Blog posts tell the story: Suddenly furloughed, laid-off and otherwise out-of-a-job writers and wannabe’s aren’t wallowing in lonely isolation. They’re pounding the keyboard, even if only to fill all that newfound downtime. David Barnett notes in The Guardian, “If you’re one of those people who always said they would write a novel if only they had the time: This is your moment. As more budding writers self-isolate due to the coronavirus and finally knuckle down on their manuscripts, the publishing industry has already seen a surge in submissions”. Barnett’s 3.26.20 article, “Finally Working On That Novel As You Self-Isolate? You’re Not Alone” cites literary agents who’ve seen incoming queries nearly double and editors’ submissions triple.
Turning shelter-at-home time into productive writing time might be a slightly-silver lining to the dark and ominous clouds looming overhead. But the New York publishing world must be largely shut down and grappling with much bigger things to worry about. Meanwhile, industry expos, conventions, and trade shows have been delayed or cancelled worldwide, and writers’ workshops and events are similarly on hiatus. Bookstores are temporarily shuttered, with many unsure when – or if – they’ll reopen. The world of mid-April already feels different from late March.
So, I’m thinking this is a good time to write. Write and send to your beta readers, write and share with critique partners. In fact, write like the devil. But then, maybe sit tight on all those precious pages till things return to some semblance of normal.
Is this the right time to query or submit, or is it pointless when so many have bigger things to worry about? Even once we cautiously emerge from the sheltering, logic suggests there’ll still be mounds of business for agents, editors and publishers to catch up on, an enormous book inventory backlog in the pipeline to stock still-full shelves, and stalled or cancelled P.O.’s at printers and binderies waiting to go back into production.
I’ve mentioned literary agent Janet Reid’s excellent blog here before (link below), where a 3.25.20 post noted, “While there has been a lot of talk of working from home, what I’m seeing is people worrying from home”. Reid listed some business priorities that needed to be addressed, but conceded, “Reading queries isn’t on that list”. On the other hand, she sounded more upbeat just a few days later and acknowledged that she was looking at queries, reading partials and fulls and getting on with conducting business from home. After all, what else can one do?
Christina Schmidt’s Armed With Coffee site echoed this unease with submitting as if things were still normal. Her 3.31.20 post (link also below), “Publication & Covid-19 (Continuing to f*ck things up)” acknowledged that she’d be reassessing her Spring submission agenda. Sensible scribes are used to rejection and have even grown accustomed to Normans (No Response Means A No), but right now, no response could actually mean something tragically ominous: Not merely that the agent or editor is disinterested, but much worse: That they’re simply…not…there.
You betcha, if time allows, and for many, time is the one thing available right now. But as for queries and subs, that’s your call. Me…I’m holding off for a while. There’ll be time enough to be told no or to hear nothing at all…later.
Photo: Claudia Schiffer by Camilla Akrans