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(Updated) How the Pandemic Changed Publishing

The pandemic has touched everyone in 2020, and that includes writers and publishing.   

In my own writing life, I have been touched, influenced, and hampered in almost all the ways cited below. 

  • Zoom meetingThe world of writing and publishing is one that has traditionally been highly collegial.  Much of that is gone. It may be virtual but it’s not personal. Zoom meetings—and similar platforms—are like talking to a gathering of postage stamps.  
  • The functioning of publishing houses has been radically disrupted. All the various people who coordinate the publication of books have been dispersed, which makes the process of publication that much more difficult. 
  • The flow of monies—publishing is a business—has been complicated and often snarled. 
  • Books have had postponed publication dates or have even been dropped entirely. 
  • Book marketing has become difficult and, in many cases, vanished. 
  • The contact between writers and their readers have been seriously curtailed. 
  • Publicity, such as traditional book tours, has been dropped. 
  • Editors had been furloughed, interrupting the flow of manuscript development.  
  • Editors—and all those connected to editorial functions—have retreated to separate silos, making the communal nature of publishing very much less so.
  • Book stores have closed or been forced to operate in very different ways. 
  • Most authors’ incomes have dropped radically. 
  • The social nature of the author’s world has been severely stunted. 
  • Conferences—at which reading, and books were the focus—have been limited, at best. 
  • The teaching of reading has been hampered.  
  • Libraries have closed and tried to find other ways of functioning. 
[Ed: These last four paragraphs were added when a New York Times article was published the same morning after this essay was published.]

Despite all this, the New York Times on January 29, 2020, reports that publishing has had a very good year. I urge you to read this good news.  

Many people seem to have turned to reading to fill their social-distancing hours. Will this make for a resurgence of reading? The article pays scant attention to books for young people. 

It will be interesting—to say the least—to see what the new year will bring. Will everything spring back to what was? Will the world of writing and publishing change? Will new readers stay readers? I don’t pretend to know.

Stay in touch.

 

2 thoughts on “(Updated) How the Pandemic Changed Publishing”

  1. Thank you for the update and link to the NYT article as I was wondering about the effect of the pandemic on the whole field of publishing since I have heard many people say they have been reading and/or listening to all sorts of books with being home more often since March. I am not surprised by the struggle in the area of educational publishing and how the uncertainty of being in school in person, at home or a hybrid model has impacted the students’ access to texts as a result of the domino effect of the shut downs of libraries, book stores, and so forth. The digital divide has had a significant influence on it too.

    Reply
  2. My agent confirmed all the above. 2020 is a year that universally changed lives in all fields. The only “winners” are the tech world and the world of health care.
    May we live long enough to see this in the rear view mirror, where the world of storytellers would have much to do telling all about it.

    Reply

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