Life As a Book Publisher in Wartime Ukraine

From The Literary Hub:

Vivat, where I work as a publicity manager, is one of the largest publishers in Ukraine. In pre-war times, it published more than 400 new books each year, and the rights to its books were sold to more than 24 countries in the world. The publishing house has 117 employees, who are now scattered across the world. The city of Kharkiv, where Vivat is based, has been under fire from the first day of the war to the present day; its offices are still intact, but the work there has terminated.

The first month of the war passed with all staff in search of safe places, working mainly to survive; the first and most important goal for the publisher was to keep people safe. To date, 95 percent of all the company employees have been evacuated from the city. Some stayed in the country but moved to quieter places; others left the country while hoping to return. City authorities have stated unequivocally: There are no safe areas in the city anymore. Wherever you are, you may be killed by a Russian missile.

At the same time, even in safety, not everyone could continue their work, as some did not have the technical facilities to do so; all the company’s equipment was left behind in Kharkiv. In spite of those difficulties, we were able to establish new work processes, especially thanks to employees who collected and sent equipment away from the city during the first month of the war.

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In addition to what was left behind at the office, there was another enormous problem for the publishing house: its warehouses are also located in Kharkiv, from which it is not possible to transfer books because of constant shelling. Attempts are still being made to relocate books in small batches to a relatively safe area. However, it is not yet possible to provide the pre-war assortment, delivery frequency, and operation of the online store.

The main income of the publishing house, as it is not difficult to guess, is the sale of books. Given the problems with the warehouse, the company’s financial losses to date amounted to 90 percent, compared to this time last year. The bulk of financial expenses, for the company, is due to the publishing house’s commitment to staff: the main goal is to keep the same members of the team working, even at reduced salaries. That is, no layoffs to save money.

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Profit recovery is currently taking place on several fronts. One of the main ones is in the sale of rights abroad. Since the beginning of the war, the demand for Ukrainian books has significantly increased. Certainly, such an interest mostly owes to the growth of Ukrainian refugees abroad; people who have been forced to leave their homes want to read books in their native language, and books provide an opportunity to stay in touch with their country and their lives before the war.

Among these refugees there are many mothers with children, so books are also a necessity for them, due to their new language surroundings. However, foreigners themselves have also become much more interested in Ukrainian books. People want to know more about Ukrainian history, everyday life, art, and traditions. Because of this, Vivat is entering more actively the international market and establishing new offices. Soon we will open a new office in Poland to distribute books there.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub