Despite all the bad, sad ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives, there are some silver linings. Publishing is changing, and some of those changes are good.
Even industry professionals agree that publishing isn't perfect. Especially in the last couple of years, there has been a reckoning about the many things that need to change, only two among them: diversity and access.
And with the recent acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin, the Big 5 have become the Big 4; something that could be even more detrimental to the inclusion of innovative and different voices. But, publishing is filled with people who love books, genuinely want great messages to go out, and are committed to quality literature. The pandemic has forced some adjustments, and while some are detrimental, others were overdue and might end up being for the better.
4 Things that the pandemic has made better
1. Learning Resources:
For writers, the move to online has opened up possibilities to participate in events that would have been out of reach. Not everyone can constantly travel for conferences or seminars. Writing organizations quickly responded to the virus by taking their events online, and while the experience is different and less immersive, it is much more accessible to a lot more people. Prices have dropped, and the viewership can be national and international. What's more, most offer recordings, making it possible for people to watch at their leisure.
Live conferences aren't going anywhere. After the pandemic leaves us, they will come back because they offer wonderful interaction, networking, and support. BUT, I would be shocked if many organizations didn't keep at least some offerings online moving forward. This will be a boon for writers, who will have a much broader array of quality choices.
I adore Independent bookstores. I love the look of them, the smell in them, and their commitment to books. But I was trained as an economist, so I understand the forces that have pushed many of them out of business. COVID has forced small stores to become more tech-savvy. To hone their online skills, explore new partnerships, and connect even more with their strongest fans. A lot of this was overdue and can only help them in the future. We should support them and patron them now more than ever.
3. Back to word of mouth (sort-of)
In the absence of bookstores we can browse in and library that we can explore at leisure, we have turned to our bookworm friends for recommendations. And not just from the people close to us. Discussions on Goodreads, bloggers, online reviewers and influencers have become even more important, and while influencers and reviewers are often paid, a lot have a decidedly independent streak. So the return to word of mouth, reliance on reviews and recommendations serves readers. There are many books out there, and readers rely on the voices they trust for honest recommendations. This is more important than ever during COVID when browsing a store isn't possible, but I believe it will represent a shift here to stay.
The online shift has had an impact on publishers. Several small ones have gone under, and many cuts were undertaken. The silver lining is that while bookstores are closed, online, a somewhat more democratic environment is emerging. By its nature, the web helps writers who are less mainstream and offers opportunities for small presses to compete.
It is too early to tell if this will be a permanent shift, but it appears COVID has served as an equalizer. Small and independent presses struggle to get into the limited shelf space in bookstores, which is dominated by Big 5 releases. Instead of relying on their assured presence in a store, big publishers must get people to notice their books in the online jungle like the rest. In that way, the internet is more democratic. So the online focus is a win for readers' chances to find quality books that would have otherwise gone under.
The impact has been brutal,
but books aren't going anywhere
It is a difficult and sad time for all people. Loss of life, health, normalcy, and for many: jobs. Because publishing is in crisis during the pandemic, there have be
en closures, cancellations, and delays. There have also been layoffs. Across the board, from small presses that shattered their doors to big publishers, portions of the publishing workforce were cut. As a result, some truly talented people have gone freelance--and by the way, we can help them by engaging their services, which is a win for everyone.
The impact has been brutal, but experts agree that it will pass. Books aren't going anywhere. And for now, we should support the people around us who have been affected and keep buying and reading. We will get through it.
For now, we should support the people around us who have been affected and keep buying and reading books.
Dare always. Keep writing.