by John Peragine
The world seems to have changed overnight. Coronavirus has swept over the world, and humans have been forced into the safety of their own homes.
For writers, it can seem like any other day. We often spend our days isolated in a room, typing, and asking others to give us space and time to do our craft. Sounds like a writers dream.
Except writers can be perverse.
If you are like me, you really don't want to do something until someone tells you that you can't. I can't go out. I can't hang with people. I can't even touch my face!
As the world waits to see what happens with the pandemic, many people who always thought about writing, but always made the excuse they did not have enough time, are picking up their pens. There are so many words coming into being right now: poetry, short fiction, novels.
Writing can be a very therapeutic way to pass the time.
While we sit and toil over our notebooks and keyboards, the world of books is changing. They way we publish, print, and distribute is having a major shift. For many writers, this is a very exciting time, but for others it is a little scary. The business is changing, and it my prediction that some of those shifts will last well beyond the pandemic.
What will change?
In the world of traditional publishing there are a number of changes. Some these changes began occurring prior to the pandemic such as the sale of Simon and Schuster. The big publishing houses are condensing, as Penguin and Random House have already merged.
Advances over the years have shrunk. Publishing deals now require that authors be more and more responsible for sales and marketing. Amazon has become the dominant force in book sales. All these items are related.
During the pandemic, publishing houses, big and small, have paused. Book deals have frozen, and book launches have been delayed. Scores of authors are unsure of what to do and how to proceed. (Don't worry there is more good news than bad).
Agents have become creative, and are shifting to editing, webinars and creating videos about book writing.
So is this a good time to pitch a book?
Some agents want to be ready when the ice thaws and business begins to ramp up again, and are taking this time to get book proposals ready. Others, who rely heavily on the sales of books to publishers, are going out of business.
If you are seeking an agent, check their website! A number of them post whether they are taking queries at this time.
There is talk that there will be a lot a babies born this coming December. This is also true of books. I would imagine the number of books about surviving a pandemic will be a like a tidal wave in the market.
Distribution and Printing
Many printers and distribution channels are drying up during the pandemic. Many authors with hybrid publishers are growing frustrated, as communication has dropped off and they are left adrift and unsure of their future.
Books are low on Amazon's shipping priority list, especially now. People are not getting books, and worse, many of the books have printing and binding issues. For authors trying to release their books, a shipping time of two or more weeks can be a nightmare.
Authors are adapting in surprising ways.
The mindset is shifting. Rather than work through distribution channels, like Amazon or a bookstore, authors are moving to a direct-to-consumer marketing approach. They are connecting with readers and selling directly, often through print-on-demand services and distributors like Ingram Spark. These avenues assure on-time, and allow authors to achieve more control of the process, rather than relying on someone else to do it for them.
Authors are utilizing new technology to connect with other writers, editors, readers, publishers and more. Writing conferences are on hold for the foreseeable future and so authors are trying new ways to connect.
For example, I have begun a Friday Night Cocktail party using Zoom. It allows me an outlet to speak to other writers, readers and industry professionals. People come and go, meet new people and chat. Not only is it fun and relaxing but it helps me build my network from home. It is not a total replacement for connecting to with people in person, but it does create an added way of networking.
An Exciting Time
There is a lot of loss and uncertainty in the world now, but it will eventually pass. But the publishing world will never be the same. I look forward to the inevitable shift. New technology, new marketing and selling strategies, new themes in books. We're all together in this new world of writing. Keep your heads up!
What changes do you expect to see? What changes have you noticed already? Have any of your important publishing dates changed?
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMakermagazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, Max and the Spice Pirates, will be released in the Fall 2020.