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Board Member’s Memo: Weathering the Storm of a Global Crisis

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by Robin Cutler, Director, IngramSpark —

Robin Cutler

Authors & publishers who have invested in engaging directly with readers and have made their content available in multiple formats will be the best positioned to weather this storm.

I’m writing this on March 20, 2020, at the beginning of the alarming escalation in the United States of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly four weeks ago, my company, Ingram Content Group, made the very early decision to stop international travel and then, shortly after, canceled attending the London Book Fair (LBF). This was a rather bold thing to do because at the time LBF itself had not canceled.

I was comforted that Ingram took a leadership role in protecting its employees. But today, I’m especially happy that Ingram with its distribution, wholesale, fulfillment, and printing functions has been determined to be an essential business. On the day that Ingram announced this, I heard a collective sigh from many authors, publishers, and booksellers around the world. To catch up on the latest news from Ingram, go to Ingram Content Health Alert.

The sigh was immediately followed by palpable anxiety as thousands of bookstores and libraries were shuttering by state and countrywide decree. Book launches that had been carefully planned for months now had to be reconsidered entirely. Within weeks, I started hearing from many of my publishing friends and colleagues that they were having to lay off staff, cancel contracts, and were figuring out how long they would be able to survive as a business. For the first time this week, I witnessed longtime publishing colleagues weeping openly.

So, what does this all mean for IBPA members, especially author publishers that I connect with directly through IngramSpark? Content owners, no matter how well established they are with social media platforms and online engagement with readers, have probably already seen a decline in their usual business as the world’s population of readers are adjusting to a new normal. I believe that authors and publishers who have invested in engaging directly with readers will be the best positioned to weather this storm. If you haven’t been selling primarily online, now would be the time to spend the effort to do that.

You should be making your content available in multiple formats, including through POD, as e-books, and, lastly, audiobooks. I put audio last just because of how hard it is to earn back the production expense, so make sure your print and e-book formats are selling well first. I also want to remind you that if you have an IngramSpark or LS account, we can drop-ship orders directly to your readers. We do that all day long, and more people are using our drop-ship service than ever.

Some of you have been reporting that your titles no longer have in-stock availability at Amazon. Keep in mind that retailers such as B&N, Walmart, and Target have strong online stores, so don’t forget to check the availability of your book on those sites. I would also encourage you to point your fans and readers to Bookshop, which is a site owned by the American Bookseller Association that benefits our indie bookstores.

Finally, we are seeing a shift in the types of books that are being purchased. Juvenile fiction and nonfiction titles, children’s activity, workbooks, and game books are in demand right now with all our kids at home. We’re also seeing strong sales in religious titles.

You’re all amid the struggle right now, and my heart goes out to each of you as you adjust your lives and businesses around a new normal. I wish you good health and peace in the weeks and months ahead. We will get through this together. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance at robin.cutler@ingramcontent.com.

IBPA Member Benefit:
IBPA members are invited to take advantage of IBPA’s exclusive benefits with IngramSpark and Lightning Source. Click here for more information.

Robin Cutler is the director of IngramSpark. She has broad knowledge of indie, academic, and trade publishing and is an expert in content creation, distribution, on-demand models, and author strategies. Follow Cutler on Twitter @RCutlerBookPub, and be sure to check out IngramSpark on Facebook and on Twitter #ingramspark. You can also subscribe to the IngramSpark podcast co-hosted by Cutler called “Go Publish Yourself” available on iTunes.

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