Treating an infected book launch
Updated: May 7, 2020
Like every other industry, the publishing industry is being upended. Earlier this week, New York Times reporter Alexandra Alter wrote about how publishers are pushing back the release of dozens of books to the summer and fall. The owner of my local bookstore penned a story on Slate wondering whether her business can survive the Covid-19 crisis.
My first book, Strategy First, is caught in the middle of this maelstrom. I faced some tough strategic questions. How does the crisis affect the book content? Release date? Print quantity? Marketing?
Unfortunately for me, the book content was completed just before the crisis began.
I do have a whole chapter titled “Adapting to the Tides,” which highlights the importance of considering changes in the external environment when forging your strategy.
But, since it did not exist when I wrote the chapter, I did not specifically mention the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), and the stories I tell in that section are about how climate change has impacted business strategy. Can I really have a strategy book released on June 16th without mentioning Covid-19? Is it even wise to release the book on June 16th in the first place? Business talks, one way I promote the book, have been postponed until some unknown future date. Brick and mortar bookstores are closed and business books sales, depending on the subcategory, are currently down 10% to 35%.
The flip side is that delaying the book comes with a new set of challenges. Business book content ages and is less relevant over time. Releasing Strategy First in the fall also meant the book would face the headwinds of the election, the many other delayed books coming out a once, the unpredictability of the economy at that point, and the material costs to try and add Covid-19 business strategy content to the book. Plus, the lessons of the Covid-19 crisis are still being learned. I could talk about and provide insight and tips about dealing with the crisis, but the supporting stories are still in their early chapters.
Ultimately, with all this in mind, I have decided to keep the original release date of June 16th.
Working with my publisher, we managed to add a few sentences to the book that the Covid-19 pandemic started just as the book was going to press and referring readers to my website: bradchase.net, for some strategy thoughts, lessons, and insights regarding Covid-19. Perhaps that is unusual for books, but it really shouldn’t be, and I concluded it was the best option to provide my readers with the best, most timely content on Covid-19. I already authored a two-part blog post on the subject. If you haven’t read it yet, you can start here: We Need a National Coronavirus Plan (part I).
Also, just to be safe, even though it increases my print costs per book 6%, I decided to cut my first printing run by just over 15%. I can always print more books if Strategy First does well. In addition, if book sales are strong, I will update Strategy First in the future with a new edition.
I already had planned to focus my marketing efforts online, so I don’t have to make any material changes to that strategy.
Did I make the right bet by referring readers to my website for Covid-19 information and leaving my book launch on June 16th? I welcome your feedback and commentary.