relatively unimportant notes from a small press

Does anyone need this newsletter today? No, of course not. But I’ve been mainly at home since Sunday, self-quarantining, as I returned from a trip on March 3 with a cold and it seemed sensible (I am no longer sick): it helps to do some writing as a break from news and twitter!

Here are the Belt Publishing responses to COVID, as it were:

-On Monday morning I emailed the staff and told everyone to take the week off (paid). Seemed like an easy thing we could all do, since our schedules meant nothing urgent would be delayed (and the knowledge that many things beyond our control would be delayed anyway).

—On Tuesday I bumped publication of four titles back. One was due to publish June 2, and we moved it to June 30, with hopes we could have a party to launch it by then. I also delayed my book a month, to late July (sorry!), because I expect that soon there will be delays in parts of the book production and distribution chain that we need to build in. One book we were planning to publish before the election we decided to delay until afterwards.

—We had two authors doing events this week, and most were canceled. I hurt for the authors, but have no reservations it was, and will continue to be, the right thing.

—On Wednesday I emailed the staff and let them know to expect uncertainty a few months from now. Since a good portion of our cashflow comes 3 months after sales of our books, I have a good sense of what things will look like in April and May, but come June the numbers are impossible to predict, and it felt better for me to be upfront about that sooner rather than later. All of us are independent contractors (all also have other gigs they do in addition to Belt work, as no one except for me is full time). This week is the first I regretted this is the way we are set-up; I hope that regret will quickly pass.

—On Wednesday I also lowered all our ebook prices (something I had been meaning to do for ages, and kept forgetting.) Seemed an easy thing to do to make some titles more available to some folks.

—Yesterday I left the house (!) and went to our office, which is located in a building where there are never other people, so social distancing is easy to practice. I packed up four boxes of orders of our April titles; the final copies had arrived last week. It was very soothing work!

—Then I settled in and started thinking down the line. Will printers still be operating on the same schedule? How about trucking companies? What about paper supply? I have been through one bankruptcy of a distributor, so I’m wondering about the fiscal health of our current one. I’m trying to get my head around what may (or may not) happen over the next few months.

I am not panicked; just trying to prepare, clear-eyed and realistically. And today, none of this matters much: what does is staying home as much as possible, helping those who will feel the economic brunt first (I walked around my neighborhood yesterday, went into my favorite local establishments, and gave out tips-in-advance to all, as they will be losing my business for awhile). Books don’t spoil, or get infected: they will be there after we weather this crisis. (And they are here now, too :)

We are all in this together.

What I’ve Been Watching: I watched this interview with an epidemiologist on Sunday, and it informed my behavior this week.

Shout Out: The most unlikely of all: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine! He’s been exemplary all week.