Dark Times for Book Publishing

fb-logo-300pixel-revKristine Kathryn Rusch has some very dark warnings about what’s happening to book publishing right now, and I can’t disagree with her on any of it. If you’re at all involved in the industry (as a writer, a bookseller, or a reader), you ought to take a look at it: https://kriswrites.com/2020/04/22/business-musings-the-trainwreck/

As the publisher of Fantastic Books and Gray Rabbit Publications, I’m one of the smaller publishers who actually did respond to the crisis fairly quickly. I slowed down our publication schedule. I’ve mentioned it in a few places, but this is a public announcement: I’ve delayed publication of the anthology Horror for the Throne, edited by James D. Macdonald, Tom Easton, and Judith K. Dial. The stories have all been paid for, the book is laid out, the authors have seen galley proofs, and now it just sits. If the world hadn’t fallen apart, review copies would be out with all the reviewers, and we’d be making plans for a big launch at an upcoming convention. Instead, the book is sitting here, awaiting more normal times. The books that were in the pipeline immediately after it are also on hold.

grplogobannerflatBut on the positive side: all of those books will be published when I feel the economy coming back. The company has gone into hibernation mode: there is enough money in the bank to pay the recurring bills, no one is owed any money at the moment (our last royalty payments went out on schedule at the end of January, and our next round, scheduled for late July, should similarly pose no problems).

My biggest fear is the loss of all the science fiction conventions. Our sales at those conventions were a significant chunk of our income (and book sales), and suddenly they’re all gone. Just before we all went into quarantine, I laid out a lot of money to increase the size of our inventory, and to reserve tables at several new conventions. So now the company has a lot of cash tied up in boxes of books sitting in my house. But we’ve already missed three big conventions and one smaller one, and a bunch of planned conventions running through July have already been pulled off the calendar. In some things, I’m a pessimist, and this is one of them: I don’t expect to see another convention before March 2021 at the earliest. I hope to be proven wrong on that, but I’m basing it on the experts saying we’re twelve to eighteen months away from a Covid-19 vaccine. And to my mind, everything else we’re doing is just temporary measures while we wait for that vaccine.

I’ve also delayed plans for our next Kickstarter campaign. It was going to be for two or three fascinating anthologies. But I just don’t think enough of our readers are going to feel comfortable pledging money for a Kickstarter campaign right now. The editors I’m working with understand, and we’re all doing background planning to launch when we feel the time is right.

Our books continue to be available via the online booksellers, in both print and electronic formats (and when you get to the point in Rusch’s piece where she talks about the traditional publishers’ self-destructive ebook pricing, remember that our pricing is much more reasonable). I have seen a slow-down in those third-party retail sales; that’s only to be expected when all our economics are suddenly unsure. But my company remains healthy; we’re moving more slowly, conserving our resources, and we will be able to survive.

Thank you, as always, for your faith and support. Stay well, stay safe, and look forward with me to the time when we can comfortably gather again.

#books #publishing #bookselling #fantasticbooks

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