Remember a year ago? Yep. Life looked a lot different before the pandemic. As writers, many of us have experienced our own personal impact related to changes in our work schedules, environments, and not least of all our mental health. But we also know these ramifications are widespread, beyond our office doors. Here are three big-picture ways COVID-19 has altered the publishing industry.
1. Publishers are locking down. The publishing industry is a business, and businesses operate on money (among other things). For any business to succeed, it needs to sell products. In the current climate, economic uncertainty means people aren’t buying like they used to. So publishers need to hedge their bets with proven products that they know are more likely to sell.
What does that mean for you and me? Well, publishers are now less inclined to take a risk on new authors. Instead they’re focusing on experienced, proven authors with big platforms and a track record of sales. That’s super frustrating if you’re trying to break into the industry right now—but in the long run it’s a good thing for all of us. This cautious approach will help publishers and booksellers stay alive through the crisis. As writers we want these publishing companies to still be around in another few years. So instead of grumbling about limited opportunities at the moment, let’s try to support the publishing industry by buying books. Then work hard at honing your craft so that when the gates open up again, you’ll be ready to pitch your work—and become an asset to the publishers in due time.
2. Self-publishing is an open door. DIY publishing has been skyrocketing in recent years, now more than ever as we’re seeing a merge of two opposing trends: (1) traditional publishers are trimming back, and (2) many authors have more time on their hands to write, thanks to cancelled “normal life” activities that used to fill our calendars. So where can a writer channel all that output? Self-publishing.
Programs like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) make it easier than ever to produce and sell your book online. Even traditionally published authors are turning to self-publishing to continue their line of titles. For example, my good friend Katie Reid, author of traditionally published Made Like Martha (Waterbrook), just released a new self-published novel, A Very Bavarian Christmas. And it’s a fantastic read! So if you want to launch a book into the world during this crazy time, don’t feel like you have to wait on the publishing industry to turn around. Self-publishing makes it possible.
3. Conferences are going virtual. I’m a big believer in conferences for the opportunity to learn, network, and meet one-on-one with publishers and agents. Thanks to COVID, many of the industry’s top conferences have switched to virtual platforms, eliminating the need for costly travel. This means conferences are more accessible than ever before. One of my favorites is the FlourishWriters Conference, which was designed to be virtual from the get-go—and it’s FREE. Registration was just extended through Monday, Oct. 26, so you can still take advantage of all the sessions online. Check it out HERE.
The most successful writers will embrace these changes as opportunities—to adapt, pivot, and produce in faith what God is calling them to write. I’m optimistic that change in the industry does not equal demise. People still read books, they still seek encouragement, entertainment, and truth. As writers we get the privilege of offering those through our words. So keep looking up, keep putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys), and trust that God has gifted you for such a time as this.
He will see it through.
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