Ask BHP: What’s Different in 2020?

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.

Book Sales

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.

BHP Office

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.

Social Media

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!

Fiction Impact

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?

6 thoughts on “Ask BHP: What’s Different in 2020?

  1. Three cheers for publishing’s resilience! *Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip…* (Well, I’m not really going to say it three times, but ya’ know. 😀 )

    I’ll admit I get a twinge though, when I see comments from authors and publishers that seem to discourage readers from shopping at Amazon. Not all bookstores will (or will readily) carry books published by independent authors, and many indie Christian Fiction authors depend heavily on Amazon for sales and exposure. (Also lots of other small businesses sell their products through Amazon. 🙂 )

    • Hi Nadine,

      Such a good point! Thanks for bringing it up.. For indie authors who are selling primarily on Amazon, that’s a great place for readers to show up, and I don’t know any who have a problem with that (or need a reminder that Amazon exists as a way to support and find authors). But as someone who often gets notified about indie store closures, I think it’s harder for people to remember to support local stores for authors they could buy from anywhere. That said, I appreciate you reminding people to head to Amazon for authors who need support there!

      Amy Lokkesmoe
      BHP Fiction Publicist

      • Maybe I should clarify…

        I commented because I have indeed been seeing a social push in recent years among consumers encouraging others to “shop small,” but that push usually includes some variation of the part I read in this blog post, indicating that Amazon doesn’t need our business.

        It seems a lot of consumers think of “Amazon” as just a big impersonal entity or a wealthy CEO, rather than the many small businesses, independent artists, everyday wage employees, etc. that work with or for the company. When I see messages from authors saying things like, “Shop indie stores! Amazon doesn’t need your money,” I do also see more people chime in to tell others to steer clear of Amazon, and readers begin asking worried questions, like if they’re hurting authors by buying books there. (And a lot of readers don’t know there’s any difference between indie and trad-pubbed books, retail wise. Some ChristFic readers especially assume that browsing any Christian bookstore will pretty much show them everything currently available in Christian Fiction, but of course that isn’t the case.)

        I also hear of indie store closures 😦 , and I absolutely shop small as I’m able—even when it means paying a little more sometimes to support my community. 🙂 I’m no economics expert, but I shop and share the word about independent/small businesses without in turn suggesting that Amazon doesn’t need people to shop there, as big businesses are made up of a lot of everyday people.

        I’ve added concern here because I think many to most folks who read blog posts don’t see or read the comments following ’em. 😀 Probably not obvious by my leaving commentary here anyway, heeheehee, but thanks, Amy! It really does help to see these “behind the scenes” posts.

        And big congrats on your debut release! If you don’t mind my mentioning it here. 😉

  2. Don’t forget the church bookstores. The bookstore at my church is open. If they don’t have what you want, they will order it.

  3. I think the pandemic in books will be best left for when it will be considered historical fiction. At least with romance, I can’t imagine all the books that will have zoom dating… eek. But we all know that every reader is different so I’ve no doubt there will be some that want to see it in books as early as next year. I think I’ll take the Friends route and take a break from it though. HA!

  4. I wonder if Bethany Publishing will increase publishing in different languages as 2020 has brought us closer via the internet with people of many languages and countries. I am bilingual in English and Spanish , and am a translator. I am aware of the communication needs in the US, but also have many friends in Puerto Rico that although bilingual, may prefer to read Spanish. Also there is plenty of history between the Old World, the US, and the Caribbean and Latin American countries! That would be interesting historical fiction!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.