Well, things are escalating rapidly in the world, aren’t they? I’m at home, typing this, wondering if I’ll have a job when it’s over. The indie I work for has shut its doors, temporarily laying off 80% of its employees without pay, and with health insurance only through the end of the month. Coming soon: massive permanent layoffs. I love my job – and it’s one I think I’m pretty damn good at. But beyond that, I have so many co-workers who will truly struggle if they are laid off during this economy.
Being laid off gives us the opportunity to apply for unemployment, but the system is SO OVERWHELMED right now, that it’s taking people multiple attempts, and several hours on hold, before they can figure out what’s going on. And, to be honest – with that many people claiming unemployment, I have to wonder if the government will have the funds available to be able to pay them all.
It’s a scary time right now, because all of that uncertainty doesn’t even cover those who are more susceptible to this virus, and are (rightfully) worried over the terrible job that our current administration has done thus far. A big kudos to the state leaders who have stepped it up to fill the gaping hole…I’m just not sure if it’s going to be enough.
Final thoughts here, before this gets TOO depressing. Wash your hands – THOROUGHLY. 20-30 full seconds, people. Practice social distancing TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY. When you can, check in on others – text, phone call, window knocking. Support small businesses – restaurants, indie bookstores, etc. They’re all struggling and trying to figure out how to keep their business open and take care of their people.
Above all, folks. Be Kind. To yourself, and to others. We need it right now, and you really have no idea how one moment of kindness might have a HUGE impact on someone’s life. ESPECIALLY right now, when so many are worried, and feeling alone.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.