By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘The Work Still Is Going On’When Dioptra Publishing’s staff was informed on Monday (March 16) that it would begin immediately working from home, “Mr. Papadopoulos made the announcement outside our office building under the sun,” says Ermioni Sakellaropoulou.
Of course they were in sunshine. Dioptra’s offices on Paraskevis Street are set in Peristeri, a suburban municipality in metropolitan Athens, northwest of the city center.
Established in 1978, the company focuses on nonfiction. Originally concentrating on nutrition and health, personal development, psychology, and spiritual life, the house has gone on to expand to parental care, cooking, and Greek and international fiction including detective novels and children’s books.
Sakellaropoulou, who is the company rights and acquisitions editor, tells Publishing Perspectives, that CEO Constantine Papadopoulos “urged us to continue our work responsibly as always and added that everything will be back to normal as soon possible—but only if we collaborate and cooperate successfully together.”
And so, Sakellaropoulou and her colleagues said goodbye to each other and dashed home to start sorting out how to work by remote, some caring for kids and other family members while trying to keep the company going from home—an experience being replicated among the staffers of publishers in markets all over the world as the coronavirus COVID-19 extends its relentless reach, a force as darkening and as frightening as anything even the oldest Greek literature described.
Home: A Last Refuge, and an Office
At this writing, Greece has 464 cases of the coronavirus COVID-19, and has registered six deaths from the contagion. (We recommend and use The New York Times’ comprehensive updating mapping and figures, and your local health authority.) In a way, it’s a blessing that Greece so far doesn’t see a more fearful level of spread, being relatively close to its Mediterranean neighbor Italy—which now has surpassed mainland China for deaths, its terrible toll standing at 3,405 and 41,035 cases among the living.
We wanted to know what it’s like to have your work routines suddenly upended—and co-mingled with a homelife, quickly becoming a last refuge for all of us as the contagion explodes.
“Admittedly,” Sakellaropoulou says, “our correspondence from other publishers abroad has kept coming in, although not at the same pace as in the past in the follow-up period after a London Book Fair. But this indicates to us that the work still is going on.”
The bulk of what’s coming in at this point, she says, are new offers and updates on various companies’ interest, inquiries on titles available, and, of course, correspondence about previously made plans for collaborations ahead.
“Hopefully,” she says, “these trying times will come to an end as soon as possible.
“Nevertheless, we’re getting a chance to catch up on some of the tasks we often have to put off—manuscript readings, rights list readings—and we’re giving a lot of attention to titles that have been scheduled for publication and need attention from us.
“As far as my colleagues are concerned,” Sakellaropoulou says, “again through remote working, we’re trying to exchange ideas on how to keep up with the day-to-day workload. We’re exchanging photos and tips for working under these circumstances.
“And of course one of the main talking points in my department is what demands the readership will have after this crisis. Will they still want to buy nonfiction and self-help titles, as they used to in the past few years? Or will they buy fiction so that they can escape from the reality of the present?”
‘My Warmest Wishes to the People of Publishing’
Sakellaropoulou’s perspective on the economic strain Greece has gone through—and the speed with which a new trial is arriving—reflects both the resilience and realism you find in so many in modern Greek business: “I must say, that on one hand,” she says, “my country seems to be more prepared to deal with this public health crisis because we’ve just come out of our debt crisis, so recently. But on the other hand, we’re certainly more vulnerable.”
And in these early days, you can see from the photos that she and her colleagues are still at varying stages in their adjustment to working from their homes.
Nevertheless, Ermioni Sakellaropoulou and her cohorts are game, and shifting gears as quickly as possible to accommodate the emergency.
“I want to send my warmest wishes to all the people of publishing,” she tells us, “and I look forward to seeing you all in person, once again, at our international book fairs, when they finally start operating again.”
If your workday has changed for the coronavirus outbreak, we may be interested in following up with you for an interview. Drop an email to Porter@PublishingPerspectives.com with “Coronavirus Worklife” in the subject line.
In our Spring 2020 Magazine, Publishing Perspectives has interviewed publishers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and authors to present a look at the book business for the coming year. Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including:
- Publishing and the coronavirus
- Richard Charkin’s view of key industry challenges
- China’s growing comic book market
- Brussels Book Fair debuts its rights center
- Eksmo CEO Evgeny Kapyev on Russia’s book market
- Matchmaking for publishers and producers in Latin America
- Book market data
- A world tour of copyright developments
- Translation sales resulting from Norway’s Frankfurter Buchmesse guest of honor program
- An AI startup creating interactive stories
- An interview with author Andrew Keen
Download ‘Publishing in Times of Crisis’ free of charge here.