The first half of this year has been a monumental test in flexibility and resilience for authors and everyone in publishing. My debut novel, The Kindest Lie, will release on February 9, and that publishing date has changed several times as the William Morrow team attempted to position my book and others in their catalog for optimal success during these uncertain times.
Recently, I joined the team of A Mighty Blaze, a new organization that formed to help authors and books find their readers during this global pandemic. That’s how I met Laura Rossi who leads publicity for A Mighty Blaze. She worked in-house at top publishers, including Random House, Viking Penguin, and W.W. Norton before founding Laura Rossi Public Relations.
Laura was incredibly generous sharing with me nuggets of wisdom about promoting books during a pandemic, buying the right equipment for all the Zooming and Skyping, making publishing more diverse and inclusive, as well as pulling back the curtain on how some books get on those elusive, coveted “most anticipated” lists. I’ve edited our interview for brevity, but it was seriously so good that I wish all of you could’ve been on the phone with us.
Nancy Johnson: How has the pandemic impacted our ability to get our books out there into the world?
Laura Rossi: The first thing that happened to many books is their publication dates changed. That was a huge pivot for lots of authors, seeing their early summer pub dates move to fall or in some cases 2021. Summers work well for commercial fiction and beach reads, but it’s often not the best time for bigger books. That was a big trend I noticed. Authors had to give up control and let their publishers do what they thought was best in a very different world. Some books published and didn’t live up to expectations the authors had. Lots of books with March, April and May pub dates—copies were already printed and warehouses were still able to mail books—pubbed during a pandemic. But before May there wasn’t a lot of space for book coverage and some of those books that weren’t able to move didn’t get a lot of media or sales. However, if your book came out in hardcover during the pandemic, you still have a shot at pushing that paperback a year or more later. That second chance is encouraging.
NJ: How has publishing had to adjust now that we don’t have hand-sales in bookstores and in-person author events?
LR: All real-life events were paused or canceled, and many went online. Conferences, workshops, big in-person events like BookExpo and the intimate author lunch with someone from a magazine went away. Those schmoozing opportunities to hand-sell your book were gone. Some authors in the past would get pre-sales visits to New York to meet with booksellers. That personal touch has had to go virtual. People are not going on tours visiting 25 bookstores anymore.
NJ: This all sounds terrible. What do you tell your authors about how to pivot in this new environment? [Read more…]