Snapshot of Publishing in North America

Author CaptionI’ve been curious to learn how the publishing world has been coping since the pandemic began. It doesn’t seem sufficient to say, “probably not well”, but a recent survey by the Authors Guild answered some of my questions.

Only 940 authors responded to the survey and, as you can imagine, many have seen their incomes drop, mainly by the loss of speaking/performance engagements. The drop wasn’t as high a percentage as I’d assumed it would be. In fact, about 45% of respondents said their income hadn’t changed very much.

Not surprising, although disheartening, is that 52 respondents had their book contracts and/or royalty payments delayed. Most authors with books about to be released are understandably worried about lower sales, yet just over half of them are not doing more marketing than usual. Unfortunately, the survey didn’t indicate why this is so and I’m not sure the question was even asked. You can read the full version HERE.

For my American friends, the survey also includes a link to details about economic relief for authors. It’s important to note that a number of surveyed authors couldn’t work right now because of their own health issues or the health of a family member. You can learn more about the economic relief HERE.

Here in Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that he’s earmarked $500 million to assist the arts, sports, and culture sectors. To date, I’ve heard no further details on who will quality for aid or how the money will be dispersed, but you can read what little information there is HERE.

Obviously, this is by no means a complete look at the writing and publishing world, but just a quick snapshot. I wonder how many small and medium Canadian publishing houses will survive after all this is over. You see, almost all of Canadian publishers are government subsidized in some way and have been for decades. It’s the only way small and mid-sized publishers (and possibly some larger ones) in a large country with a relatively small population have survived. Even with grant money, many established publishers still operate on shoestring budgets. But the government is spending an awful lot of money these days to help out many sectors. While the grants and aid money will be there during the pandemic, what happens down the road after the federal government has depleted its rainy day fund? Will grants eventually be cut so the government can begin to replenish again? Time will tell.

On a personal note, the cancellation of four writing events I was to take part in this spring, plus a large craft fair in June that usually results in $600-$700 in print sales will definitely hurt income. Do I expect to be compensated for that? No, and I learned a long time ago not to depend on writing and marketing events as my only income stream. Still, it’s a downer not to get together with colleagues and readers and discuss books and the biz. But opportunities to get together on Zoom etc. are out there, and book marketing means finding new ways to reach readers.

Meanwhile, I figure it’s best to keep working and looking forward to a less restrictive future. I’m doing whatever writing, editing, and promo work I can from home. When the gates open and we all run out of our houses to gather together again, I plan to be ready!

Art on the Vine-5

Why Reading Is More Important Than Ever

Readingabook[1]Whenever I sell my books at craft fairs, I know that only a small percentage of attendees read novels. People generally don’t come to craft fairs to buy books, and some even tell me that they don’t read period.

How folks spend their free time is of course up to them, but a growing number of studies show that non-readers are not only missing out on great entertainment, but losing out on an opportunity to improve their mental state.

I came across a blog about a study that showed the positive impact of reading to combat loneliness, mental health issues, and dementia among seniors. You can read the blog HERE, and another link will take you to the full report (it’s 50 pages long, so I didn’t read it all), but the bottom line is that reading matters a great deal to one’s overall brain health.

In Canada, we do a good job of encouraging young people to read. Almost every parent I know read to their kids when they were toddlers and during their elementary school years. Reading and books are a big part of school life, but what about the other end of the age spectrum? What happens when real-life demands take people away from reading, and they’ve long forgotten the joy of immersing oneself in a good story?

If you know of someone, of any age, who’s suffering through loneliness, memory loss, depression, or other mental health issues, give them a good book, or take them on a trip to the library, or maybe even read to them. It’s a simple way to improve the quality of one’s life and might just help revive the joy of letting one’s imagination escape into brand new worlds. The more readers there are, the better off the world is.

My August Events

aotfposter_2018Taking part in craft fairs and other events has been one of the highlights of my year so far. This month, I’ll take part in three more events, all of which I’ve done before, and I can’t wait to go back.

You can find all of them listed on my website’s News and Events page at http://www.debrapurdykong.com/news-and-events.html

The first one is on Aug. 18th and I invite anyone living in and around the Chilliwack area to visit this event. There will be live music, and the organizers are going out of their way to make it a fun, kid-friendly event with games and even a photo booth.

The week after, on Sun. the 26th, I’ll be at Art on the Vine in Langley. I love this event because vendors can drink wine if they want, though I don’t often do until late in the day.

Lastly, I’ll be out at the Haney Farmers Market on Sat. Sept. 1 at Memorial Peace Park on 224th Street, right in front of The ACT. Vendors are there from 10 – 2 pm, so it’s a fairly short event, but I like this one because of the wonderful produce and baked goods I can buy there. So, come join the summer fun if you can!

My Latest Craft Fair Experience

Launch Mar2012-21One of the most interesting things about selling my books at craft fairs is the people I meet, and this year’s Creative Chaos experience in Vernon, BC was no exception.

The fun started on day one when a volunteer in a clown costume slapped a happy face on my shirt because I apparently have a nice smile. She and her cohorts were spreading cheer and goodwill everywhere, as I saw plenty of pink stickers all over customers and vendors that day.

One attendee who spotted my first book, Taxed to Death, said she has a signed copy at home, only hers was written by a man. I assured her that I’m the author, but she didn’t believe me. I then suggested that perhaps someone else wrote a mystery called Taxed to Death (not impossible here in heavily taxed Canada), but she assured me that the cover was the same as the one she had at home. She drifted away from my table, leaving both of us confused.

I met a lovely woman who came to the fair with a handwritten note, listing all of my books that she owned, so she wanted to purchase the titles she didn’t have. Writers live for readers like that. I also ran into a customer who had purchased all five of my Casey Holland titles for her mom at last year’s Chilliwack Christmas craft fair. Here she was in Vernon, (roughly a four-hour drive from Chilliwack) telling me that her mom loved my books. I live for moments like that too.

The most extraordinary exchange occurred when I was chatting with a woman whose friend joined her and said that she used to know a Debbie Purdy, although it probably wasn’t me. The woman didn’t look familiar to me either, but when she asked if I had a sister named Val, which I do, she and the other woman yelped. They were sisters and our next door neighbors back in Surrey, BC (a five-hour drive from Vernon) nearly fifty years ago. When I was fourteen, my parents split and we moved away, losing touch with the sisters. It was great, but somewhat surreal, to reconnect with them after all this time.

There were many other lovely, and sometimes odd, conversations. There was an exchange of business cards, and I was happy to meet other writers while I was there.

During the quieter moments, I watched the people go by, some wearing T-shirts stenciled with the names of places they’d been to…Paris, New York, Gettysburg, New Orleans. It occurs to me that people have become more colorful over the years with their pink, blue, and green hair, the tattoos and facial piercings. It was really fun to watch.

The seniors loved to share stories, and I heard a number of great ones. One kind gentleman even gave me one of the homemade butter tarts he’d bought from another vendor.

Craft fairs are always a gamble. The fee to participate can be steep and sales can be slow, but I can always count on stimulating conversation and even one or two ideas for my next mystery novel. I can’t wait to go back next year.

Arthur Ellis Award Winners & an Upcoming Event

Books, Craft fairLast Thursday, the winners of the Arthur Ellis Crime Writing Awards were announced at a gala in Toronto. You can see the list of winners HERE, and congratulations to all!

This week we’re driving up to Vernon, BC to take part in the 34th annual Creative Chaos summer craft fair. It’s been about three years since I last attended, so I’m looking forward to going back. Touted as the largest summer craft show in western Canada, there’s certainly a lot of cool stuff to purchase.

The fair has clear guidelines about handmade products, so I’ll be selling only my self-published mystery titles, which is fine. We always turn these out-of-town excursions into mini vacations and make sure to visit a winery or two while we’re up there. Lord knows, you can never have enough wine and cool crafts to buy. For more information about the fair, check out this link.

2017 Craft Fair Experiences

Craft Fair 2017After participating in several craft fairs this year, my anecdotal observations pretty much confirm the experiences of previous years, which are:

. Print still sells. My books won’t sell nearly as well by sitting on a bookstore shelf with thousands of other titles. Also, some of my customers said that they tried ebooks but didn’t like them. Sure, a few use iPads and Kindles, but people just don’t seem as excited about them as they once did.

. Customers are shocked to learn that the Chapters chain here in Canada collects 55% of every book sold. It’s the main reason I prefer to sell directly to readers, along with the fact that, in the past, my returned books have been damaged.

. The overwhelming majority of young families understandably don’t have time to read. Those pushing strollers rarely stopped by my table to browse unless they were shopping for a mystery fan in their family, which leads to point four.

. Mystery reader demographics haven’t changed in the 20+ years I’ve been selling books. The largest purchasers, and readers, of mysteries are women between forty-five and seventy-five years of age.

. New or would-be writers are still quite confused about whether to self-publish, find an agent, or look for a traditional publisher. I try to give sound advice without going into a long pros and cons list. Mainly, I ask them to think about what they want out of the publishing experience, and to do some research.

Since fees are charged (and they can be quite steep) to acquire a table at craft fairs, and there is often a jurying process, selling at these venues is always a gamble. You never know until the fair is well underway if you’ll earn your money back. As a vendor recently said to me, it’s always a rush when things are going better than expected, but you can’t count on the same results every year. It’s risky to base your expectations on previous year’s successes. So, we’ll see what happens next year because I’ll definitely participate again. I guess it’s the gambler in me.

One of My Favorite Bookselling Events

Last year, a craft fair vendor suggested that I sell my books at a winery. A winery? But my mysteries have nothing to do with wine. She assured me it didn’t matter, and she was right.

Art on the Vine-2

This past Sunday, I spent the day at Township 7’s “Art on the Vine” event. Despite the heat, people came to listen to music, drink wine, and support local artists. Sitting in front of the vines and drinking wine while I chatted with customers was one of the most relaxing and fun bookselling experiences I’ve had.

By the way, Township 7 also has a  winery along Penticton BC’s Naramata Bench, and they also hold Art on the Vine days, along with other events. Check them out HERE.

Art on the Vine-5Can’t wait for next summer! Cheers!