A Viral Pandemic and Running a Small Press (or, “It’s a Small Press After All…”), from Editor Ed
The SOE features on my WordPress site sometimes tell me to simplify my phrasing and terminology, and it’s also been a while since I’ve posted anything. So let’s chat for a moment about the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and what it means not just for small businesses generally, but also for small presses – and tiny ones, too! – like Stone Ring Press.
It’s been observed that sales of romance novels – not my forte, though my wife has sometimes been a fan – increase during trying times. Also, histories of events that are still current – like our ongoing viral disease – seem to be much more appreciated months or even years after those events have resolved a bit, or at least calmed down. This may be less true for fiction, though I’ve yet to find any Covid-19-themed thrillers, and haven’t heard of any in the works, either – on that note, while I don’t really write suspense fiction, some of us remain hopeful that someone is at work on such a project!
Anyway, one benefit of fiction – for which it is also sometimes criticized – is that it offers an escape, whether the setting is fantasy or sci-fi or your own hometown in the present.
Alternatively, we might consider the apparent contradiction between reports of being instructed to remain at home in self-imposed isolation, suggesting plenty of time to read – and other news about small presses having lots of financial trouble, even going out of business, from too few sales. It gets tricky to decide between the two, and there are probably examples of both happening.
The blog on the Advantage CS site outlines six effects of the pandemic on publishing, so let’s make a quick review here… a) a drop in advertising revenue, across many industries; b) a “collapse” in newsstand sales, which makes sense with bodily distancing; c) problems with printing and distribution, though this seems to affect “dailies” more; d) cancelling of events (we’ve felt this at Stone Ring, too, as all of our “book-fair” events for 2020 have already been dumped!); e) a slump in e-commerce generally, related to postal and shipping delays; and f) an increase in digital subscriptions (though this one has gone much less noticed by us here…)
The attention to advertising funding makes sense when we consider the ongoing limitations about folks visiting actual shop locations, and a similar logic lies behind the second item, as traditional newsstands seem to receive less pedestrian traffic these days. Issues with printing and distribution surely affect newsprint, though such media have shown signs of decline prior to the onset of the pandemic. And we already mentioned the last item about digital subscriptions, so that leaves us with d) and e).
That event publicity really does hit home, so to speak: we update book-related events on the Stone Ring site here, and strive to advertise such. And yet every single one has been dumped this year. Safety comes first, of course. That never changes, nor should it, though it’s difficult when a sizable portion of your business comes from direct public interaction, and only at certain times and places instead of having a regular store with a regular business schedule. The corresponding drop in e-commerce both precedes and follows from this, though there are signs that the issues with postal and shipping have largely resolved more recently, both domestically and internationally.
So… the details of how the pandemic affect each of us can vary, partly on where we are, and partly on what we do and how we reach out to others. It’s our hope here at Stone Ring Press that you all remain safe, and keep catching up on your at-home reading!