For Day 14 of the Open Mic Creativity and COVID-19 Special Project, I check in with the super versatile Neil Plakcy, whose work ranges from mysteries to thrillers to erotica to romance. Neil is also a classic hybrid author – both legacy and independently published. We talked about how this pandemic is impacting his work and creativity, and how he sees it impacting writers like him going forward.


OM: You are one of the more prolific writers I know. How has this pandemic impacted your writing schedule? 

Plakcy: I don’t consider myself that prolific at all – I listen to a bunch of podcasts by authors who can put out a book a month! My writing schedule is pretty much the same, although I have become my own barista. (And I don’t have to spell my name for anyone!) I have breakfast, brew a cafe mocha, and sit at my kitchen table with my laptop for a couple of hours. Then I switch over to my day job, college professor, though all my work is of course online.


I am waiting to publish anything new for a while, though. There are so many free books out there, and folks focusing on helping those with new releases that can’t get F2F attention, that I’m just editing and revising and stockpiling.


OM: A lot of writers I know have been struggling with staying motivated. Have you experienced this?

Plakcy: It’s tough to stay focused sometimes when there is so much bad news out there. I try to avoid watching or reading the news too much.


OM: Has anything positive come out of all this for you yet?

Plakcy: Interestingly, about six years ago I came up with an idea for a pandemic novel. I had a college sabbatical soon after that, and spent a big chunk of time writing a massive opus. The first hundred pages, about how the virus developed and spread, were great, but the rest of the book got away from me, so I put it aside. When the COVID-19 first struck, I looked back at that book and decided to publish the first 100 as a self-contained novella. It’s called The Burning Water and I really like it. If I could only rope the rest of the story into a coherent plot!


OM: You are the classic hybrid author – a mix of traditional and indie publishing. How do you see this impacting the publishing industry?

Plakcy: That’s a great question, and I think a lot depends on how long the quarantine lasts. Will Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores be able to bounce back after being closed?


I think many of the smallest independent publishers will survive, if they have been careful with expenses, and usually pay employees and authors out of the royalty stream. Their employees are usually free-lancers who do what they do out of love, and have other sources of income. And this might be a great time for those small publishers who don’t pay advances and don’t spend a lot on advertising to build up their pipeline.


The somewhat larger small publishers, who have physical locations, employee salaries, and so on — they’ll be in trouble if sales slow. The very largest publishers may end up laying off workers and consolidating imprints.


The people who are suffering most are those who have new releases that depend on publicity, in-person events, and publicists coordinating reviews. I’ve seen several authors and reviewers rallying to support those authors, but will it be enough?


OM: Any new projects we can tell readers about?

Plakcy: Just The Burning Water, if readers have an appetite for a fictional exploration of what’s going on around us now.



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