Furkles said...

It might be better for publishing if people working from home tire of TV and return to reading books. Libraries are closing and for those bookstores still open, they may see an increase in business.

On another note: many businesses and government offices are requiring everybody to work from home. Tucson ordered its gravediggers to work from home.

Okay, they didn't really.

Sarah said...

KMK, are you on Twitter? I'm already seeing a groundswell of established authors working to help others with upcoming releases. (Linda Sue Park, Kate Messner, and Amie Kaufman come straight to mind.) I'm more aware of the children's lit world since I write for kids, but it may not hurt to poke around.

Also, a LOT of teachers and librarians are looking for at-home resources for students whose schools have closed. So if your book might fall into that category, search under #Covid19lib (#CovidLibrary seems to be more about university libraries.)

Good luck! My debut had a weird release, too. It's crazy and hard, but you're gonna make it. :)

KMK said...

Thank you, Sarah! I will do that! As scared as I am, I'm actually thankful that I'm going out with an historical mystery and not the contemporary piece I queried earlier -- escapism may save me. And (when I'm not being a self-obsessed woodland creature) I worry more for the people who are out this week, and anyone with dark dystopian stuff. THANK YOU for the encouragement!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I figured that this might be the case with publishing. I was so distracted by this weird new reality I could get nothing done all over the weekend. I cried when I found out my daughter was being laid off effective immediately late last night and basically trapped in New York with no income. Her roommate has suspended her rent and she has plenty of food and my credit card to keep her eating.

I am sure it is the same in publishing, where the worry over family and trying to adjust to the unknown is a bit trying. Is this the fall of Rome? Are the barbarians at the gates? Or is this just a little blip in the road?

It was a relief to be working this morning, online but in conjunction with my co-workers trying to figure out how to handle an all online school system. Please stay safe and well everyone. If you are in an area that is closed down like New York and Atlanta, if you live alone, make sure there is someone you can reach out to if you start to feel ill or need anything.

Do any of you feel like we've been trapped in some Reef writer's dystopian fantasy? Or is it just me? I keep thinking I have been caught up in a Jeff Somer's novel where ultimately cats will become our authoritative overlords.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Hi there from Paris where the critical hour has struck.

On Thursday the pres Macron announced nationwide schools closing and on Saturday they shifted into 3rd gear, Sunday morn we awoke to all bars and restaurants closed nationwide. Tonight they will up the anty and we'll have a nationwide curfew at 6pm. Indefinitely. In France they are not testing people unless you can't breath. Which means the Italian statistics are more on the mark and the French are lying. The Italians are testing everyone.

In Italy doctors are having to choose who needs reanimation more. My husband works at Institute Pasteur. Last week they sent out a to secret inside notice saying that this scale of epedimie happens once every 100 years and get ready to telework. I could give a lot more details, but you get the picture.

I'm not in the publishing industry but IMO ebooks will probably go well and self-help books will probably do well. Because everyone is now forced to look inside themselves and face uncertainty. To learn how to be zen and not strangle their 'loved' ones in a closed space for an indefinite time period.

For sure On-line learning is suddenly in HUGE demand. Should I put an exclamation mark. More like 108 exlamation marks. This morning EVERY school age child in France got online and broke the system. In France from middle school on up nationwide platform s available for teachers to post homework and kids can chat about school. Appharently the band width wasn't prepared for the likes of a vertically mutated virus.

That idiot should never have eaten the snake that was bitten by the bat that lived in a limestone cave. But past mistakes make for learning experiences.

It's all really exciting. LOL!

Theresa said...

Like KMK, I'm worried about my book, which is due out in June. I also know that authors who are launching now are having a tougher time, but it is so nice to see big name authors doing big online boosts for them. Jenna Blum and Caroline Leavitt are launching a special FB group today.

Those who can work from home are fortunate, though many face adjustments with that. I hope we all help support those who are getting laid off. We're all sacrificing now for the greater good.

Stay well, everyone.

Ann Bennett said...

The best laid plans o' mice and men often go awry. Robert Burns

Our storytelling will broaden.

Try not to touch your face, wash your hands, be kind to your neighbors, friends and family.

Most of us will survive. I'm wondering if my pension fund collapses, will the job market have an opening for someone with my "bossin" ability.

Life goes on.

Theresa said...

The FB group I mentioned above is called A Mighty Blaze.

Emma said...

This is a topic very close to my heart as I had an offer about 10 days ago. My agent said we needed to get other editors a chance to pipe up and after that I've heard nothing at all. I don't know if that's a normal time to wait for responses or if editors basically stopped responding or if (god forbid) the publisher might rescind the offer in the face of projected economic hardship. Gasp. Is that possible?

I'm sitting here, thankful to still (in theory) have my paid job, working from home, while my son, who is a senior in HS is playing math games on his ipad since his teachers were just as unprepared as the rest of the world.

Janet, any insight would be immensely appreciated.

And stay safe and sane everyone.

Thank you

Katja said...

I'm an Indie author and was trying to get on the local BBC and a book signing at WHSmith. I don't think anyone at the radio has any interest in my book or the background topic, because Covid-19 'spreads' everywhere (literally and figuratively).

I felt I might have a good chance of getting a book signing at WHSmith, since the manager has agreed to reading my book (and it sounded like her duty manager already read it, but who knows...), and I was told to make 3 posters for the window of the store.

BUT: it makes absolutely NO sense at the moment.

If I can have an event late(r) this year, I'm worried it might be bad when people find out how long (since last summer) my book has been out there already.

Wow, angie from Paris, that is massive. Nationwide!!! And a curfew.
I lived in Paris for 4 years... now I'm trying to imagine this... and all the caf├ęs I used to go to, the owners and staff I used to know...

It's hard to fathom. It feels like I can't, I'm not smart enough. That's how surreal all this is.

I wish we could all wake up tomorrow and it was just OVER.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I'm already ruled by feline overlords.

Sam Mills said...

Just as an FYI, my favorite local genre bookstore (Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, CA) is doing free domestic shipping for a month. I think I'll put in an order.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

My daughter and I are also ordering books online from local indie bookstores to support them in our small way.

Steve Forti said...

Idris Elba just tested positive. Somebody please check to make sure Janet is ok!
Lightness aside, hope all of you and yours are doing ok. We're locking ourselves indoors at my house. Wife being a nurse and all. Hope you've got some good books to keep you company.

Janet Reid said...

Idris Elba will be quarantined at my house of course.

KMK said...

Theresa, THANK YOU for the advice on A Mighty Blaze! And all good thoughts to everyone who is so terribly affected by this outbreak.

Colin Smith said...

Janet: ROTFL!!!!!!!

Mary said...

I just signed a book contract! But honestly promoting is the least of my worries at the moment. More worried about my parents. And anyone with Idris must share.

KDJames said...

Janet, thanks for the clip of Alan Rickman. And for the insight.

Just a gentle reminder to those of you commenting here about new or imminent releases or even signing contracts (HOORAY for all of you!), that some of us here would love to be supportive and buy your epic masterpiece . . . if only we knew your full name or the title of your book, or when we clicked on your google-name we could find a website address or . . . some other clue. I realize it's awkward to actively self-promo, but making this info available in your profile is passive and can be just as effective. Don't make it harder for readers to find you than it has to be.

Hope all of you are staying safe and maintaining sanity.

Laura Stegman said...

Ha, okay, are we going to have a duel among us as to the relative, er, "hotness" of Idris Elba vs Alan Rickman (when he was still among us, of course)? I will toss down the gauntlet and vote for Alan Rickman (Love Actually, in particular). Really, anything to get our minds off the possible decline of civilization.

KDJames said...

HA! Laura, I'm not sure it's possible for anyone to be "hotter" than Idris Elba. But I'm not going to duel over subjective opinion. :) It was just a nice surprise to see Rickman. I came to admire him even more after his death, when all the stories came out about what a remarkable and generous person he was, in addition to his immense acting talent.

I don't think civilization is declining at all. Tough times right now, yes. And I think we'll find that, being sorely tested, civilization on the whole is rising to the occasion.

Laura Stegman said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, KD.

Panda in Chief said...

I didn't really discover Alan Rickman until the Harry Potter movies, and then, shortly before his death, I realized I had seen him in many movies and could never quite place him. He was a brilliant actor and I am sorry he is gone. I love him in "Love Actually", even if he did make Emma Thompson cry.

What was the topic here?
All this self isolating is not all that different from my usual life. But somehow it feels really different. Stay safe everyone! And Janet, you're going to have to let Mr. Elba out eventually.

Janet Reid said...

I really hope Laura Stegman's family won't miss her too much now that she's marooned on Carkoon for The Duration.

As if anyone, even our beloved Alan Rickman, could hold a candle to Idris Elba.

I mean really now.

Kregger said...

Coming back to this after reading of today's banishment of Laura to Carkoon and intuiting my future and potential sentencing; I understand Ms. Reid's longing for (what's his name?) Idris Elba? Even though I don't bat for the other team, Jason Momoa is a hunk.

roadkills-r-us said...

(Secret message) Laura, don’t worry! There are all sorts of fun things in the interstitials of Carkoon, and daily deliveries through a portal under the third palm tree just west of the cornflower blue statue of the Duchess of Yowl. Just make sure you pick the right color statue. Other portals lead to alternate universes populated by Janet’s snd the DoY’s nightmares. (/secret message)