***Last Updated 31st March 2020. Scroll down to read the answers to FAQs***
Worried about what COVID-19 might mean for you? Orna Ross answers your FAQs about coronavirus and indie authors. And speaks of how ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, hopes to help self-publishers stay mentally well, creatively connected, and positively productive, in these unprecedented times.
Coronavirus Consequences for Indie Authors: Creative Conditions
As we see it, our job as the professional and business association for indie authors is to hold steady, and keep on doing our job: helping our members to become great publishers and helping to advance the place of indie authors in the publishing and literary sectors.
Our weekly communications with our members will continue and will be—mostly—a virus-free zone–though in our next Advanced Salon on the podcast, Joanna Penn and I will explore these topics more deeply). We’ll be regularly updating this page, and the blog and podcast will continue to feature articles that help our members stay mentally well, creatively connected, and positively productive, in these times
As authors, our main challenge is how to stay deep and hold to core creative values at this time: not least focus in the face of uncertainty. Can we accept our new realities, and find a way to create conditions, under our current circumstances, that keep us writing and publishing?
We’re all staying home for a while. How do we make this a true homecoming, as we now process our current reality? We need to find enough space and silence, in this time of anxiety and unprecedented change, to allow our creative senses—imagination, idea, insight, memory, vision–space to lead us where we most need to go. Out of these unprecedented circumstances for us, we need to create the conditions to create.
Coronavirus Consequences for Indie Authors: Creative Challenges
These days, staying home doesn’t necessarily mean staying quiet. With all our digital devices, screening and streaming, our minds can be as noisy as Grand Central Station, even without the 24-hour news cycle declaiming the latest update.
The challenges indie authors face at this time arise not from COVID-19 itself but the measures being taken to contain and delay its spread. And from our mental and emotional responses to it. The virus of fear has been much discussed and is much 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 influences 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, older relatives who may need care and, most especially for those who feel unsafe at home.
Nonetheless, whatever we are facing is our challenge now. Can we hold steady, keep to our core creative intentions, or pivot as necessary? 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 appropriately?
Coronavirus Consequences for Indie Authors: Resources
Indie authors are by nature self-motivated entrepreneurs and will be an enormously positive force in helping drive the economic recovery in the future but many need rescue measures now. Creators relying on physical outlets are in a uniquely fragile position, and those without digital entrepreneurial skills, and their own online businesses, will be among the worst affected by the crisis.
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.
In addition, a number of players in the creative industries have set up global funds.
See below for more details on these iniatives, together with other resources and answers to other frequently asked questions.
Coronavirus Consequences for Indie Authors: Stay Connected
ALLi hopes to have your back in these troubling times. We may be physically isolated but the wonders of digital mean we can keep on talking to each other. ALLi is open, as ever, to your emails and social media messages, and the most pressing problems and solutions are being discussed in our member forums, a safe space to share whatever’s coming up at this time.
As we receive questions and responses–from members, followers, advisors, other organizations and agencies–we will post them here, alongside trends, support and resources, as they emerge.
All the information below is being updated, as the situation evolves.
Stay home, stay well, stay close!
Coronavirus Consequences for Indie Authors: Frequently-Asked Questions
Q: What 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 for authors 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
Questions About ALLi
Q: What is ALLi doing to monitor the situation?
A: We are keeping a close eye on developments related to the coronavirus, through trusted information sources such as the WHO and advice from governments and small business associations across our five key international territories: Australia and New Zealand, Canada, EU, UK and US (see below). Stay tuned to this page and to the blog.
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 now all working from home–but our team has always run our meetings virtually so in many ways for us it is business as usual for us.
As authors and readers increase online connection in response to COVID-19, ALLi hopes to help indie authors stay 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 to check 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.
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 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?
A: Self-isolation is always necessary for deep work.
- 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 for authors. Are you properly set up? Is now the time to adopt an audio or video plan?
Questions about Events
Q: I was due to launch my book next month. Should I postpone my release?
Q: I’m having to cancel 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 and Funding
Q: Am I entitled to funding?
A: A number of governments have announced measures for small businesses. Check with your national government (see government contacts in ALLi’s five key territories below)
A number of players in the creative industries have set up global funds.
- What The Fund: organized by Patreon. Read more here
- The Creator Fund: Organized by email service provider ConvertKit
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 going to get tough very quickly 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.
Advice for patients is available on NHS Choices
- General advice
Public Health England have published a Q&A about the virus on their blogpost Coronavirus: what you need to know
- Travel advice
Advice from the UK Foreign Office