How the Australian Book Community is Responding to the Pandemic with Creativity

The outbreak of COVID-19 and efforts to slow the spread of the virus has seen the rapid shutdown of workplaces, book launches and events across our creative community. ABDA itself has postponed our annual Book Design Awards until later in 2020.

Many of us are turning to creativity in isolation, with designers continuing to share work in an effort to stay connected. Cancelled festivals are moving some events online, while authors, booksellers and publishers are developing new ways to connect their books to readers, despite the new-found remoteness.

It’s more important than ever that the book design community come together to support our industry at this time. We’ve rounded up a few of the brilliant ways Australian publishing is responding to the pandemic below.

Daily iso inspo

Our friends at Jacky Winter have launched a new site dedicated to sharing work from their artists to inspire other “inspiration-stuck” creatives as well as resources for little ones staying home. ‘Homeroom’ offers a fun sneak-peek into what the Jacky Winter artists are getting up to including studio-tours and work-from-home tips. ABDA Book Design Awards 2020 judge Beci Orpin has shared her home studio and ABDA member Alice Oehr takes viewers through her delightful new book. Events will be live-streamed and available to watch later on the website.

Colour, colour, colour!

Australian artists and illustrators are also sharing creative activities for both big and little people to do at home. Adriana Picker has created downloadable colouring sheets (available by signing up to her newsletter via her website), while author, artist and illustrator Meredith Gaston has created free colouring-in printables to calm an anxious mind. Beci Orpin’s services to frazzled parents continues with her new Instagram account @easy_iso_craft featuring simple and inexpensive craft projects to keep everyone occupied inside.

Crowdfunded cookbooks

Book Designer and Director at Neighbourhood Creative Vaughan Mossop has developed ‘Take away’, an independent cookbook series to support the local Geelong hospitality industry. Featuring around 30 recipes alongside photography and illustration, the standard format paperback cookbooks are listed on the Neighbourhood Creative website for pre-order, with contributors including designers, editors, photographers and illustrators receiving a minority share of the books profit. The series aims to financially assist both the local restaurant and creative community involved.

Booksellers go above and beyond the physical

With many bookstores’ physical shopfronts closed to browsing and access to libraries limited, booksellers are working harder than ever to connect readers with stories. Many are operating through their online stores offering free local delivery options and curb-side pickup. (Kill Your Darlings editor Alan Vaarwerk has even created a map of Melbourne Booksellers’ Delivery areas.)

Books+Publishing has collated an extensive list of the ways bookshops across the country are responding to the crisis, including opening store phone lines for book recommendations from their staff. (Books+Publishing has also stated their coverage related to the current pandemic and how the book trade is responding is free to read, even if you’re not a subscriber.)

Several bookshops including The Little Bookroom and Harry Hartog are curating individual reading lists via an online questionnaire.

With book launches and author events now cancelled across the country due to Covid-19 prevention measures, a new digital platform to connect the literary community has been created. OzAuthors Online will connect authors, publishers and booksellers to their readers because, as they say ‘Books are Family, Books are Community – and reading will get us through.’ Currently the volunteer organisation will use YouTube to livestream and post discussions for those authors whose events have been cancelled.

Stay-at-home readings

Australian children’s book authors are also endeavouring to reach their readers, with many recording stay-at-home readings of their books. Author and ABDA Book Design Awards 2020 judge Davina Bell has read her wildly popular All the Ways to Be Smart and Under the Love Umbrella (both illustrated by ABDA member Allison Colpoys) available on her Instagram, while Jane Godwin has a new series reading many of her picture books including her most recent release: I’ll Always be Older than You. 

Squishy Minnie Bookstore is offering storytime online through their Youtube channel, with weekly episodes features 3 stories read aloud, the first featuring friend of ABDA Sophie Beer’s Kindness Makes Us Strong.

Australian authors including Alison Lester and Kirli Saunders have also filmed live readings for Talu Tales, available on their website.

Virtual inspiration

With their doors now temporarily closed to the public, several of Australia’s largest galleries and museums are offering virtual exhibition tours and artist talks online. If you’re in need of some creative inspiration, The National Gallery of Victoria has several interactive self-guided tours on their website, while The Art Gallery of New South Wales is hosting a series under the hashtag #TogetherInArt (including a charming art lesson from painter Ben Quilty with his daughter Livvy).

Creatives in need of work

The wonderful people at AGDA have developed the ‘Australian Creatives in need of work’ spreadsheet, a Google Sheet free to edit and add to (whether you are an AGDA member or not) giving all creatives that have found themselves out of, or short on work and opportunity to list their contact details.


We’ll be updating this list with more initiatives as creatives do their bit to keep our community connected. If you have something you’d like to share please email ABDA on info@abda.com.au