This is a difficult one to write. There is so much going on in the world right now, and everyone has their own priorities, but I couldn’t let #Indiebookday pass without some sort of blog.
The world is falling apart at the seams, or so it appears to me. If people behave we can beat this thing, but there are still stories in my area of people defying advice cos they think they’re special. They’re not. Their actions could make themselves or someone they care about very sick. I am hoping that here in the UK we see a calming of the hysteria over the next week, especially as people realise that the food supply chain isn’t at risk according to supermarkets. Supply isn’t the problem according to the experts, demand is. Buy what you need, not 3 months worth of what you need, and we’ll all be fine.
There are also a lot of kick starters, GoFundMe pages etc from industries asking for support at this difficult time. And while I’m not necessarily against that, this is the sort of support that should be coming from governments (and in the UK its starting too). I genuinely believe that readers are really empathetic people and seeing so many of these can start to cause guilt and anxiety. I’ve been on twitter a lot less this week as a result of things like this, and for the contextless updates that people seem to like to chuck around as well as a mass of well-meaning but inexpert advice that is starting to permeate. This is really a time to shut the fuck up and listen to what experts are telling you, scientists at Imperial College London and the World Health Organisation know what they’re doing. They spend a life time studying for this.
And against this backdrop, there are wonderful indie publishers and sellers all still doing their best to try and stay afloat and be good citizens of the world in such uncertain and difficult times. My good friends over at Fahrenheit press are reporting an 80% drop in direct sales. Yet despite this, they are offering free e-books for anyone who needs them. They have almost literally no money coming through the doors and they are still finding the strength to say “this is bigger than us, this is more important than money, we need to look out for people and this is how we can do that” Books are a huge escape for those that like to read, and a lot of people are going to find the next few months financially difficult, offering some small solace to those who can’t afford books right now is an incredibly moving gesture on their part – and its punk as fuck! Also, this is on the honours system, so I do hope everyone behaves honourably. I won’t be availing myself of the offer as I don’t need to. I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of my privilege than I have this last week. I have a stable job that isn’t at risk due to this crisis. I am even able to work from home so I’m able to really effectively social distance. So many aren’t as lucky.
What I will be doing today is spending some money with some of my favourite indie publishers. The ones who represent me, have given my perspective a voice through their fiction and crucially the ones who haven’t asked for charity or sought to guilt people out of their money (Fahrenheit and Red Dog I’m looking at you!!). The real risk where that does happen is that money is then taken out of the industry and doesn’t get spent on books. So a couple of high profile campaigns can suck out a large chunk of cash which might otherwise have been spread around. At the moment, these are relatively few and thankfully instead there are some great ideas knocking about. So many indie sellers have gone online and focussed on mail order business. Some sellers have always focussed on direct sales and are further promoting this. In the non-book case of The Stand Comedy Club, they are live streaming an event this evening and asking for donations if you choose to watch and can afford to chuck a fiver or so in, the lack of pay wall is a similar gesture to Fahrenheit’s e-book scheme. We are hoping that some of our local restaurants and pubs find ways to do delivery or take out services too.
I do think that we may see quite a different world when we come out the other side of this, in the meantime and to quote the great sage Jerry Springer “Look after yourselves and each other”