How the pandemic is affecting the book publishing industry: NPR


NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with Jim Milliot, Editorial Director of Editors Weekly, on how the pandemic has affected the book industry.


It seems telling Americans to stay indoors for weeks should be good for the publishing industry – right? – since people have more time to read, after all. But like everything else right now, the publishing industry has been turned upside down. Publishers have pushed back release dates for many new books, bookstores have been closed, book tours and festivals have been suspended, and even Amazon has delayed shipping of books until recently to prioritize items. essentials, such as cleaning supplies and food. So Jim Milliot is here to talk about how the publishing industry is adjusting during this pandemic. He is the Editorial Director of Publishers Weekly.


JIM MILLIOT: Nice to be here.

CHANG: So we feel like more people are reading now, but have we really seen an increase in book sales since the start of the pandemic?

MILLIOT: No, not really.

CHANG: Really?

MILLIOT: Because some of the things you alluded to in your introduction have really had an impact on the availability and ability of consumers to buy books. That said, the decline has not been as severe as some thought. Sales fell only 1% until mid-May.

CHANG: Well, are we at least seeing a change in the publication dates of the books?

MILLIOT: Yes, we certainly did. That was actually one of the first things that happened because the publishers were afraid of bookstores closing, of where you’re going to tour, how are we going to bring in new ones. books in stores or on Amazon, that sort of thing. So we started a database where editors could submit their date changes. And we had, at this point, about 800.

CHANG: It’s a lot.

MILLIOT: It’s more than normal.

CHANG: (Laughs).

MILLIOT: And, you know, they went from spring to fall. Some even moved on to next year.

CHANGE: Whoa. Well, for the books that came out this spring – and oddly enough, how did the authors connect with readers if they don’t have the same kind of sample of book tours and festivals to attend?

MILLIOT: Well, you know, the thing to do right now is, you know, virtual or online tours. It seems to work quite well.

CHANG: Are people really showing up in droves and tapping into these Zoom book readings and stuff?

MILLIOT: Right. Yeah, they did. And they actually get a lot and sometimes more viewers and people actually showing up in the stores.

CHANGE: Right. And they don’t have that traffic now.

MILLIOT: Right. They don’t have the traffic.

CHANG: So how do local bookstores struggle to stay afloat? What kind of support do they receive during this time?

MILLIOT: Well, there are a couple of things. Outside there was a lot of fundraising. The publishers themselves have made contributions to an organization called Binc, which is a charitable foundation that supports certain bookstore workers who may be on leave or going through a difficult time. There were a number of other fundraising activities. James Patterson led an effort that raised over $ 1 million. And the stores themselves ran their own GoFundMe campaigns, which overall worked pretty well.

CHANG: Well, that’s good to hear. But I’m curious, like, for an author right now who is sitting on a manuscript hoping to eventually sell it, how has this pandemic impacted the opportunities available even in the short to medium term for them ?

MILLIOT: There’s a shared philosophy on this, if you will, among the officers. Some think it’s business as usual and that publishers are going to need books in 2021. Others think they prefer to wait a bit to see what the financial situation of publishers is and see what the landscape might look like. to become.

CHANG: Jim Milliot, Editorial Director of Publishers Weekly, thank you very much for being with us today.

MILLIOT: Happy to be here.


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