Write. Then, Sit Tight.

claudia schiffer camilla akrans

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.

Golden Gloves Typewriter Illustration copy

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.

So…write?

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

https://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

https://armedwithcoffee.com/2020/03/31/publication-covid-19-continuing-to-fck-things-up/

Not Sucking Up, I Swear.

4 writers

No, this isn’t a literary agent suck-up…

An old Huffington Post article referred to writer Anais Nin (seen above, top right) as ‘the original blogger’. Not really of course, there being no internet for her, but her release of portions of her diaries and journals was akin to blogging, or so the article explained. Makes you wonder what writers from the recent past would think of social media and writer’s blogs.  I follow my share, though often unfollowing quick enough if I conclude that the blogs are only self-promotion sites cluttering my inbox with redundant “Buy My Book!” posts. Publishing professionals’ blogs are much more rare, many literary agents and acquisition editors understandably too busy with their jobs to feel like posting about the biz in their down time.

But when I come across a good one, I really pay attention.

I’d already queried Janet Reid at New Leaf Literary & Media (though New Leaf queries are directed to a generic inbox) and promptly received my polite form rejection about a week later, signed by Ms. Reid (but could’ve been from her assistant, an intern, or who knows). As any actively querying writer realizes, a rejection isn’t necessarily an agent or editor saying that “You suck” or “Your work sucks, too”, (though, of course, it could be) and can just as easily be no more than “Not right for me”, “I already have something just like it”, or the agent’s overloaded and is more or less shooting out form rejections to damn near everything that comes in. Whatever Ms. Reid’s rejection meant, a tip of the hat to her for adhering to traditional biz communication protocol and bothering to send the form rejection. Not unlike employers with resumes/job applications, the number of agencies that forego any reply at all is disappointing.

Still – Query sent. Reply received. Case closed. So…no suck up here. Clear?

Janet Reid Blog

Because this is actually a shout-out to writers and writer wannabes: Make a point of following Janet Reid’s excellent blog (link below). Reid used to run the Query Shark blog, where brave, thick-skinned writers submitted real queries for her critique. Which could be pretty merciless. With a shared sense of humor, but still…pretty merciless. Which is good. However, Query Shark appears to have been dormant since March, so perhaps it’s on hiatus, or Reid’s devoting her time to her regular blog instead, or Query Shark simply was folded into that blog, or moved, or…

No matter, Reid’s blog is a treasure trove of pull-no-punches advice and practical guidance on countless topics of interest to writers, whether beginners, pro’s or anything in between. And, it’s often quite funny. Reid has a wicked, whimsical sense of humor and a real way with words, enough to turn many un-fun topics into chuckle-worthy chats. The blog’s been going since 2004, and the archives have hundreds (thousands?) of posts, so be warned: Stop by for a peek and you could get lost for days. I follow her daily posts via BlogLovin’ and am diligently working backwards through the archives a few-per-day. It’s so informative (and entertaining), I almost feel like I should be paying Reid tuition.  You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

So, an agent’s rejection? Oh well, that’s to be expected. But I’m glad to have discovered Janet Reid’s blog, and encourage you to take a look too.

Jetreidliterary.blogspot.com

(Author photos: Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin, Carson McCullers, Phillip Roth)

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