In early January, I arrogantly wrote a post about the year ahead, reminding writers that this was an election year, so they needed to plan for a sales slowdown in the fall. I even said I wasn’t sure if the election would have repercussions in the spring and summer, since I was expecting a protracted primary season. And, oh, yeah! The impeachment. Remember that?
Discussed all of that and the possible impact on book sales.
Back when things were normal, in a world that no longer exists.
I’m sorry, y’all. We’re in a new world. Tonight, I told a friend that this stasis most of us are in (and some of us are just being let free from) is the world rebooting. You know what it’s like when a computer reboots. Sometimes it hangs there, and you wait and wait and wait for it to come back up. When it does, there’s relief, but worry. Will the dang thing need to be unplugged? Started again? Are the problems solved?
We don’t know. And maybe this post will be as antiquated four months from now as the January post is.
But…I’m starting to get a picture of what the rest of the year will look like for all of publishing. I outlined what’s going to happen with traditional publishing in the previous post. In the post before that, I warned indie (self) published writers not to succumb to all the gloom and doom from traditional.
That’s because we’re on a different path. We should be publishing into this crisis. Readers want ebooks, and they want the ebooks now. So make sure your books are properly priced (that is, much lower than traditional, but not too low) and continue your publishing program.
With one caveat.
One of the things that traditional publishing is doing, without thought or planning, is pushing back the release dates for their big books. A lot of books are coming out in the middle of a presidential election, something that traditional publishing tried to avoid. (And which I warned you about as well.)
Some books are being delayed as much as a year. Publisher’s Lunch has a list of self-reported delays, and so does Publisher’s Weekly. Not every book being delayed is on these lists. I heard from a few writers who preordered traditional books only to have the pub date changed after order.
You’d think that publishers would want their books to appear when everyone is stuck at home and trying to find something to do. But traditional publishing doesn’t want to sell ebooks. They want to sell hardcovers and paper books and audiobooks, none of which are selling in this crisis. (See last week’s post)
So traditional publishers are delaying books until August and beyond, some books as much as a year.
But let’s just focus on 2020, shall we, and find the opportunities for indies.
The first opportunity is right now. Don’t delay your releases the way that traditional publishers are doing. Put your finished books out now, with an ebook priced well under the $9.99 price point that traditional use. (No, don’t get into a pricing discussion. Figure it out for yourself or look at my posts on pricing. It’s a science, okay? Work it out.)
Second, if you’re working on a tight publishing schedule like some indies do—a book every two months or so or whatever it is you do—continue that. Your readers will stick with you. Some new readers will join up.
Third, do things to gain new readers, but make sure they’re discount things. I’m in several Storybundles this spring. The ones I’m curating were going to happen anyway—the Mysterious Women bundle and an upcoming writing bundle. But the other two? The YA Charity Bundle and the Adventure Bundle? Those have come about after the virus hit, so that we could offer inexpensive books for people who don’t have a lot of cash at the moment.
People are buying. They just have limited cash, and they’re scared.
We’re also offering a number of first book in series free right now. For example, my very first Diving novel is free, so that readers can jump into the series (which they’re doing). Some readers are not going to have the extra cash to jump in, but they can go to libraries, where the ebooks are also available.
Four, this is the time to be wide, not exclusive, because everyone is stuck at home, and going to their favorite platform for books. Be available on those platforms, so that readers can find you, when they can’t get their favorite traditionally published author.
Five, realize that the fall and winter is going to be a clusterfuck. Everyone and their dog (if the dog is writing books) will have a book out. There will be a ton of noise about publishing, and a lot of desperation as well. So don’t have your one big release coming in the fall. It’s going to be ugly out there.
Six, however, if you’re on that clockwork publishing schedule that your readers expect, keep to it. That book every two months. Keep doing it in the fall and winter, because that’s what you do. Don’t alter it for an election or because traditional publishing has gone nuts.
Seven, expect a sales decline in the fall. There will be a resurgence of the virus (hopefully without a lockdown), lots of election insanity, and now, tons of traditional publishing insanity. If your book rises above the noise, it’s because you’re on that publishing schedule or you’ve hit the zeitgeist by writing the definitive plague novel or something.
Eight, don’t spend a lot of marketing dollars in the publishing glut of the fall. Save your marketing for another point—whatever that might be.
Finally, be calm. You can’t control sales right now any more than you can control the damn virus. So write your books, publish them well, and if they don’t sell to your expectations, don’t worry about it. Books aren’t produce. The book will be there when the crisis is over, and maybe then you’ll want to promote it.
Traditional publishing is in crisis, but indie publishing is not. We’re there for readers. We just need to recognize it.
Continue writing and publishing your books. Have fun with them, and your readers will as well. We all need a safe place to forget about the world for a while. As a writer, you create those places for your readers.
Your job is important. Time to step up and get it done. Getting it done includes getting it published.
Your readers will be grateful when you do.
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“Business Musings: The Year Ahead…Again,” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2020 by Kristine K. Rusch