Coronavirus Ripple Effect, Pt. 2: Indies & Debuts

Yesterday, I talked about the ripple effect that canceling a big event like SXSW or Emerald City Comicon can have on the livelihoods of people, starting at the beginning point of the shock, and rippling outwards to the Uber/Lyft drivers, the maids at hotels, the servers at restaurants, etc. (https://stillmorewords.com/2020/03/10/the-coronavirus-ripple-effect/). Today, I want to build on that and talk about the book industry and the effect Coronavirus is having on *it*.

I work for an indie bookstore, and when one is talking about indies, one is generally talking about a very thin profit margin. One of the biggest things that indies depend on, besides word of mouth and consistent customers? Book events, where the authors come into the store, sign titles, and talk to/with those that attend. Unfortunately, many of those events – large, small, and everywhere in between – are getting cancelled. This is a difficulty for a few reasons:

  1. Typically, the bookstore has STOCKED UP on whatever title the authors have written. They bring in a lot of the new title the book tour is for, and often some of the back list as well. Now, with no event? Such a large amount of titles are much more likely to struggle to be sold.
  2. Events usually mean extra personnel working that day/evening – there is set-up involved, greeting/directing the author to where they need to be, helping with the signing line, etc. Those employees lose out on that extra pay.
  3. When customers come for an author event, it is not uncommon for them to purchase not only titles from that author, but to wander around the bookstore before/after the event and purchase more books, gift items, etc. Events, depending on the size of them, can generate quite a bit more in revenue from additional purchases, and that now evaporates.
  4. Author events typically involve the bookstores paying a fee to the author to have them come and talk. It’s very possible that some of that fee may not be returnable, depending on the contract involved. So that’s an additional loss.

There are probably more reasons even than this, but these are the ones that I’m more familiar with. Long story short – it really hurts the bottom lines of the indie bookstores, many of whom struggle to stay afloat anyway in the Age of Amazon.

For a more personal touch, lets talk about debut authors. Being a debut author is sort of a touchy spot between YAY MY BOOK IS BEING PUBLISHED and WHAT IF NO ONE BUYS IT. They often really depend on book festivals, such as the Tucson Festival of Books, to get the word out and meet with readers – particularly since new books are often propelled more by word of mouth than anything else. Not only that, but most debut authors are not treated to actual book tours, no matter how small. Book tours are expensive, and tend to be reserved more for authors that are a known quantity. So these debut authors really do count on getting that name recognition from these larger events – this not only gets them readers, but also gets more interest from bookstores who decide what they have room to stock…which gets them more readers, and so on. When they get cancelled? It puts their books – and potentially any future books – on VERY unstable ground.

The solution, other than not cancelling these events (which is, at the moment, VERY unrealistic)? Support your indie bookstores. Find a debut author that has a title coming out and PREORDER THEIR BOOK. Preorders are SUPER important for authors. I’ll let Kevin Hearne (one of my favorite authors) explain why:

If you don’t want to preorder? The first week of sales are ALSO super important. And if you don’t have the funds to buy the book, but you still want to read them? ASK YOUR LIBRARY TO CARRY THEM. Library sales figure into the math that publishers do when trying to decide whether to sign another contract with an author.

Once you’ve done any one (or more!) of those things? If you read the book, and like it? SPREAD THE WORD! If you use Goodreads, leave a review. If you don’t do reviews, leave a star count. Review on Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. If you use Facebook, share with your friends and family. If you use Twitter, send a tweet! Get the word out, and bit by bit, it travels…then other bookstores get requests, and more people see it and some will even buy it. Others will download it. And THAT’S how debut authors are able to turn their first book into another one, and hopefully another one after that, and so on.

Below, I’m adding a few links for your further perusal. The first, is an excellent way to find a book your interested in AND a local indie bookstore.

http://www.indiebound.org

Several of the authors that were slated to appear at the now-cancelled Tucson Festival of Books were debut authors. I’m including a link that lists EVERY author scheduled to appear. The nice thing about this particular link is that every author has their OWN link for you to click on and check out.

https://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/?id=67

If you have a specific genre, and that genre is YA? HAVE I GOT THE LINK FOR YOU!

https://www.thebookgoat.com/2020-ya

More links to debut titles coming out:

Long story super short – indies and debut authors (even authors who *aren’t* debut, but only have a couple of books out) will be hurting from this. Please do what you can to help support them, whether it’s as small as asking your library to carry a title, or as big as BUYING ALL THE BOOKS (from an indie, natch).

And if you are a debut author, with a book coming out in the next several months, PLEASE feel free to leave the information in the comments of this post! Or attached to the tweet! Tag authors you know of, and retweet the hell of this. Use the hashtag #debutauthor to make it easily found for others. I’d love to be able to broadcast everyone’s information a little more widely, and help out as many as I can. Because indie bookseller = book lover, and I will never cease to argue the point that what the world needs now is ALWAYS more books.

The Coronavirus Ripple Effect

With the outbreaks of Coronavirus happening around the globe, and getting bigger here in the United States, there have been A LOT of cancellations. Book fairs, Comicons, festivals…you name it, at least one of them has been cancelled. And here’s the thing – it’s for the best, in light of how contagious this virus is – and here, the U.S., how little actual information our government is giving/getting. But there’s a flip side to those cancellations as well.

When a city hosts a big gathering of any sort, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars up for grabs – maybe even millions, depending on the size of the gathering. For example, let’s use Emerald City Comicon in Washington. All the vendors that are signed up have to stay somewhere, eat food, get around, and will probably do at least a little bit of shopping. All the visitors that come to SEE the vendors are doing the same thing, and probably even MORE shopping. So when it gets cancelled, you have a ripple effect of people who start losing money.

First, the con itself – all the funds it’s put towards making this “the best year yet” are potentially gone. There may be some refunds available, but due to the timeline, they may not be in full. Some funds may not be refundable at all. Then you start looking at the people who were *working* the con, all of them losing income. On to the vendors, who are now faced not only with a *huge* source of income drying up, but for many, travel expenses that can’t be recouped. Hotel costs that have been paid, plane fares that cost even *more* to change (or re-book completely), etc. Many of these artists rely on the income from these large cons – they do two or three or four a year, and that’s a significant portion of their yearly pay. In addition to the artists, you have the food and drink vendors that *also* counted on the income from this con.

Once you get outside of the those *directly* impacted, then you have the outer ripples in this pond. The hotels that typically are fully booked, the restaurants around the con area where artists and customers alike will eat. The Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers that would have been kept busy from dawn until dusk – and probably later. The grocery stores and corner markets for those who may have booked an Airbnb.

From there, the people who *work* in those hotels and restaurants. The front desk personnel, the maids, the cooks, the wait staff – all the people whose hours get cut instead of being boosted, who may be depending on those extra hours to help make ends meet.

It really is a ripple effect, and there are thousands of people in any city where these large events have been cancelled that will be the worse for it. So, may I suggest that – whenever possible – you take some of those funds you would have spent attending the function, and use them to support one of the artists or restaurants or shops? Even the newspapers suffer due to removal of advertising, so maybe purchase a subscription that can be gifted? The main point, however, is to be thoughtful about how many lives are being impacted when something like this is forcibly cancelled, and do what you can to try to help offset that. If you have a favorite artist that you visit at every con? Visit their website, or look for any pop-ups that might be taking place (online or otherwise) and support them there.

For Emerald City Comicon, I know there’s a hashtag that’s been going around on twitter – #ECCCOnline – where vendors and pop-ups and other information can be located. For SXSW, go to the website and find artists that you were interested in and support them by purchasing something from them. For book fairs/festivals, buy a book or two from an author that was scheduled to appear. Let these people know, as best you can, that you support them and that you have their back.

Coronavirus is a shitty thing, and right now the world is a mess. But these artists put their hearts and souls into what they make, hoping that it will bring someone pleasure. Now it’s *our* turn to show them it’s appreciated.

And lest you think I’m preaching, but ONLY preaching…

A friend was going to get one for me at ECCC, so I ordered one instead.

Yes, I’m Judging You

So, for those who follow this blog and weren’t aware, I work at possibly one of the BIGGEST germ factories it’s possible to be in. Nope – not talking about a school (though BLESS TEACHERS EVERYWHERE!). I’m talking…about the airport. *International* airport, even. One that sees a LOT of traffic coming through on a daily basis (though admittedly – nothing like an airport the size of, say…JFK). And with all of those people – the ones traveling, the ones greeting/saying goodbye, the kids, the folks working there…THAT’S A LOT OF GERMS. And, frankly, ones in which I have absolutely zero control. Which, normally – not a big deal. I’m *far* from being a germophobe, for sure. HOWEVER. With the coronavirus outbreaks, I’ve started paying more attention to the habits of the folks around me, and OMG it’s terrifying.

For example, I had one very nice lady in the store recently who *was so proud* of herself that, when she coughed – she coughed into her hand. Ummm…no? Because then, how many books or items did you turn around AND TOUCH WITH THAT HAND? And even worse, that implies that she normally…doesn’t? Just spews germs with the best of ’em? I was a little perturbed by all of that.

AND THE BATHROOMS. It’s an airport. Very busy, very public bathrooms. I cannot tell you how many people I see that DO NOT WASH THEIR HANDS. And if they do? It’s like, a 5 second rub around – at best. Then they take all those germs that had no chance of dying, and rub them around their hands a little more with the paper towels, then grab that door handle on the way out. *insert vomit emoji here*

Listen, I’m not an alarmist. I’m well aware that the coronavirus will not instantaneously kill us all the moment we get it. However, I *am* aware that there are people out there who dare NOT get it – the elderly, the young, the immunocompromised…and it’s up to all of us to do our part. Herd immunity really is a thing, folks, and even if you don’t care whether YOU get the virus – those people and their families DO care. Also, frankly, I just don’t want to get the damn thing. SO…here’s a quick primer:

  1. When you cough or sneeze – NOT INTO YOUR HAND(S). Your upper arm or the crook of your elbow is the best space.
  2. Wipe down spaces you share regularly – for example, there is a counter that customers touch all the day long, and I share computers with co-workers. Every so often, I’ll pull out a bleach wipe and go to town – on the keyboard, the mouse, the scanner, the counter, the phone…and, if my cell phone is handy? On that too – because THE GERMS ON PHONES WOULD TERRIFY YOU IF YOU THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
  3. Hand sanitizer is a great option *if* you can’t wash your hands. But to be truly effective, you need a pretty decent amount – often the size of a quarter. You need to rub it in UNTIL IT’S DRY – no waving your hands in the air, peeps. That’s cheating. Make sure to get all over your hands, and between your fingers.
  4. Try not to touch your face. Now, how many of you had the nearly UNCONTROLLABLE urge to itch/rub at your face when you read that? Welp. Don’t.
  5. And of course – WASH YOUR HANDS. Wash them thoroughly, as in – tops, bottoms, between fingers, don’t miss your thumbs (I guess that’s a thing?), and under nails. We’ve all heard the 20 second rule, and about singing Happy Birthday. In the interest of MORE OPTIONS, I give you this – because not ALL heroes wear capes:
A little Shakespeare, maybe?
Or some Austen?

Basically, peeps. Just use some common sense. Why take a chance if you don’t have to, and why not help those who CAN LITERALLY DIE if they get this by doing your part? Because yes – if I see you in the bathroom not doing the right thing? I *will* be judging you.