Good question. Does anyone involved closely with the publishing world have an answer? I submitted my second novel to several agents/small publishers during late December - early February. The rejections have now dried up but I've had some encouraging feedback along the way. Effectively my novel is now dormant while I wait for the final responses, but should I continue to wait when I know that some agents/publishers won't even bother to get a clerk to tap a key and send a one-line 'No Thanks'? Should I focus my energies on self-publication instead? This would require me to spend ~ £2-3K on professional proof-reading, production and circulation before I bit the dastardly marketing bullet (gulp!). In my self-isolation, I'm not twiddling my thumbs. I'm pressing on with my third novel and will soon be in a position to order the first critique of Part 1. Does anyone have any advice on strategy for someone like me; I imagine there are many of us.
What I would say is that the agent industry (and publishing in general really) skews female and many, many (though of course not all) are the main caregivers for children who are now out of school. I would expect that it'll take longer to get responses, that it will be harder for a lot of agents to read in peace accept in the evenings, and that calls with editors will be less frequent and lunches (the fuel of publishing) non-existent.
Existing clients will also need agents to help navigate postponed launches, supermarket orders changing, retailers closing etc. So that will eat a lot of time that might otherwise have been spent reading submissions.
Sorry that's rubbish news! And of course just my opinion. But I would expect everything in publishing to take longer right now (and that's what I'm experiencing as an author, sadly).
Hi Keith, I would keep looking for an agent. Self-publishing is not only expensive but you won't get the marketing machine of a publisher to back you up. I released two novels on Amazon a few years ago but they don't sell in great numbers partly because people are not aware of them. I have finished a novel that takes place in Victorian England and will now try to find an agent. I have also started out drafting another novel that takes place in today's England, but with the Corona virus spreading I am self-isolating and cannot do any field research. I'll just write as much as I can for now and will fill in the details hopefully later this year. Separately, I have completed a novel in Swedish and was going to have it released in Stockholm in May, but I told the publisher to hold off for now because everyone seems to be preoccupied with the pandemic.
Thank you, Holly and Rolf. Both posts are actually very helpful. On balance, I think Holly has tipped me into getting a line/copy edit done for my completed novel. I agree it will be costly (I've done it before), but at least the MS will be better for it and, if an agent did ask to see the full MS, the extra layer of editing can only be to my advantage. There is another factor influencing my decision (which I didn't mention in my post) - my age! At 69, it's going to take something better than outstanding to garner the interest of an agent and realistically, I was just hoping that some small publisher would find my work a potentially interesting addition to their lists. As an aside, since I started full-time writing three years ago, I've been acutely aware of Holly's observation that the publishing industry is skewed towards (dominated by) females (all of them young and attractive, in fact). Why is this? Why are there no ugly old blokes?
Oh, to be clear I didn't mean authors are predominantly female - and definitely not all young and conventionally attractive. I'm 40 and plenty of my peers are around my age and older, so don't be fooled by flattering and out of date author pics ;) So that's certainly not my experience although certain genres have more female than male and vice versa. But what is true in my experience is that more agents are female than male and there are a lot of women in editorial roles. There's plenty of space for authors of every gender, age and looks ;) There are definitely some 'ugly old blokes' in the mix but to name them as such would be career suicide!
Thanks Holly, those are helpful observations, and Keith, I think self-publishing is a far more flexible and constructive option than it was even a couple of years ago. But I'm still curious to know if agents are busier or quieter during this time - are there any out there? Ugly or gorgeous or somewhere in between! 😲
Hi Holly, I was referring to agents and publishers as opposed to authors. The videos of interviews and slush-pile sessions with agents and the agent finder on the JW site bear testimony to my thesis. Having said that, it was meant as a trite remark in these days of fear and uncertainty. All in all, authors like me who don't have an agent or a publisher can be thankful that we can still keep going on our work in this digital world we live in.
I am in contact with an agent in my home city (not representing me)partly because we're friends but mainly because she only deals with YA and I'm not a YA writer. She is working from home and TBH is more concerned with ensuring her existing clients are safe and well and seems to be providing something of a counselling service at the moment.
She is still reading submissions but much less than usual. Some of her authors are experiencing something of a renaissance as people trapped at home are downloading books in record numbers!
This string is an interesting - and relevant - one. Having done it, I don't advocate anyone self-publishing. I, too, spent £2500 on a self-publishing package and the follow-up publicity. I used one of the best - Silverwood Books - and I have a beautiful book without a single error. BUT, with POD costing me £4.20 a copy, I'm not rich enough to give my books to a bookshop, which is what that price entails. I propositioned an independent bookshop in the area where my novel is set - and offered to give an illustrated talk on the background (a celebrated 1930s murder) for a small return on the books sold. I didn't even get a reply!
On the subject of the gender of agents, I used Agent Match to discover that most of them are women. If you stipulate you want an agent that is building her list or welcomes new submissions, you find too that they are youngish and 'woke'. What they want is novels with a contemporary setting that deal with their conception of the 'issues' of today. Anything that's just about white middle-class Brits is certainly not wanted.If you have the opportunity, look at the March issue of Writing Magazine, and see the article titled 'Feeling left out' on p.11.
I am the first one to admit that submitting to agents can be frustrating however because the publishing industry is trying to be more diverse doesn't mean that agents have stopped taking on stories about white middle class, furthermore historical fiction is very popular right now so it's not all contemporary, and a lot of agents have that on their wish list. Of course they are trends and publishing tends to work on a cycle so some categories are more popular than others. When uplit started to rise, people said it was the end of psychological thrillers and yet they haven't disappeared however now the agents are more selective in what they take on as thrillers because there are less openings. Agents receive an average of 3,000 submissions a year and only sign 4/5 new authors a year so there is a lot of competition out there.
On a tangent somewhat, but every time I see 'Submissions in the time of Covid-19' I can't help but think of 'Love in the time of cholera' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Time for a 21st century reboot? 😉
Actually, to digress even further, I was sitting in a staff room full of English Teachers last week just before everything really popped, and someone was asking 'what can I teach them? What can I teach them?' and I suggested the above text, as something salient yet removed enough from current life to be escapist. Thing is though... isn't the main character a guy with a huge err.... perhaps not entirely appropriate then, even for 16-19 year olds. Hey-ho.
No apologies needed! I completely deserved some gentle mockery, thinking I'd been clever to spot something when in fact you'd made an intentional reference to Marquez. As you say, emojis aren't nuanced enough to express this though!. 😀