By Light Unseen Media
BLU~Media Blog

March 12, 2021

Publishing Through the Time of COVID

Filed under: bookselling,publishing,publishing industry — Tags: — admin @ 10:19 pm

A year ago at this time–March 2020–I was making plans to boost By Light Unseen Media back into more active operating mode. I was working on new book cover designs. I had been publishing the digital newspaper I took over and made a division of BLUM every week without fail for almost six months, and it was clearly a keeper. I had made some decisions that allowed me to stabilize my income, removing the total uncertainty I’d been in since the previous May. I was optimistic.

Then Governor Baker proclaimed a State of Emergency in Massachusetts and the whole state shut down–and we’re still there. That changed everything, and most of my plans went on hold (such as the big advertizer drive I was about to launch for the newspaper–I could hardly contact local business owners and say, “hey, the Governor just shut you down indefinitely as a non-essential business, how would you like to buy an ad for a month?”).

But the COVID tide has turned; it’s receding. It’s not all the way out, and I don’t eliminate the possibility of another tsunami. But things are changing.

And I’m tired of waiting, and not just for the end of the pandemic.

Like many people who started publishing in the first decade of this century, I invested too much in Amazon and was overly dazzled by the glitter of Kindle. When the bottom fell out of that, I hoped that Amazon would eventually sort out as a platform. But being a Kindle customer, rather than a publisher, has opened my eyes there. I now see with sad clarity that Amazon, despite its romantic beginnings as a bookseller, no longer sells books. It simply allows other people to sell books, any kind, any quality, without distinguishing them in any way. It’s also attempting to take over the entire publishing industry, and treats books it publishes preferentially–pushing them to the top of their lists and burying everything else.

So I am now proceeding with the assumption that all other bookselling platforms, starting with independent bookstores, deserve more investment, attention and marketing than Amazon, which our titles will remain on simply for expedience.

In the last several weeks, I’ve been jolted out of my pandemic funk as though struck by lightning. I received a $500 grant from Independent Publishers of New England in December to change the covers on as many of BLUM’s books as I could. Five of them have now been done so far: two in the Vampires of New England series and all three of David Burton’s Blood Justice series. I’ve added BLUM titles to several new vendor platforms. I’m picking up promotional efforts and ads. In August and December I had sales tables at two local arts/crafts fairs (held in defiance of COVID, masks and social distancing mandatory) and I’ve bought new sales table supplies and gotten the new Square credit card reader up and running. BLUM’s books are included in the currently running Read An Ebook Week promotion on Smashwords (last year, I missed that).

I’ve just converted By Light Unseen Media to an LLC, and gotten its new EIN. And through all of this, I’ve kept publishing the weekly newspaper, which does bring in some ad revenue, and all that goes to BLUM.

This past week, I revised and updated BLUM’s website, making it more mobile-friendly, cleaner and simpler, and making sure all the information is up to date, consistent, and free of broken or obsolete links. (I do still need to tweak the formatting on this blog–just give me a minute.)

So we’re moving ahead. Publishing and books are going to be as different post-COVID as everything else, and we can only speculate as to where we’re headed. But BLUM is already getting ready for the new world.

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