Book Publishing During A Plague: Q&A With Author AP Murray

Many industries have been upended during the pandemic, including book publishing. What is an author to do when her book is about to be released and the media world turns upside down?

Now book launch parties (unless they're virtual) and certain types of interviews may be postponed, while COVID-19 news fills the airwaves.  And there is the looming question: Will the pandemic alter the future of publishing and if so, how?

AP Murray is one of those authors whose new book, "Greedy Heart," is set to launch without the usual launch pad. 

Charlene Weisler: Give me a short timeline of your book from its submission to the publisher to now.

AP Murray: I was offered a deal on "Greedy Heart" in September 2018. The manuscript was in pretty good shape, so the editing cycle was short. I’m still astounded at the effort and time that goes into a cover, and the final-final-final copy editing process. That took months.



Weisler: What had been planned to launch the book — and how has that changed?

Murray: I had planned several in-person events in different areas of the country and, of course, a launch party. Now, all of that is cancelled. But I’m astounded and encouraged by the wonderful outreach to authors during the pandemic. 

For example, Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum have started a new social media initiative called "A Mighty Blaze” to help support authors launching books during this crazy time. 

Weisler: What is the publisher doing at this time to launch the book?

Murray: The great thing about my publisher, Tule, is that they have always been digital-first. From their book club on Facebook and mastery of social media, they have the digital game down. Thankfully, we don’t have a ton of traditional media to replan.

Weisler: How will you, yourself, be marketing the book? Is that a change from your initial plan?

Murray: My book is about a financial crash and a natural disaster. The book is also about the courage and community of New Yorkers during a crisis. So, yes, our ideas about positioning the book and talking about it have changed. Early coverage and reviews are calling my novel “a book for the times.”

Weisler: Talk about the differences in marketing approach (if any) from the text version of the book to the audio version and how the pandemic might help or hurt these efforts.

Murray: Amazon is now prioritizing deliveries of essential supplies. So I’ve heard from a bunch of my pre-order people they’re afraid they won’t get their print versions. I guess we’ll see. 

Some, bless them, have gone ahead and ordered the e-book version just to be sure. We’ll be reminding people that there are no shipping delays on e-books! 

As for audio—that version will, unfortunately, be delayed because studios are closed. I’m considering recording it myself and putting a “homemade” version out there. 

Weisler: What advice do you give writers during this time?

Murray: Give yourself a break. Writers dream about having “quiet time at home to write.” Now we’re under stay-at-home orders. And yet so many of my writer friends are reporting they can’t seem to focus and write. It’s causing a lot of confusion.

 I wanted quiet time. Now I have it. Why can’t I write? The answer is, this is *not* quiet time. There’s a ton of anxiety and stress. It almost feels as if the atmosphere is electrically charged. Add to that homeschooling and who-knows-what-else. That ain’t “quiet.” I think we’ll get used to in in a couple of weeks and be able to settle down and focus. Sooner than that is probably unrealistic. 

Weisler: How do you think the publishing industry will permanently change from the lessons learned in the pandemic? 

Murray: I’ve heard a lot of people worrying if this will be the final blow to indie bookstores. And that would be sad.

I also think the pandemic has had a tremendous leveling influence. If you were a big name with a big-publisher-financed book tour and ad campaign, that got cancelled. Writers have griped for years that publishers focus on big names and put all the money behind them, leaving newcomers to fend for themselves. Depending on how some of us upstarts sell in the pandemic, the near-exclusive focus on big names may change.

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