Reflections: 2022 US Book Show & The Publishing Industry

by Laura


On May 24, 2022 I tuned in to the virtual US Book Show where industry experts from multiple backgrounds shared their frustrations, concerns, optimism, and ideas for pushing the industry forward.    

What Does a Healthy Publishing Industry Look Like?

When thinking about a healthy publishing industry, panelists reflected on the impact the events of the last few years have had along with the current state they are in.  Observations and ponderings shared include…

  • Writers income declined during the pandemic as it became harder to sell new books. This is supported by a survey showing that 55% of authors incomes are still down from pre-covid levels.
  • There was an artificial shift to book sales and publishing as a result of the pandemic and now, coming out of it, we are seeing a shift in consumer behavior away from books.
  • Supply chain issues require more time and attention each day than previously, and burnout is happening across publishing houses.
  • With consumers moving online, how do you reach those that were found online during the pandemic into the bookstore now that they are open?
  • It is harder to get serious books talked about as the buzz seems to be directed to a few titles.

So what will it take to move the publishing industry to a healthy state? Panelists shared the trends they are seeing and offered their thoughts…

  • “What a healthy society needs are great books written by people who have spent their entire lives working on their crafts. Gifted writers working on their crafts. These are books that might not sell as well, but they move forward the society. A robust publishing ecosystem would reflect the voices of all Americans,” offered Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild.
  • IPG CEO Joe Matthews said “Never waste a crisis. The pandemic has opened conversations about things that were going on before such as: Can we plan the supply chain rather than just in time? Can we stop putting the list price on the back of books to open pricing to independent booksellers? There are also talks around the standardization of digital programs and digital print. These are sliver linings.”
  • Alternative revenue streams for authors are cropping up such as tv shows, podcasts, TikTok, and serialization platforms.
  • With consumers becoming hybrid (online and instore), there needs to be staffing, processes, and training to support this hybrid model. In addition, Donya Craddock, co-owner of The Dock Bookshop, finds that “The skill set of new hires is not there; there is a need to expand training programs for staff.”
  • Support behind independent booksellers is needed – they are the market makers. Morgan Entrekin, CEO and Publisher, Grove Atlantic shared, “We need to try to continue to educate authors and publishers that the service booksellers provide is absolutely priceless. We have to find a way to make it work, be it through underwriting or marketing programs.”

Check out PW’s recap of the session by clicking this link What Does a Healthy Publishing Industry Look Like?

How Has Covid Changed the Industry for Good?

Today’s publishing work culture and landscape was the focus of the second session I attended. Here are a few takeaways and ponderings from the session panel…

  • “It feels like we have lived through a war together,” remarked Jennifer Enderlin, President and Publisher, The St. Martin’s Publishing Group. “Those that worked through the pandemic together seemed to have forged stronger bonds. There is a greater sense of looking out for one another and checking in. Now when we see people, we are grateful to see them.”
  • “Things that you normally overheard in the workplace and learned from… how do you replace this learning in a way that feels organic?” questioned Monica Odom, Founder and Literary Agent, Odom Media Management.
  • There is a mix of everyone that wants to stay home or go back in to the office and it is not specific to new hires or executives, people of all ranks are mixed on this. There is no one size fits all.
  • “Companies that have successful workplaces make space for different employees at different stages of their life who need different things. Publishers do not need to be so set in their ways – you can read a manuscript anywhere now days,” remarked Anjali Singh, Literary Agent, Ayesha Pande Literary.
  • “Would anyone even conceive of building an office nowdays?” questioned Paul Bogaards, Owner, Bogaards Public Relations LLC.
  • What is missing from working remotely is that we are not having as much fun together,” observed Julia Sommerfeld, Publisher, Amazon Publishing, “We are trying to figure out how to make room for lighter moments and connections.”
  • It can be difficult for those working remotely that don’t have a history with the company to figure out how things work and where they fit.
  • The daily editor lunches may be a thing of the past, but lunches for important visits will still continue. Zoom can’t replace the relationships you build over going out to lunch together.
  • The pandemic put a spotlight on outdated ways of doing business.

Check out PW’s recap of the session by clicking this link: The Pandemic and Publishing: How Has Covid Changed the Industry for Good?