Independent publishers have been hard-pressed these past four months. Closed bookstores, little media attention, a distracted public, Amazon’s new hostility to book orders — it’s a perfect storm. But they’re adapting and surviving. As we emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, we contacted indie presses to find out what state they’re in and their plans moving forward. This is Part 1 in our series. Read about how other small presses are doing here.
Coach House Books is an established indie publishing company set in (you guessed it) a coach house right in the heart of Toronto. Started in 1965 and reborn in 1997, this press has published a wide range of authors, many of whom are considered some of the best writers in Canada and the world. Their recent release, The Seed: Infertility Is a Feminist Issue by Alexandra Kimball, was one of our Spring 2019 Indie Book Picks. We checked in with Coach House Books Editorial Director Alana Wilcox.
BP: How’s COVID-19 affected your company artistically?
Alana Wilcox: We will likely publish fewer titles next year, but it won’t affect the quality of them. What’s hardest is how it’s been on our authors, especially those whose books were delayed or came out but simply weren’t available. It’s heartbreaking!
How are you adapting financially?
While people still very much want to read books, the supply chain that gets books to readers has been hit pretty significantly. Amazon “deprioritized” books, and many bookstores were closed. Media that might have covered books instead focused on the pandemic. And now that stores are starting to reopen, many, including [large Canadian bookstore chain] Indigo, are returning significant numbers of books instead of keeping them on the shelves and trying to sell them. It’s hard to tell at this point how our finances will go, because the returns have just started coming in.
Read our Q&A with Coach House Books writer Amanda Leduc on her
recent release Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space.
Have you found new ways to respond to these challenges?
First, we have a lot of Google Meets! But, we’ve entirely reconfigured book promotion, working to figure out virtual events really quickly, and having big sales on our own website. We’re still trying to figure out foreign rights sales, as all the international book fairs have been or will be cancelled.
Have you found any new opportunities amidst all this?
The appetite for virtual author events hasn’t been enormous, but it’s bigger than we thought. Our annual late-summer Wayzgoose party will be a virtual one this year, which is a bummer, but it gives us the opportunity to open it up to people around the world.
Some of our favourite reads this year came from Coach House Books. Check out: ‘POP’ a groundbreaking take on toxic relationships