Stephanie Storey: "I started planning for 'Raphael,' which is my new novel, about nine months ago — right when my publication date was sort of firmly set. So this is nine months of intensive work crumbling down around my ears."
For authors, in-person readings and signings are important to drive book sales and grow fan bases. But they take months of planning and cost thousands of dollars in travel expenses.
Now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, those plans are no longer feasible.
Newsy talked to authors with books publishing in April about how they're coping and restrategizing.
Storey: "Missing out on that one-on-one relationship is tough from that standpoint. And then it's also just awful because you thought you were going to have a chance to celebrate a book that took you five years to write and now I'm doing it on a computer screen by myself."
Colton Underwood: "I'm obviously doing interviews and trying to answer any questions that you guys as reporters and journalists might have, but then also trying to do Q&As on my Instagram. I'm going to do some lives here shortly, too."
Virtual book tours — which can include social media livestreams, book giveaways and remote interviews — are the strategy of choice during this time of social distancing.
Authors like Storey, who is also the media consultant for the Chicago Humanities Festival, lament that virtual events can't replace the energy of live audiences. The festival, which hosts author events throughout the year, is also restrategizing.
Storey: "We are trying very hard to reschedule all of our spring programming to still happen later in the year. … And leadership is working to move some of the events hopefully into a digital platform so that we will have some of our presenters hopefully come in for maybe recorded interviews, or maybe conversations about how to continue promoting the arts at this time."
Beyond canceled book events, authors are also grappling with the fact that consumers likely aren't prioritizing books. In mid-March, physical book sales fell by 10% — particularly in the genres of children's fiction and adult nonfiction.
Amazon, one of the most influential booksellers in the world, is also deprioritizing book sales to focus on "household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products"
Sopan Deb: "There are a lot of people that may be getting laid off and furloughed, and they're not getting a paycheck right now. You know, they might not have the disposable income to buy a book right now. … And so you have to be cognizant of that."
Deb: "Look, at the end of the day, the most important thing for me is this book exists. And that is a lot of validation from me that we even got this far, that I was able to publish the book, that HarperCollins invested resources into it. A lot of people don't even get this far."