While the pandemic is largely in the rearview mirror, its effects still linger. At the height of the crisis, there were season-pushing delays in supply chains and even books thrown overboard in shipping disasters. Canceled trade shows and work-from-home disrupted established marketing and publicity practices, leading some to retire them permanently. Though much has resolved, the period of transition continues.
Inflation and the costs of living and of books weigh heavily on publishers’ minds. “Flat is the new up,” jokes John Mendelson, president of Nosy Crow. “Every book has to earn its place.”
Supply chain issues have smoothed out, but paper costs and shipping costs continue to increase and impact profit margins, says Anita Eerdmans, president and publisher of Eerdmans Publishing. “We are continuing to see soft sales in the library and educational wholesale markets,” she adds. “We are seeing the largest sales declines in the K–6 school library market.” That result is far from isolated, but some speculate this is related more closely to book bans than the aftermath of the pandemic.
“The drop in school and library sales, thanks to book challenges and restrictive local and state-level legislation, makes me really concerned about the whole middle grade ecosystem,” says Molly Ker Hawn at the Bent Agency. “Not just because I want those books to sell well for the sake of selling well, but because the school and library market is crucial for creating readers who grow up to read—and buy books—as teenagers and adults.”
Hybrid or remote work seems to have become the norm in publishing. “Speaking as someone who’s worked from home since 2015, I’m inclined to point out a positive residual effect,” says Andrew Karre, executive editor at Dutton Books for Young Readers. “I have never felt more connected to my far-flung colleagues and authors than now, and much of that is attributable to tools and processes put in place in 2020. It’s only gotten better in the last three years, and I’m glad my situation is becoming more common. That’s good for our industry.”