We’ve heard a lot about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on bookstores and book launches and cancelled writing gigs. But what if you haven’t got a book on the shelf yet? What if you’re just about to hit submit and send out your work to agents only to find yourself in the midst of the very dystopian future you once only read about? Now we’re living it.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had a manuscript out on submission; I’ve had plenty of experience with the niggling doubts about whether my writing is good enough and when the dreaded rejection emails will fill my inbox. I never thought I’d be about to submit a manuscript to an agent and wonder whether doing so during a pandemic was the best timing.
So what should we do? It feels like so much of our lives are on ‘hold’ at the moment, but should your novel be on hold too?
If you’re wondering the same thing, then lucky for you I’ve done some very high-end research (thank you Google and Twitter) to get to the bottom of it.
The Submission Process
Firstly, make sure your manuscript is 100% ready.
My manuscript has gone through multiple redrafts and I’ve sought feedback from my writing group, critique partner and an Australian literary agent.
Usually when I complete a novel and it’s out on submission I start the next one, but with an 8-month-old baby and a 4-year old (and a PANDEMIC!) I haven’t been able to carve out the space (physically or mentally) to make a start. So, my plan was to throw myself into submissions. It’s a very time-consuming process. Personalising query letters, pulling out excerpts of 5 pages, 10 pages, 1 chapter or 3 chapters- depending on the agent- fine-tuning my pitch and bio, researching agents and their wishlist and their availability…. it’s like applying for a job!!
BUT what about the pandemic? Are agents looking for new authors to represent at this time? Are publishers still on the lookout for new talent? Am I wasting my time putting in all this effort only to send it out into the world and be ignored because well, pandemic?
Turns out there is hope for us writers.
Should you submit your manuscript to agents during the COVID-19 pandemic?
YES. Agents still want submissions. Woohoo!
But don’t take my word for it.
Jessica Faust from Bookends Literary Agency recently posted this:
“I know I’ve been raiding my Query Manager in search of the next great thing. If I added five clients during this time I would be thrilled. I need a great book to lose myself in. I need to dig in and work on revisions with an author and I need to get something into the hands of editors who are also hungry.”
On the pandemic and the publishing industry she says “It’s too early to tell the full impact of the Coronavirus on publishing…. We can still push forward in our work.”
So, business as usual?
Like most of us, agents and publishers are self-isolating, working from home. Reading. Seeking out escapism.
Former literary agent Mark Malatesta suggests we should keep on querying until we are told otherwise:
“until you start getting a significant percentage of rejections from agents citing coronavirus concerns and closures to submissions, inviting you to check back later, query sooner rather than later. While you can.”
Ready. Set. Go!
If like me, you have a completed manuscript and you find yourself in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic wondering what on earth you do with your 80,000 words? Here’s what to do:
Good luck 🙂