What’s it like to debut as an author this year?

Terrible. Ms. Ninja and I both have books coming out next year and we’re both relieved and frightened. Relieved it’s not this year, and frightened next might be just a version of this. This article seems to be mostly about how to get sales, which is not the primary concern of poetry, but really probably should be. If I were a debut author this year, I’d be silently crying the blues for my years of hard work. Do you or someone you know have a book out this year? Leave your thoughts and tears below.

“The toughest thing has been trying to figure out how to monetize these events,” said Jeff Martin, president and co-founder of Magic City Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “We get great attendance, but they’re mostly free events. And whereas before we’d have lots of book sales for some of these, that model has not quite solidified yet.”

Many bookstores have experimented with selling tickets to some of their online author events, but Magic City Books has only had success doing that with big name authors, like Colson Whitehead, John Grisham or John Waters.

“It seems like you really need to have those top-tier people to be able to do that,” Martin said. “We’re still trying to figure that out in terms of younger debut authors, or someone who might not have the same name recognition as kind of these ‘celebrity authors.’”

Even more challenging for first-time authors than the move to virtual events is the fact that so many bookstores have been closed, or open just for limited browsing.

“That creates a very challenging environment for debut authors and for publishers who publish them,” said Kristen McLean, an industry analyst with NPD Books. “It’s much harder to get attention and get in front of people from a discovery point of view when the only place they’re looking at books is online or in a mass market retailer when they happen to be there to pick up their essentials.”

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