“Serenity Now!” Needs Resiliency Now

In the final season of Seinfeld, the character Frank Costanza was advised to peacefully say “serenity now” to counteract his angry temper. What happened instead was that every time he started to lose his temper, Frank shouted “Serenity Now!” Lately, I’ve been feeling like doing the same. But what I think I really need is not serenity but resiliency—which may be a step towards serenity.

Resilience is becoming everyone’s watchword during this pandemic, and the publishing industry is certainly embodying resiliency. The spring and summer are usually rife with book fairs and festivals, book launches, and author readings. Publishers Weekly, the industry standard, is now open access for all. They’re keeping an up-to-date “COVID-19 Impact Listing” of such events being either canceled or postponed. That list may seem bleak, but Publishers Weekly also notes the transformation of several events into digital events. That’s where resilience comes in. These events include (but certainly are not limited to) the ones listed below.

ABAA Virtual Book FairAUPresses 2020: Virtual Annual Meeting
Pen America Launches All-Digital Pen World
Voices Festival 2020
Book Expo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month

Resilience helps our industry realize how change makes opportunity which requires innovation. R. J. Julia Booksellers, based in Connecticut, managed to retain their 30 full-time employees during COVID-19 by putting such resilience into action. Roxy Coady, the owner, persuaded their customers to purchase books from R. J. Julia that the bookseller would then donate to school children receiving lunches in the New Haven public schools. R. J. Julia sold enough books for K-8 students to receive one book a week for four weeks in a row. The booksellers’ revenue amounted to $150,000—enough to retain their employees.

What Coady did was meet their business’s needs by meeting their customers’ needs: their desire to help both bookstores and food insecure children.

Another example of booksellers’ innovation is Books-A-Million’s new program: Talk to a Bookseller. This program promotes the special services that bookstores provide their customers.

Resilience is useful at all times, not just during this stressful pandemic. Research at the University of Sussex suggests that reading effectively overcomes stress. Perhaps reading has helped those in the publishing industry overcome stress enough to develop resilience. I’ll read a book now to see if that works for me.

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