Guest post by Patti M Hall
It’s a difficult time to be launching a book into the world.
I’d been thinking this and worse to myself in these weeks leading up to my memoir’s publication date, April 25th. And, it wasn’t just me thinking it. You were thinking it too. (You were likely even saying how glad you were that you weren’t releasing a book right now.) We’ve all been cringing as much-anticipated books with their accessory publicity machines, released and then had multi-city book tours cancelled. We watched, peeking between our fingers as these authors then took to social media and vulnerably talked to readers about how rotten the situation was. We grieved as our favourite local bookseller closed the doors, and then celebrated wildly when they decided to fill orders online.
Writers, with and without the platform we are all told we need, and even many lacking the necessary extroversion gene, are funneling their energy into creative ways to help books find their readers.
My release date slipped under the wire when cut offs for printing were being chosen. Because my book was printed, warehoused, and in some cases shipped to bookstores, mine will be dropping a few days from now.
I don’t have strong feelings about it though. COVID-19 is tempering our reactions to disappointment. I’m not asking myself who is going to have an easier time getting their book into the world, me or my friend whose publication date is now pushed into 2021. In the time of COVID, there is no comparison. No one is doing better than anyone else right now. We are united in our fear, amazement, and cautious optimism.
Acceptance when confronted with medical challenges isn’t part of me. Looking for situational advantages when it comes to medical matters is something my readers will see me grow skilled at in my memoir. My son was diagnosed with an uber-rare disease, but we eventually found treatment, and although it took years to see much measurable success, it did come. Through it all, we always had the capacity to know that it could be worse for us. We knew what other families were facing. Medical crisis consumes all the compassion you have for your ill loved one, but it also permanently produces a reservoir of empathy that fills the gaps within you like water fills the spaces between river rocks.
When a diagnosis changed my son’s life trajectory, the impact was like the tectonic plates had shifted and our Before was out of jumping distance from the After where we found ourselves. I believe that COVID-19’s time will be a continental divide in how we do everything. I’m talking about more than books here. I believe our uninhibited proclivity for gatherings, unabashed willingness to cram into an airplane with a hundred or more other people (where the filtration system runs on a continuous loop, and we sit thigh to thigh, our faces about a foot away from one another), will be changed forever. And we’ll do it differently somehow. We will pivot into new behaviours and new boundaries in the After.
I’m excited to see what the publishing industry is going to do differently. Innovation in book marketing is only the beginning. I’m honoured to be among the authors that will have a virtual book launch, film a selfie interview to discuss the book’s themes on my social media pages, and record myself reading excerpts to send as an e-mail thank you to people who buy my book online.
I’m hearing from people that they don’t think writers are too affected by the COVID shelter-in-place restrictions. We stay home all the time working anyway, and by choice, they say. The mental montage of the writer as loft-dwelling loner, and unbathed squinty-eyed recluse, still prevails in people’s minds. I think we will be correcting a lot of stories about the nature of writing, promotion, and publishing in the coming months. We might even convince our judgy neighbours that we actually do get out of our sweatpants sometimes!
Patti M. Hall is a non-fiction writer and writing coach. She lives with her two sons in Bradford, Ontario.