Our question today was sent to me in a message to our Facebook page (part of a longer conversation with one of our bloggers), and I thought it would be fun to answer it here. She asked, “How has the pandemic affected Bethany House? Anything readers can do to help authors right now?”
Most of this won’t be a surprise, but if you enjoy keeping up with what’s going on in publishing, here are some broad categories, along with what you as a reader can do.
Generally, print books sales went down in the spring, while ebooks went up, and then both returned to normal levels in the summer and fall. Sales from physical stores (not online sales for stores like Barnes & Noble with a website to order from) are still lower than normal levels. Libraries have stayed constant, and one fun thing is that we’re seeing a rise in non-traditional library sales for services like Hoopla and Overdrive so that libraries can make sure their patrons have ebooks while they’re staying at home.
Reader Takeaway: if you have a local bookstore, please buy a few books from them over the holiday season. Even if you don’t have a store you can walk into, many independent stores have an online sales component. (I just bought some books from Magers and Quinn and The Wild Rumpus here in Minneapolis, not to mention the way I’ve hit up the deals at Baker Book House.) Amazon is going to do just fine without your business, but other retailers might not. Even if you have to pay a little more for shipping, it’s worth it. Indiebound.org is a good resource for finding an independent store in your area.
Most of us at Bethany House are working from home, except for a few people who need to go into the office for their regular work. Things like transferring files to the printers, packing book mailings, and overseeing the front desk are hard to do remotely, but otherwise the office is mostly empty. We’re excited to be back together again sometime, but in the meantime, we’ve figured out how to have cover meetings, brainstorming sessions, and even our monthly prayer meetings and bi-weekly “snack time” updates over Zoom. Now, what we’ll do for our National Oreo Day celebration in March if we’re still at home is anyone’s guess… (Clearly, I have my priorities right.)
Reader Takeaway: Because we’re all still able to do our jobs, none of our books are being rescheduled or cancelled, yay! We’re so grateful for everyone working hard to adapt to new systems.
We’ve also seen a rise in online events. As more people learn to use Zoom, book clubs are asking authors to drop in and chat about their books, writing groups have asked me to share about marketing strategies, and bookstores and libraries have hosted authors for readings. It’s a fun way to connect readers to authors in a more personal way.
Reader Takeaway: We often announce these events in our Bethany House newsletter—be sure to sign up if you haven’t already!
It’s not so much a change as a continuation of something we already knew, but our authors are sharing heartfelt messages from readers they’ve received about how important fiction has been to them in this hard year. That’s so encouraging! We always pray that the message of these books impacts people when they need them most, and several of our 2020 releases have dealt with themes of trust, courage, and hope that applied in a way none of us expected.
Reader Takeaway: If a book has meant a lot to you this year, reach out and the let the author know, either on their social media or through a form on their website. It may very well make their day!
Those are the biggest changes that I can think of. And no, we haven’t had any authors propose a new book series about a pandemic yet. Our instinct is that people might just be a little too close and tired of all of this to want to read a novel about it, even if it released eighteen months from now. What do you think, readers? Would you agree with that?