It’s been less than two months since the coronavirus outbreak started, but in the past two weeks, the impact of this pandemic has reached global proportions. It’s no longer a threat to citizens of a continent on the other side of the world—it’s a threat to communities everywhere.
The situation changes daily, leaving people worried, stressed out, distracted, and fearful. Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) has disrupted life to differing degrees for each of us, but the bottom line is that life right now is far from normal.
As a small business owner, you need to be aware of how this crisis could impact operations—what does it mean for you, your readers, your business partners, your suppliers? How will it impact sales, production, distribution, and promotion?
I don’t have any easy answers on how to best deal with the sweeping effects of coronavirus, but I’d like to offer five strategies for managing your author business during crises and upheaval.
1. Put your oxygen mask on first. You hear this advice from flight attendants before every flight, and with good reason. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. When confronted with any crisis (big or small, global or personal), take time to assess what you need—practical, emotional, and physical. Activate your support system or deal with preparations, and then get back to business. Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily a linear process. As the situation changes, you may need to step away from work from time to time.
This strategy includes ongoing self-care. Manage stress through meditation, exercise, getting enough sleep, confiding in trusted friends, stepping away from the news and media, eating nutritious food, listening to music. It’s easy to wallow in panic and fear–taking control where you can is empowering and eases that sense of overwhelm.
2. Know your priorities. When confronting a crisis, you may find your resources (physical and mental) are limited. Are you now taking care of children because schools are closed? Are you too distracted by worries and concerns to focus on writing? Have travel restrictions stranded you in a foreign country? Take time out to prioritize work tasks. What is most important and cannot be deferred? What is next is terms of value vs. effort? What can be adjourned for later? Knowing what needs to be done and when is helpful in managing stress and sharpening focus.
3. Adjust expectations. When faced with a multitude of distractions, productivity is the first casualty. Your word count may be down or you may have to step back from commitments. Engagement with readers may decrease or take on a different tone. Service providers may require an extension or more flexibility than usual. Sales might drop. A disruption in service/operations may cause problems. Most importantly, maintain your professionalism. Poor attitudes do little to improve any situation. Look for creative solutions to problems and be flexible.
4. Look for opportunities. The world is a scary place right now. Share resources, acknowledge the struggle, lend a sympathetic ear. All of this can lead to a stronger, more authentic connection with people. Can’t focus on your current WIP? Try writing something else and sharing it with readers as a free read in your newsletter or on your blog. Temporarily discount your books so people can escape from reality without worrying about the cost. (I got a newsletter today from one author who discounted her books to 99¢ and even offered a free download option for folks who couldn’t afford to pay a buck for each book. That generosity inspired me to buy her books even though I don’t usually read that genre.)
5. Be honest and transparent. These are challenging times for all of us, and that includes small business owners. Continue to communicate with your customers (readers, author peers, editor, agent, cover designer, publicist, etc.) and be upfront if the crisis interferes in operations. If a release date needs to be pushed back, announce it to your readers. If you won’t be able to meet a deadline, work with your editor to reschedule. If you need to downsize operations, let service providers know as soon as possible.
How is the current situation impacting your author business? What are you doing to cope and manage? Reply to this email to share your thoughts and suggestions. I’d love to share them with others!