Foreword Reviews

Pandemic Checklist for Indie Presses

Image of checklist on desk

Victoria Sutherland, Publisher of Foreword Reviews
Just looking at my Publisher’s Note from last month and I’m wondering how the end of March could look so different from the end of April. Now that we understand that things will not be back to business as usual, even at the end of May (or June, perhaps), I’m recommending we give ourselves over to the fact that 2020 will be a year of character building.

With this new mindset, I still remain optimistic. While our new normal may not be settling in anytime soon, we can at least begin preparing for it in a positive way. We are entering an exciting time in the book business, if you decide to look at it that way. Important changes are happening that could lead to great opportunities.

Over the recent weeks, it’s been a privilege to take part in several industry roundtable discussions with publishers and librarians. Character really does emerge in critical situations, and indie presses, vendors, and service providers have rallied to share advice and best practices. From these conversations, I’ve put together a checklist to help us all navigate through turbulent times.

  1. Cash is king. Simple cash flow projections will determine how your next 12–16 weeks might look in best/worst case scenarios. Update weekly, as things seem to change quickly. Presses are reporting that Ingram and Amazon continue to pay, but that some booksellers may not be. Take advantage of the government programs while you can, some can help pay your employees (PPP), and seem to be worth the frustrations of the application process.

  2. Play your offense. Now is the time to get your metadata in shape, particularly if you’ve changed any publication dates. Are your education, juvenile nonfiction, and children’s books Lexile leveled? It might also be time to explore alternative methods of content you’ve been putting off, like audio and ebook formats, which btw, are seeing incredible sales right now.

  3. Save a tree. Another industry habit that might be worth breaking: limit/eliminate your catalog and ARC production. During the stay at home work orders, most trade journals are only accepting ebook submissions, and without trade shows or in-person sales calls, catalogs are having a hard time finding a home this year. I predict the extinction of these sales tools sooner rather than later as publishers depend on their distribution partners for customized digital sales presentations.

  4. Virtual Trade Shows are being held despite the cancellation of physical events this year. The Bologna Children’s Book Fair “opens” next week, ALAVirtual is taking registrations beginning Monday, May 11, and the Texas Library Association has had success with online author events. Kudos to these organizers for keeping us connected.

  5. Zoom, zoom, zoom. If my 82-year old father can do it, you can too! Haymarket Books hosted 17,000 people at a virtual author event shortly after shelter-in-place orders commenced. Thousands of readers from all over the world have joined Europa Editions on Monday nights for an “after dinner book club and watch party” featuring Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Your authors will also enjoy the effort, even if it’s just a simple FaceTime connect. Be brave and embrace technology, it can be a gamechanger.

  6. Love on your indie bookstores. Bookshop.org launched earlier than they planned due to the crisis, and is a way to support local indie bookshops that customers can’t physically patronize. Any sales help keeping the doors open-lights on during this pandemic is certainly appreciated.

  7. Love on your librarians. With economies tightening, public library funds derived from local taxes will follow suit. Notes from an Michigan Library Association roundtable I participated in last week outlined budgets for 2020 being dedicated to increasing digital resources. Are you prepared to sell digital books to libraries at price points they can afford?

  8. Pub date delays. Due to circumstances beyond your control, it may be wise to delay some releases until later this year, or even next. But be conscientious about the ramifications of your delays: the trade needs six months notice, and mass market merchants like Target, Walmart, and Costco are essential businesses selling books in great quantities and require nine months to get things in the supply chain. And once Amazon gets your metadata, we all know the nightmare it is to get things changed.

  9. Limit your media consumption. Especially during business hours, mental energy devoted to negative thoughts is not productive and can rapidly turn into quicksand. Easier said than done, I know. But instead of checking news feeds frequently, change your alert settings and maybe take a couple days off. Try to look for bright spots through the many magazines and other “fun” content feeds who have dropped their paywalls.

  10. Self-love. Go ahead and be generous with this one, your family and everyone around you will benefit from it. Instead of self-medicating, self-motivate and overwhelm your senses with a spring walk, an online fitness course, a second language tutorial online, or just go play with your fur babies. Or, of course, attack that stack and read a book!

If you’ve stayed with me this long, next you’ll find some details about what’s happening at Foreword that might be worth noting.

  • Editorial submissions for our September/October edition are being accepted through May 15. This issue will feature Body/Mind/Spirit, Translation, Science, and a University Press special section, as well as reviews of titles in all genres. Email your open Netgalley widgets or pdf galleys to mschingler@forewordreviews.com. And if you’re still mailing hard copies, we are accepting submissions that way, too.

  • We are featuring a May promotion on our Clarion fee for reviews for your titles that aren’t getting the review attention they deserve. Starting today, take $150 off using discount code May150, delivery within 6 weeks. With your approval, the review will also be licensed to library and book wholesalers like Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bowker, Cengage, and more.

  • INDIES Book of the Year Award registration is only $79 until June 30th. No worries if the timing isn’t quite right, as final registration for your 2020 published books is January 2021. Register now for the discount and send your books later. You are doing important work, and we want to recognize the best of the best. See who made the Finalist round for 2019 here.

  • We anticipate back-to-school orders for books to escalate again in August for libraries and bookstores. If the time is right for you to promote one or more of your titles in our July/August edition, advertising materials are due June 5th. Our subscribers will be receiving digital copies of Foreword in addition to their hard copies, making your marketing dollars work even harder with us. Features on Religion, STEM, Mystery, Poli/Sci and Memoirs. Contact Stacy or myself for details on space availability.

  • #READINDIE is a social media campaign led by numerous membership organizations and trade media who have come together to support independent presses during this tenuous time. This national campaign launches May 4th, and you are invited to participate. Details can be found here.

Victoria Sutherland

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