In Oregon and many other states, governors are issuing
Stay-at-Home orders. What does this mean for writers?
Writing Tip for Today: What are some publishing changes
writers will need to navigate during coronavirus crisis?
Traditional print publishing has never been known for speed,
but now it will slow down even more. Yes, agents and editors are working from
home, but previously contracted books are liable to clog up the pipeline. Books
that were supposed to drop soon are on hold—releasing now could jeopardize an
author’s sales since a lot of the world is in lockdown mode. Since publishing
usually works about a year out, this slow down will likely put publishing lists
on a backlog.
Book contracts are still happening, but they too are slowing
down. Editorial decisions, contracting and production all are slowing in
response to the virus. Editors with children may not be able to work as much.
As editorial boards weigh proposals, they are likely feeling uncertain about
what the reading public will want in the coming year or two.
According to my agency, WordServe Literary, another factor is that in nearly every book contract, there is a provision called Force Majeure. It means “unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.” And the coronavirus is a perfect example of that unforeseen circumstance. I don’t know which publisher or how many will cancel contracts based on the Force Majeure clause, but writers need to be aware.
Another area that is impacted is cover design. You’ve
probably heard about the importance of a great cover to help sell your book.
Right now, designers can still noodle with ideas, but critical high-tech
computer equipment is usually in the office—where they can’t go.
Another area of potential slow-down is in the way publishers
dole out book advances. Where the traditional model is half upon signing and
half upon accepted manuscript, some publishers are breaking those payments into
thirds to cushion their cash flow.
The one bright spot in all this is that sales of e-books are
up over trade. In other words, readers can buy your book on Kindle or other
platforms and read without physically going to a store or touching the book.
What Writers CAN Do
While writers everywhere are stuck at home, we can all do
some things to actually help ourselves. Use this time to perfect that book
proposal. Grow your email list (and platform) and develop great content and
giveaways to reward your followers.
Do a Facebook or Instagram Live where you read a chapter of
your book, and a Q and A session after. Volunteer to do some online classes for
parents with kids at home. Connect with
other authors doing online activities to promote their books and amplify each
other’s work to help readers connect.
If you’re still not sure about social media, use this time to create a couple of new accounts. Practice logging in and adding followers. Then do a written Q and A about your book’s subject, the writing process or some idea that you can link your book to. Sign up on Goodreads, which is helping authors promote their work, even if you have yet to be published. There’s no better time than right now to cultivate and grow that platform you’ve heard you must have but that you hated thinking about. Good luck and stay safe and healthy. We’ll get through this together.