With more than 60 books to her credit as an author and countless more as an editor, Jennifer Sander has ridden the publishing industry’s ups and downs as well as anyone. I checked in with her recently to see how she is holding up during this pandemic and how she thinks it might impact the industry going forward.
OM: How has this pandemic impacted you? Have you been able to stay safe and healthy?
Sanders: First and foremost, everyone in my circle of family and friends is fine. We are all taking this very seriously and heeding the advice of the medical experts.
OM: How has it impacted you as a writer? Has it changed anything about how or when you write?
Sanders: My most recent book project is dead in the water, I’m afraid, as it was a literary travel guide to Paris. Not only is this the wrong time to find a publisher for a travel book, but sheesh, Paris? And one that is filled with info on funky bookshops and writers’ cafes, how many of those will still be in business when this is finally behind us? So I might, maybe sorta kinda, perhaps… get back to a long stalled novel in progress. I’ve got 80,000 words already but have only worked on it in fits and starts for the past few years.
I am concerned about the publishing world and the long term effects on the industry. Because fewer bookstores (how many of those shuttered Barnes and Nobles are really going to reopen? And the plucky indie stores are trying hard but not all will survive) means fewer advance orders for new books which means first print runs are smaller which means margins are slimmer (and book printers are closing up shop too, both in the US and Canada, and imagine the effects on four color printing in China where every fancy coffee table book is printed and then sent on cargo ships which are also in flux now…) which means many publishers won’t make it through. Several (including two publishers that I have new books with) companies have begun to lay-off staff. Sigh. Another sigh.
OM: The news cycle is so depressing. How do you tear yourself away from all that and keep a positive outlook?
Sanders: Instead of obsessing over the news I’ve been out walking, baking bread to share with neighbors and, of course, reading books. I’ve also begun giving my Literary Secrets of Sacramento tour for free over Zoom. Instead of driving folks around to various spots in my Jeep and then giving out chocolate brownies made from Joan Didion’s personal recipe, I just sit at a table with a glass of wine and a stack of books to dish on some rather juicy stuff.
Trying to keep this in perspective, the history of our world is a long one, and there have been worse times. And on that cheerful note, stay home and stay healthy!