How COVID Has Changed the Publishing Industry—Including Self-Publishing

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The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected the workplace culture of book publishers, as discussed at the U.S. Book Show and one of their panels, “The Pandemic and Publishing: How Has COVID Changed the Industry for Good?”

In “Pandemic and Publishing,” the panelists discussed how social distancing measures forced publishers to work fully remote and reconfigure workplaces for a virtual setting, such as flocking to online chat applications. They also touched upon how publishing companies have strived to preserve mentorship and workplace collaboration while sharing more profits with employees.

Hosted last May, the panel featured the conversations of four industry professionals: literary agent Monica Odom and founder of Odom Media Management, publisher Julia Sommerfeld (Amazon), company president Jennifer Enderlin (St. Martin’s Publishing Group), and literary agent Anjali Singh (Ayesha Pande Literary). Paul Bogaards of Bogaards Public Relations moderated the panel.

This panel was held at the 2nd annual U.S. Book Show. Launched by Publishers Weekly in 2021, this conference’s virtual setting self-demonstrates the impact of the pandemic on the publishing industry.

What this means for self-publishing authors

It’s tempting to dismiss the viewpoints of traditional publishing professionals. Yet, their worries and insights still relate to writers striving to make a career out of self-publishing books.

In a sense, the move to work at home is validation for self-publishers. For many large publishers, 2020 was the first time these companies worked fully remote, even though they’ve existed for decades—if not for more than a century. Meanwhile, full remote has been the reality for self-publishers for years, not to mention many smaller presses.

Even with the rough transition, traditional publishing could operate remotely and take advantage of a high-tide year for book sales. This showcases how there’s nothing special about the traditional publishing model that a self-published author cannot follow. Singh recognized this as such, stating, “one of the good things to come out of the pandemic was this recognition that people can be at home and actually be very productive.”

Singh also commented on how prepandemic corporations were stigmatizing certain groups of employees, especially parents who wanted the flexibility of working at home while caring for their children.

The equalizing potential of remote work is another issue the pandemic has thrown in relief. Beside from meeting parental needs, work from home also makes publishing accessible across geography, ability, and social and economic classes. This is especially relevant to widening the publishing field beyond New York City, the central hub for the top trade book publishers.

Remote work also opens more opportunities for collaboration. Self-publishers and other remote workers are more empowered to work with others worldwide. For example, you could hire an editor on the East Coast, a proofreader on the West Coast, and even a book cover designer overseas.

It’s also noteworthy how Enderlin’s St. Martin’s gave out bonuses to employees at all levels of the company without even posting a press release. Publishers are more generous to their workers in light of more employees leaving their jobs in “the Great Resignation,” in tandem with months of new hires.

The pandemic has energized workers in all industries to be bolder about taking on new jobs, but it’s an especially salient call to action for self-publishers. If publishing books is your dream, you can feel more emboldened to change careers and spend more time writing and self-publishing, all while feeling assured that you can reacquire a full-time job if necessary.

However, the panelists pointed out the artifice of remote work. On online communication, Sommerfeld remarked that “the team is always pinging each other and trying to capture that casual conversation. We’re missing the kind of osmosis that happens when we’re all together.”

Self-publishers aren’t immune to this want for “osmosis.” Even for authors, editors, and other professionals who’ve never worked in the office, it’s normal to desire more in-person connections.

To compensate for the distancing effects of online relationships, look for opportunities to meet fellow writers and publishers in real life. Look up local author and publisher groups in your area, and make space on your calendar to attend events.

If necessary, coordinate these meetups and events yourself. Take advantage of the summer by prioritizing outdoor locations, such as parks and plazas, so you can enjoy the weather while reducing the risks of coronavirus’s volatility.

And above all, publishers in all parts of the industry should keep reminding themselves that the only constant is change. It may well be that the pandemic will be a uniquely seismic event for publishing, yet publishers will remain nimble by practicing how to adapt to future industry changes.

Why You Should Differentiate Your Personal and Professional Social Media Accounts

Previously, I wrote about how you must accept that marketing is essential if you want your writing to become a career. Today, I’ll focus on one facet of marketing: your social media profiles.

Part of being a career writer in the internet age is keeping your personal and professional presence separate. To this end, set up separate social media profiles on the platforms you intend to use to market your books.

If you use a platform exclusively for personal uses or solely for your career, then one profile is adequate. For example, most people don’t post their vacation and party photos on LinkedIn. But if you intend to work and play on the same website, create a second profile.

So, why is it so important? I do understand it’s extra work juggling multiple accounts. However, there are several reasons for doing so.

I’ll start with the reason that may sound corny: it’s about mind-set. When you post as a published author, you communicate with a different voice than you do with your closed ones.

You’re putting up a brand even if your online persona is warm and friendly. When branding, you’re guiding prospective and current readers to perceive you a certain way and have certain expectations. With an author brand, you sell books, deal with publishers and other writers as a business, and set boundaries so that work doesn’t bleed into play.

This differentiation is more difficult if you use the same profile for personal and professional use. When you make a new profile, you can tailor your brand without worrying about what you post personally.

Another reason is that social media platforms offer different features based on the type of profile or account.

One website that makes a stark difference is Facebook. On Facebook, “Profiles” are reserved for personal use. Meanwhile, professionals and organizations have “Pages.” They look different even on the surface, with Profiles having a Friend button and Pages having the Like button.

But once you set up a Page, you’ll have access to tools that Profiles can’t have. For example, with a Page, you can set Page Roles and provide other people limited access to posting on your Page without giving them your password. You also get access to analytics and advertising options, tools that can elevate your Facebook usage from casual use to a web marketing machine.

Most other major social platforms have profiles that don’t look as drastically different. For example, a personal Twitter profile and a business look similar at a glance. However, even other platforms—like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok—have options for you to opt in to a “professional” profile, which grants you more behind-the-scenes tools to augment your social media marketing.

However, even if these technical differences didn’t exist, keeping separate profiles would still be a good idea.

Another major reason is respecting your audience. While some readers may be interested in your life outside writing, not all of them want to see you post pictures of your family. Some posts you make for friends and family may alienate readers who wish to follow you to keep up with your upcoming releases and events. If you mix the two, you may irritate your followers and drive them to unfollow.

Conversely, some of your friends and family may be interested in your books and may nod politely when you mention your novel to them. But many of them don’t want to see you post all day about your books, as they’re more interested in whether you’ll come over at Thanksgiving this year. To prevent them from muting your posts, give them an out and keep two different streams. If they’re genuinely interested, they’ll follow your author profile and boost your follower count!

One reason may be scary to think about, but it’s crucial: as an author, you want to protect your privacy and safety.

Early on, you’ll have so few readers that you might wish some of them showed more interest. However, a growing career comes with a greater risk of danger. You may attract haters who may send you harassing messages. Tragically, some authors even end up with stalkers—not just cyber stalkers, but real-life stalkers who may attempt to find your whereabouts.

To make sure no one finds out your personal details, such as your address or location, I recommend you keep your information contained to your personal profiles, if at all.

Additionally, I recommend you set your personal profile’s privacy settings, so they are only visible to friends. While privacy settings may feel constraining, they reduce the risks of unsavory prowlers finding your information. If you do insist on keeping your personal profiles publicly visible, separate accounts will allow you to set individual posts, pieces of information, and the entire profile to private at any time without shutting down your professional profiles.

All in all, it’s essential to set up separate author profiles because of the technical, marketing, and social benefits that come with that separation, along with the protection for your virtual and personal safety.

As you set up this divide on social media platforms, pat yourself on the back: you’re taking one more step to becoming a successful author!

Over to you: Which social media platforms do YOU use? Do you currently keep a separate author profile on them? How do you post differently between your accounts?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Reposting Original Book Review: “A New Lease on Life” by James Ocansey

A New Lease on Life by James Ocansey

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION:

We all have only one life to live. It is safe to assume that we all want to live a long, healthy life free from pain, disease, and untimely death. A New Lease on Life helps us to do that based on research by various authorities, primarily in holistic medicine. It shows you how the body works and what you can do to help it do its work of self-repair or healing. We learn that the body balances its alkalinity and acidity at an 80/20 percent ratio. The foods we eat need to follow that ratio of 80 percent alkaline and 20 percent acid-forming foods. Because we cannot follow this 4:1 ratio, the body must break down healthy structures and tissues in a process called catabolism. This is needed to keep us within 7.4 pH (slightly alkaline range), especially in our inner cavity, to keep our vital organs from dying. In addition, every fat, mostly cellulose, is pushed out and stored elsewhere in the body to keep us from dying prematurely.

Since health depends on detoxification and nourishment, we must find the best means to detox and nourish our system. Detoxification is best achieved by ionized, alkaline, microstructured hexagonal water, which can easily penetrate our cells to deliver oxygen and nutrients while cleansing them on their way out. Without good water—not just any water—the cells cannot receive nutrients easily and keep them clean. This results in excess tissue acid waste, the root cause of pain and numerous diseases. It also deprives our cells of needed nutrients that cause nutritional deficiency diseases leading to untimely death. Therefore, your longevity depends on how well you take care of your cells since the cells are not supposed to die, and you could live to over 100 years, as is known in Japan and many other cultures.

REVIEW:

Oh boy, am I not drinking the right water?

This, my friends, is precisely what went through my head when I first picked up James Ocansey’s A New Lease on Life, which is blurbed entirely accurately in the description from Bookshop.org that I’ve included above, which is where I first found this book.

But first, to back up a minute: Those of you who have read my last review will remember that my response to that book was primarily the product of my recent experiences in and out of area health facilities as my family battled its way through a long, strenuous, and even to some extent, ongoing medical emergencies of the most dramatic kind. As with many people, it took something of such medical gravity to force me to reevaluate my own life choices, particularly in what I eat and drink. And while there are plenty of books on the former, the latter doesn’t seem to be talked about or researched to the same extent, outside of studies about known toxins and “please drink in moderation” sorts of drinks, such as those containing alcohol or caffeine. But if a person were to wonder, as I indeed have found myself wondering, whether there might be something more fundamental and elementary going on when it comes to “drinking well” in the same way that nutrition is essential and elemental to “eating well,” that person might find a compelling answer in James Ocansey’s A New Lease on Life.

This is a research-based take on water, the most basic of all molecules necessary to life barring only the carbon atom, which enables complex life. Water is where we all started, the science seems to say, whether we’re talking literally or in a profound metaphorical sense. Our bodies are primarily made up of water, after all. I could drill down into the protean images of the womb and of creation narratives featuring a separation of land and sky from water—but I’ve only budgeted one on-the-nose metaphor for this review. I don’t want to try your patience before even getting to the real, er, elemental components of this review.

I know, I’m the absolute worst when it comes to puns, irony, and dad jokes. If our bodies are made of 90 percent (or some large percentage) of water, my soul is made of 90 percent dad jokes—terrible, awful, unbearable dad jokes.

Luckily, Ocansey is made of sterner, more academically reliable stuff than dad jokes, and I mean what I say. This book draws upon the results of a 12+ year study of pollution’s effects on the cellular level, a study involving scientists and researchers across multiple fields and disciplines. Dr. Joel Wallach was the chief pathologist. He conducted autopsies on 17,500 animals of 454 species and 3.000 humans for comparison. He concluded that “it was apparent that every animal and every human who dies of natural causes dies of a nutritional deficiency disease” and that this malnutrition is the result not of poor food quality or quantity but rather the water these unfortunate creatures consumed.

As we millennials like to say, this is mind-blowing stuff!

As Ocansey puts it, water is the “missing link” to good health, and the fundamental component missing in a world devoid of strong water knowledge (much less good water quality and infrastructure). I am, of course, no water expert (or true scientist, much as I love to participate in citizen science research and promote STEM learning for all). Still, the science in A New Lease on Life is well presented and easy enough to understand, particularly if a reader is already familiar with the scientific method.

picture showing water molecules H2O

“You’re not only thirsty but starving,” declares Ocansey in the subtitle to A New Lease on Life. This is the basis of the book’s argument: Water detoxifies, and water nourishes. It not only washes the body clean of toxins, but it also can contribute significantly to good nutrition if consumed in the right way and if made up of the right kind of water. I’m still parsing some of the finer points of Ocansey’s argument, but the research does seem clear on what it is indicating. There is such a thing as “hexagonal water,” a specific molecular arrangement of ordinary H2O which can potentially make a difference in longevity and general quality of life.

A New Lease on Life also contains arguments for several other potential health-boosting supplements and aids, but it is primarily concerned with the H2O mentioned above. It has everything from a doctor to patient to scientific testimony about the efficacy of all of the above. It is well worth a read if you are looking to delve into a brave new world of nutrition dramatically different from those diets, regimens, and other fads that come and go with the years. You may or not find yourself convinced—that is always a risk when it comes to an argument-based book—but you will most definitely find yourself asking important questions that need to be asked about the ways we have been doing things and where we want to go from here, healthwise.

WHERE TO BUY IT?

You can find A New Lease on Life on the Outskirts Press Author Page.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, and extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve the most to be heard.

Reposting Original Book Review: “I’ll Fix America Tonight” by Nathan Andrew Roberts

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION

If you are tired of Democrats and Republicans making empty promises and their followers dogmatically choosing sides on every debate and issue so their guys can remain in power, you’re a lot like the author of this book. Tackling tough issues like the immigration debate, slavery reparations, minimum wage, taxes, college tuition, the insurance industry, business, the role of government in ordering our lives, prisons, the relationship of society to police, and many more, he proposes revolutionary solutions instead of choosing to spend 70,000 words needlessly criticizing. Coming from the view that every human is an image-bearer of God and that all man-made structures and agendas are open for debate, he offers solutions to some of America’s most burdensome problems that can be considered and implemented to make both sides happy. Understanding that too many people nowadays take themselves far too seriously, he gives the reader many self-deprecating and humorous asides (something sorely lacking in political and social debate). Buy this book and join the fight against poverty . . . namely, his poverty.

REVIEW:

What an unexpectedly timely book!

It just so happens that Nathan Andrew Roberts’s I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend) hit the top of my reading pile at the same time as the peak of America’s chaotic situation a few weeks ago. That means I’m posting this review in a bit of a changed world from the one that existed beforehand. I sense that feelings are still running extremely high among both Republicans and Democrats here in the USA and that not everyone is quite ready to open their minds to entertain the many exciting and interesting thought experiments that Roberts describes in his book. But I hope and even truly believe (by force of will, maybe) that just as many if not more people are eager to reconcile with their friends and family on the other side of the aisle. Perhaps a book such as this one has a real and useful function as we move forward into our brave new world.

Speaking of, I find our cultural associations with that Shakespeare reference (see below) quite useful indeed. It comes from The Tempest, my favorite of Shakespeare’s works, and is spoken by a young woman named Miranda, who has been sequestered on an island since infancy. When she meets outsiders for the first time, her reaction is:

In the eons since Shakespeare penned those lines, we have also seen the reference given quite the negative connotation, thanks in no small part to the British pessimist Aldous Huxley, who published Brave New World in 1932. Both Shakespeare’s play and Huxley’s dystopic novel are replete with social commentary, particularly on the nature of different worldviews.

For my part, I’ve always been drawn to Miranda’s approach. She falls in love with everything she meets and is willing to suspend judgment, where others leap to the worst conclusions about one another around her.

Nathan Andrew Roberts’s recent book is more or less designed for us Mirandas. He asks us to suspend our judgment of one another, work toward common goals, and make daring attempts to heal the breaches between our American political parties.

In his introduction, Roberts writes:

Government (including education and municipalities), business, places of worship, and other societal groupings are the pillars of society. Family is the foundation. When the foundation crumbles, so do the pillars. What I propose is drastic changes to all of these. Mind you, many of my ideas come from a morally conservative Christian viewpoint (if you can’t even bear to listen to my words past this sentence, I would be happy to provide you a refund), but I take a centrist and liberal stance on many different political and societal issues.

I’ll Fix America Tonight by Nathan Andrew Roberts (2020), p. iii

Having framed his own personal stance in this way, Roberts says: “Now, there are some ideas pertaining to a lot of facets of our society contained herein.” So far, so good. But Roberts also has a request of his readers! “What I would ask of even the most unreasonable of readers is that if you detest one idea or belief of mine that you refrain from waving off all others.” He describes the book as a buffet, full of various thought experiments from which a reader can pick and choose what appeals and leave the rest.

And, wow, does he cover quite a few topics! It’s worth noting here that my family too is fractured between two (or three, or four, or more) radically different worldviews and certainly represents both sides of the current political system. Running down Roberts’s table of contents is a lot like looking at a list of conversation topics we try not to bring up over the dinner table: the military, reparations, welfare, and education, among them. We are not so invested in some of the other topics he covers, like foreign aid––but as this is a buffet, I didn’t feel as though I had to have a clear opinion on what the “fix” should be by the end of that chapter; I was merely curious what radical changes Roberts might suggest, and what funny anecdotes he might share. For some of the chapters that have been topics of serious disagreement among my family and friends, I found myself paying more attention to the suggested “fix” than the humorous bits. Knowing that I had Roberts’s, how shall I put this, permission to move back and forth meant that I didn’t set the book down when I disagreed with a point (or ten). I simply made a note (and probably said huh! out loud) and moved on, knowing that I’m not being asked to carry the burden of forming a set opinion just to entertain a possible future by way of a thought experiment.

As my father would say, Roberts is something of a “goofball.” He loves a good pun, cracks himself up with his own “dad jokes” and stories, and generally keeps the entire book lighthearted. (“That question isn’t rhetorical,” he writes at one point. “I want you to compose your answer in a well-worded essay and mail it to me. Route it through my temporary office at the North Pole.”) That said, he always clearly signals when he wants his readers to take him seriously. I really appreciated that. He’s seen and been through enough to more than fill out a straight memoir, but he chose to take on this project because he wants to help this country heal. I love that about this book: its intentions are so pure.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Roberts also writes well! His language is accessible, and the book has been edited well. It doesn’t dither around but rather is nicely streamlined. I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book (any book!) dealing with politics under 400 pages––and Nathan Andrew Roberts gets all his work done in fewer than 300. My wrist (and attention span) is eternally grateful. And he ends the book on such a positive note: “I believe in us. Ready?” Yes, wolf pack supervisor, I am ready. Let’s build some bridges.

IN SUMMARY:

In a world riven with civil unrest (and sometimes, uncivil unrest), there is absolutely a need for more books like Nathan Andrew Roberts’s I’ll Fix America Tonight (well, at least by the weekend). His goal of providing fresh ideas to address social and political inequities that all parties can agree on is fabulous. I enjoyed the thought experiments he describes in this book, and I have the feeling this will be a book that lands well among people already willing to reconcile and make compromises to improve public discourse.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find out more on the Outskirts Press Author Page.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

 

How to Use Your Day Job to Become Better at Self-Publishing

Yes, some self-published authors earn enough to write full-time. But even the top authors—self-published or otherwise—typically keep their day job before making publishing their sole career.

High-quality self-publishing requires investment up front, both money and time. Bestselling self-published authors hire other professionals to put out books that compete with traditional publishers, which means paying for editing, layout, design, and other services.

Finances aside, writing a book is a time-consuming affair, time that an author takes away from a career or leisure activities. On top of that, a debut book rarely earns enough money to sustain its author full-time. The top-earning self-published authors build up a catalog of titles, eventually building enough of a backlog to achieve full-time earnings.

So, unless you have another way of financially sustaining yourself—such as having a working partner or hefty savings—you may not want to quit your day job yet.

That said, you don’t have to view your day job as adversarial to your self-publishing job. Instead, you can see your day job as supplementing your publishing in both craft and business.

With this in mind, here are the common skills that many writers develop in other professions, then transfer to their writing.

Writing and communication

Yes, writing skills are a no-brainer for a writer, but not just for the typical reasons.

The obvious reason is that writing in any form improves novel writing. For instance, a journalist frequently incorporates storytelling into articles. The skill set to report a feature story about real-life daily events can be easily employed in a longer form, like a novel or memoir.

And even more technical types of writing can help one’s creativity. For example, a software documentation writer must learn how to convey clear information to the reader. Clarity helps tremendously with nonfiction and fiction.

And the skill of writing goes beyond the book. In most books, you learn how to communicate professionally with others, whether that’s coworkers or customers. That’s useful when you’re explaining to a freelance designer the exact cover you want or convincing a potential reader to buy your book.

Project management

If your day job involves planning out and following a complex line of steps to completion, then formally or otherwise, you’ve practiced being a project manager. A self-published novel being a project, that type of management comes to good use.

Like any entrepreneur, a career author must use project management to bring a novel to publication. Project management is integral to getting a book to a timely and thorough publication, whether creating the actual plan, carrying out the tasks, adjusting for unexpected events, or even coordinating with collaborators.

Marketing

I have a more in-depth article on self-publishing marketing, so I’ll keep this section brief.

What’s handy about marketing is that the tools for promoting a project are universal. The same techniques you may use to sell a software solution to a business client will come to use for promoting your book to readers.

Layout and cover design

Most authors don’t have all the skills required to produce a book, so they must outsource those responsibilities. Fortunately, if you’re already professionally proficient with one of those skills, you can save money and even be more precise with your vision.

For instance, if you illustrate or design art for a living, you could create your own cover. Similarly, you can take other production competencies like layout or typography to give your book that extra shine. If you do professional voiceovers, you could even narrate your own audiobook!

Even if you intend to pay for a layout or cover designer, at least it’s useful to have a fundamental understanding of these areas. Knowing what’s possible and realistic about these production elements will help you better communicate with your collaborators and improve your chances of getting the desired results.

Inspiration

Many writers mine their real-life experiences for story material. It’s near-impossible to write genuine stories if you don’t have life experience, while a nonfiction writer ideally needs firsthand expertise with a nonfiction book topic.

If you have an interesting day job, it’s an excellent opportunity to write a story or nonfiction book about your profession. But even if you consider your work relatively mundane, there’s still much to mine from your life.

Even a pinch of verisimilitude makes a novel feel real, and even the most tedious jobs may bring you a memorable experience that becomes the origin of a pivotal scene.

And so forth . . .

I can continue to enumerate many other skills that you can bring over from your day job, but I hope you get the point.

Make the most of your experiences, and your writing and publishing endeavors will be all the more richer.

Over to you: What is your day job? What are some skills that you learn in your occupation that you can transfer to self-publishing?

Elizabeth Javor Outskirts Press

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.