Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Your Best Book during these 'Worst Of' Times

Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash
As the pandemic continues to affect just about every aspect of our daily lives, it's not surprising that one of those aspects is reading. What is surprising is how COVID-19 has affected our relationship with books, in both negative and positive ways. 

One of the positives of being in lockdown is that people are reading more! And because bookstores and libraries were closed, that caused a huge spike in online book sales, for both e-books and print. In fact, e-book sales during the first month of full lockdown, April, rose by 31 percent over March (NPD Group). Those stats are definitely in line with my own reading habits. Being stuck inside, with my local library closed and only offering digital books, caused me to dust off my Kindle and start reading e-books, an activity which I have eschewed since purchasing my e-reader about seven years ago. (I've read more e-books in the past six months than I have in the previous six years.)

One of the negative impacts has been an unprecedented backlog in the printing of books, including those slated for brick-and-mortar shops as well as for print-on-demand services, such as Amazon KDP. According to this New York Times article, many publishers postponed the release of spring and early-summer titles, creating a very crowded fall publishing season that the major printing companies have not been able to keep up with, especially when combined with the increase in consumer demand and the release of new titles by well-known authors and the many tell-all memoirs, by both friends and foes, about a certain person who currently resides in the White House.

If you are a writer with a book manuscript ready to publish or still in progress, you might be feeling a bit discouraged by the extra competition and/or wondering how you will promote your book without doing live book-release or author-signing events. The occasion definitely calls for creative and alternative marketing ideas, especially for self-publishers, which you will find in this FREE booklet by BookBaby president Steven Spatz: Book Marketing in the Age of COVID-19 offers insights into and inspiration for publishing and promoting your book during the pandemic by answering many burning questions, such as:

  • Is this a good time to publish a book?
  • Which genres of books are selling during the pandemic?
  • Can I rely on Amazon to distribute my books during the holidays?
  • What are the most important marketing priorities for indie authors right now? (hint: embrace technology and build your author platform!)

Spatz starts off the guide by noting two other lockdown periods in history that resulted in successful publications: Shakespeare wrote King LearMacbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra while in quarantine during the bubonic plague in London in 1606, and sixty years later, when the plague returned and Cambridge was shut down, Isaac Newton worked on his theory of gravity. His point is: make the most of this forced downtime to work on your creative projects.

It's always a good idea to take the time to make sure your manuscript is the very best that it can possibly be, whether you are seeking traditional publishers or planning to self-publish, but why not use the extra downtime to really polish your manuscript?

One way to do that is to hire professional editors, of course! 😉 But now might also be a great time to hone your writing skills by taking some online classes. The Seattle Public Library offers FREE writing classes through their Seattle Writes program, many of which still have openings for the fall quarter. If you're not in Seattle, I encourage you to check out your own local library. Some universities also offer FREE noncredit classes: 10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online.

If you are planning to self-publish, you might also need some guidance through the process. I have many links on my Writer Resources page, but I'm happy to tell you about a unique upcoming class, Your Best Book: How to Self-Publish Like a Pro, offered by fellow NW Editors Guild member Beth Jusino, who is also a publishing consultant and author of The Author's Guide to Marketing and Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago. The class is co-hosted by Steve Watkins, a twice bestselling self-published memoir writer, who has also written about walking the Camino de Santiago.

The class is a 4-day virtual conference/retreat from October 22 to 25, 2020. Here is Beth's description of the class: 

Each evening from 4pm-6:30pm PT, we'll dive into an aspect of the self publishing process, from editing to promotion, cover design to printing questions and legalities. This is designed to be a conversation, with lots of interaction with a small group of attendees, and time for discussion and questions. 
We designed [the class] for writers of any genre and intentionally kept the cost as low as possible. 
Please visit the event website for more details and a full schedule of topics. 

The Chronicle Keeper
by Wren Kingsley
One of my clients, Wren Kingsley, has been using her quarantine time wisely and making the most of digital platforms and online communities (aka embracing technology). Not only is she working with professionals for editing and graphic design to make her first book the best it can possibly be, she is also putting in the time and effort to build her author platform 
before publication by using Wattpad and Inkkit to connect with and get feedback from readers and other writers. Wren also came up with another unique marketing idea: using the power of crowdfunding to help finance her self-publishing costs with a Kickstarter campaign

No one knows for sure what's going to happen with the pandemic as we head into the fall and winter months, but my guess is that there will be even more downtime. If you are a writer, use it to your advantage to create your best book! If you are a reader, continue to support indie authors and bookstores and maybe get reacquainted with your e-reader.

Stay safe, mask up, and keep writing and reading!