Orna Ross outlines coronavirus guidance and assistance for authors around the world and the response from ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors and other author organizations to COVID-19. This page is regularly updated as we assess the potential impact of the evolving global situation. Please scroll the FAQ below for updates, as we make additions or amendments to advice, links and guidance as to what it all means for indie authors, particularly the likely business and financial effects over the coming months. If we have missed anything important please email to let us know. [Most recent update 4th August]
Whatever your personal circumstances at the moment, all of us at ALLi want to wish you, and your loved ones, wellness–and if the virus should strike you, a speedy recovery. Please stay home and stay as safe as you can.
If you are somebody who feels unsafe at home, physically, mentally or emotionally, do not let these unprecedented conditions prevent you from seeking the help and support you deserve. If you are living with somebody who is on the front line in dealing with COVID-19 and its fallout, our thanks to them and to you (now… and always).
As your author association, ALLi aims to support you, and to give you the advice and information you need, as best we can during these troubling times. We have prepared a number of resources.
- In an Advanced Self-publishing podcasts Joanna Penn and Orna discussed how to continue productively writing and publishing.
- Howard Lovy ran a special Inspirational Indie Author Interview show in which he asked a number of authors about how they were coping with lockdown
- On the Member Q&A, ALLi director Orna Ross and Outreach Manager Michael La Ronn answered questions about how to prepare for what's ahead
- Our news editor Dan Holloway has persistently raised the issues for marginalized and disabled authors. (See Dan's talk in this online webinar about disability in the context of the virus)
and most recently, a post on Coming out of Lockdown: Coronavirus Lessons for Authors
Coronavirus Assistance and ALLi
Our aim has been to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on our organization, as far as possible, and to carry on doing our work. A number of us have contracted the virus and thankfully recovered well.
We are open, as ever, to your emails and social media messages.
Our members' most pressing problems and solutions are being discussed in our closed facebook forum, a private space to share whatever’s coming up at this time, as well as all the usual questions and concerns about publishing books. If you are a member, and you haven't got round to joining the forum yet, now may be a good time to do so.
As we receive questions and responses–from members, followers, partners, advisors, other organizations and agencies–we are posting them below–alongside new trends, support and resources as they emerge. Our aim is to point you towards direct help for indie authors, in all parts of the globe.
While supporting the organizations who are raising relief funds (see below), we consider the best policy for ALLi has been to keep on providing the education, resources and member benefits that empower authors to earn a living online (through their own author websites, extensive book distribution, and nurturing of reader communities).
Self-publishers are entrepreneurially minded, self-motivated, hardworking authors. Our community is an enormously positive force, economically and creatively, right now and, like all digital creatives, will help drive economic recovery when this is all over.
There is evidence that the digitally-savvy authors, with books available in ebook, audio and POD formats, are selling more than ever, as readers stay home or find themselves ill in bed, and digital advertising costs fall. But there are also indie authors who need rescue measures urgently. Creators relying on physical outlets are in a particularly fragile position, and those without digital entrepreneurial skills and their own online businesses are worst affected.
From a business perspective, the difference between being a freelance worker relying on other businesses and a digital asset owner relying on readers has never been so stark.
For those in need of assistance and business advice, we are gathering intelligence from governments, creative industries, and small business associations across our five key international territories: Australia and New Zealand, Canada, EU, UK and US (see below). We are also working with key partners who are supporting authors and other creatives at this time.
All the information below is being updated, as the situation evolves. Stay tuned to this page and to the blog.
Stay well, stay productive, stay connected!
The challenges indie authors face at this time arise not just from COVID-19 itself but from our mental and emotional responses to the measures being taken to contain and delay its spread.
The virus of fear has been much discussed and is in evidence. For we who (want to) write, make, and promote books, there are other viruses and infections. The infection of distraction, the contagion of pessimism, the multiple viruses of 0ver-busy-brain.
Having good creative processes that limit distractions and the influence of other minds is always a challenge for creatives. Never more than now.
Working in close quarters with our families, without our usual social outlets, will be especially challenging for some, especially those with young children and older relatives, vulnerabilities, and anyone who falls sick and needs care. For those who feel unsafe at home, distress will be acute.
However hard it may be, whatever we are facing is our challenge now. Can we hold steady, keep to our core creative intentions or pivot, whichever is most appropriate? Can we be responsive and proactive rather than reactive?
Can we do what we need to do to process what's coming up for us, and respond in the best interests of ourselves and others?
Assistance for Indie Authors: Resources
The main assistance for authors will come from government agencies in your territory. Around the world, governments have provided relief packages for self-employed freelancers and small business owners.
In addition, a number of author organizations and creative companies have set up national and global funds. Others are offering free books and free services. See Questions about Coronavirus Assistance for Authors and Coronavirus Assistance for Authors: Resources below for more details on these initiatives, together with answers to other frequently asked questions.
With regard to emergency funds, please be aware that some are clearer than others as to whether they are supportive of independent authors. e.g. some of the organizations contributing to the UK Emergency Fund specifically exclude indie authors from their usual prizes/funding and the Fund itself specifies:
Please note that we are unable to offer grants for publication costs/those who are in difficulty because they have contributed towards publication costs.
(We have written to the Society of Authors for more clarification on this)
By contrast, the US fund organized by Poets.org, is more equitable and inclusive, taking the broadest possible definition of “practicing artist”:
- individuals making a living from their work, independently OR commercially;
- anyone whose livelihood and/or community depends upon the ability to make, exhibit, perform, publish, or sell artwork;
- culture bearers or community organizers who self-define as artists.
ALLi's concern is that independent authors are likely to get lost among commercially published authors (who are very hard hit), especially where funding organizations have a poor opinion of self-publishing, and in the international funds like Patreon’s and ConvertKit’s, among other creatives like production and performance artists, film, sculptors etc., who again are in a very fragile position. All have a relatively small amount of money to dispense, given the size of the need. (And the knock-on effect here is likely to last a long time.)
Q: What should indie authors expect?
A: From a financial perspective, independent authors whose business models are digital and online should be better placed than many to manage the consequence. A mail-out to our members has revealed three trends to date:
1. Many authors are moving from physical to digital: ” Twenty-five cancellations in next 9 weeks… plus likely all the craft fairs I had signed up for to sell paperbacks throughout the summer… I have always relied heavily on (paid) events, fellowships etc and selling of paperbacks for my income. In the current climate I seriously need to try to focus on ebooks I guess and maybe try to learn this ads business! (Become more like a ‘normal' indie!)”
2. While some authors are seeing sales fall and others are seeing them rise or no change, still others are actively targetting readers at this time. From another member: “My own engagements from my mailing list have risen lately owing to the pandemic. Many of them thanking me for my BookFunnel multi-author promotional blasts. They find new reading material while quarantined.”
3. A trend towards giving away books as a gesture of solidarity with readers is causing some authors concern: It would seem on the surface not to impact us overly as people confined to home will want to read ebooks or listen to audio. However, there is now a trend of many authors giving away all their ebooks for free. (At least in my genre.) If this continues, it could prove a threat to the livelihood of people who make a living from books, and it could train people to expect this on the other side of the crisis.
Please let us know if you need to make changes to your business model and require advice or support. (See the ten most common business models for indie authors here)
4. As we settle in, the overall main trend appears to be positive for authors whose books and businesses are available online, with an increase in readership, and support from readers.
- Increase in online purchasing in the countries that first went into lockdown: China and Italy
- Increase in Patreon average new patron growth: Up 36.2% compared to February across the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Italy
Q: How is member support being handled?
Q: Should we expect any disruptions or downtime at ALLi?
A: As we are a global organization, with all activities conducted online, we do not expect any impact on the services ALLi offers to authors. The FreeWord Center, where our HQ is located is now closed and we are all working from home–but our team is located worldwide and we have always run our meetings virtually and our communications through email. So in many ways for us, it is business as usual.
In this time when so many authors and readers are spending so much more time online, ALLi hopes to keep our members and followers connected and productive.
Questions about Self-Publishing Services and Platforms
Q: What's happening at Amazon? What about other platforms?
A: We have been reassured by all our major partners that self-publishing platforms are running as usual and have approached major partners for specific information on their situation. Please check back here where we will keep you informed if the situation changes.
We have seen increased demand as people have been guided to stay at home. Because of this, you may experience delays in both manufacturing and shipping for all books, including author orders.
We are working hard to reduce this to meet customer demand and return to standard manufacturing and delivery times.
You may have heard that author-publishers can't send any more shipments into Amazon warehouses, as they're prioritizing medical supplies and “high demand” products. Note that this does not apply to books published through KDPP (Kindle Direct Publishing Print) but book consignments, and other product ranges, “fulfilled by Amazon” as a marketplace trader. In those cases, the stock is still being sold, but once they run out of product, they won't be reordering for the foreseeable future.
Updates on: KDP forum. Amazon UK has joined the fund to support authors affected by the crisis.
Ingram Content Group:
Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark, has assured us that
IngramSpark business is running as usual if authors need to place orders.
Questions about Coronavirus Assistance for Authors
Q: I'm struggling. Where can I get funding?
A: See below. Governments around the world have announced measures for small businesses which should benefit authors. Check with your national government (see the government contacts in ALLi's five key territories below). CISAC, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, has called on governments for global action to help.
Several governments, such as France, have put in place emergency funding for creative sectors. Others, such as Argentina, Chile and Peru, have identified protection for creators, via tax and social security concessions, and emergency payouts. And governments around the world are supporting the self-employed.
Author charities have also been established in some countries. See “Assistance and Resources” below for more. Such grants and benefits are mostly focussed on authors and creatives who rely on physical sales or who have been affected by productions and event closures.
A number of global players in the creative industries have also set up international funds for creatives and services are giving free benefits for authors at this time. Still more are compiling listings of funding and other assistance. Again, see “Assistance and Resources” below.
Questions about Wellbeing and Focus
Q: With all that's going on, do books even matter? Everyone's watching box sets.
A: Yes, books matter–more than ever at a time like this. Books are helping millions of people who are having to endure a life of quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing. Books uniquely allow one human imagination to directly touch another, one-to-one, in the intimate act of reading, which has been found to have so many social and psychological benefits. The influence of any widely-read book is not just wide but deep. In secular societies, books provide the only philosophy that many people know. A good book, honestly conceived and carefully crafted, benefits everyone in inconceivable ways.
Film and video have not undermined the influence of the book but extended its reach, carrying ideas that first become current among educated readers to a wider audience.
What we do is important, especially now. And important too for ourselves. If we lose our sense of meaning, passion or purpose, not only will we not be able to do our job (providing information, knowledge, entertainment, uplift, or inspiration to our readers), we will find this period of isolation harder than it needs to be.
Write on. Publish on.
Q: How might this be an opportunity for me?
A: Self-isolation is always necessary for deep work. Can you use this time to bring a particular project across the line?
- Creating more: What books can you write? What publishing project can you complete? What content might you make for marketing purposes?
- New products: What can you digitize? What content can you repurpose?
- Learning: What about courses you’ve been meaning to take yourself? Could you take them online now?
- Upskilling: The fallout from COVID-19 is accelerating the trend towards digital publishing for authors. Are you properly set up? Is now the time to adopt an audio or video plan? Move your author events online?
Questions about Events
Q: I was due to launch my book. Should I postpone my release?
Q: I've had to cancel my events. What I can do online, using my FB author page preferably?
A: Your Facebook Author Page will allow you to do almost anything you do offline, including share screens and take questions. More information here. Other widely used options are YouTube and podcast events. Belive and Streamyard provide good tools to manage online events.
Questions about Finances
Q: People have been canceling agreed arrangements. Can I get my money back?
A: Very possibly. You should certainly ask. If you have a contract, look at the “force majeure” clause. The legal team at Harbottle & Lewis has provided some general advice on Coronavirus and contracts (UK law)
Q: I fear I may fall behind on my mortgage
A: Many mortgage lenders around the world are offering a three-month payment holiday. Contact your lender directly.
Q: I'm concerned about cashflow
Cashflow will be the key to weathering the storm. As hard as this is for some businesses, it is temporary. Do what you need to do to carry on. Review spending and see where savings can be made. Claim any grants available in your country. Ask for the help you need. Take all the help you can get.
Q: I'll struggle to pay my tax bill now. What should I do?
A: Most governments have extended their “Time to pay” facility. If you're struggling to pay, or want to delay paying to help with cash flow, contact your tax authorities to talk through your options to spread the payments.
Q: How do I know if I am insured?
A: Check your insurance policies to see if you might be covered for loss of earnings if unable to trade due to such an outbreak or (more likely) in the event of you becoming sick yourself. Can you claim business continuity insurance if you forced to close for a time?
Q: Might I be entitled to sick pay?
A: Some governments are allowing the self-employed to claim statutory sick pay and have it repaid by them. Some are also extending this to company staff. Check your local situation.
Q: Things are deteriorating for me. Should I tell people or keep up a front?
Where possible, contact readers or suppliers and keep them updated on what is happening with your business. Make sure they know your plans and if you intend to close temporarily let them know what’s happening. Update your website, send an email.
Q: Should I delay my payments to others?
A: When cash is restricted, the temptation is to make late payments. You need to avoid this where possible, if only for reputational reasons. Late payments already cause problems for businesses so chase those who owe you money and make sure you pay your suppliers on time. If you can't, let them know what is happening. Tighten up your invoice process if it's less than it should be.
Q: What can I learn from all this?
A: Coronavirus will change the way business and society works so when the urgent part of the crisis is over, consider what has changed for you. And consider what’s really important. Aim to be the solution for your readers and your community … and assess what you can learn from this, to plan for the future.
Coronavirus Assistance for Authors: Resources
There's no doubt that pandemics are frightening — but as authors, business owners, and human beings we are kindest to ourselves and others when we remain objective and calm, and collect and pass on only trustworthy information from primary sources. Check back often as we update this section.
International Coronavirus Assistance for Authors
- What The Fund: organized by Patreon. Read more here
- The Creator Fund: Organized by email service provider ConvertKit
- Free book promotion grant from Written Word Media
Australia and New Zealand
- AWCBC Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada
- Canadian Chamber of Commerce
- Canadian Business Resilience Network — tools and resources to help businesses navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for recovery.
- Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)
- CFIB Helpline — open to all business owners (including non-CFIB members) for advice on managing COVID-19 situations in the workplace. Call 1-888-234-2232.
- Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) (List of all provincial and territorial federations of labour and labour councils.)
The European Commission has unlocked €1 billion from the European Fund for Strategic Investments to serve as guarantee to incentivise local banks and other lenders to provide liquidity to at least 100,000 European small and medium enterprises.
Society of Authors, ALCS, Royal Literary Fund, TS Eliot Foundation, English PEN and Amazon UK have launched the Authors’ Emergency Fund. (Note: Royal Literature Fund and TS Eliot prize explicitly exclude independent authors from their usual funding. We are waiting to hear from the Society of Authors as to whether independent authors will be excluded from this emergency fund).
Arts Council England has launched Emergency Response Funds: for individual writers and creatives and for organisations “outside the National Portfolio“. London Writers' Development Agence Spread The Word is offering advice sessions for London-based writers and organizations. Find out more and book your slot here:
See Spread the Word's listing Funding for UK writers during COVID-19 for details of other funds