Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Querying during the next couple days/weeks/months

I hope you and your family are doing fine. Here in London, the situation is crazy, deserted streets and supermarkets.

I'm writing to ask you for advice. My book and the query are ready, but because of the virus, I'm hesitating to pitch agents. Is the market closed at the moment? Or do you think I should try anyway?

I don't know.
I don't think anyone really does.

While there has been a lot of talk of working from home, what I'm seeing is people worrying from home.

And many agents may be at home with small children, or trying to help older relatives.

My first priority is the stuff that has to be addressed: upcoming publication dates; delivery dates; events.

Reading queries isn't on that list.

I'm also VERY hesitant about offering rep right now.
I don't know what we're looking at down the road, and planning like it's all going back to "normal" in a couple weeks seems...well...deluded.

You don't put the brakes on the economy this size  and then just start up again at full speed.

You might keep your eye on Twitter for agents who say they are actively reading and signing. I've seen a couple of those.

I wish I had a more definitive answer.


Mister Furkles said...

Mister Cheerful here. But I suspect it will be back to 'normal' sooner than you think. Not a couple of weeks but easing toward 'normal' in a couple of months. And back to what passes for normal in something like four months.

So, given the slow pace of the publishing cycle, query-agent-rewrites-publisher-rewrites-publication, you may as well query now. It may take agents longer to get into the slush pile but they won't be dumping everything into the trash.

Kate said...

OP - I follow a lot of agents on twitter, and there a bunch saying: send us your queries (editors too, asking for subs).

But there are also those lamenting the fact that working from home is hard, and an adjustment, and urging writers to be patient as reading times may grow longer, or responses may come outside of normal business hours etc.

So really, I think it's a spread. There are definitely those who are reading more, and some reading less. Other than putting your work on an indefinite hold though (we have no idea how long this'll last), I suggest maybe looking up those agents on twitter/blogs if they have them, and seeing where they fall in the debate and deciding from there.

FWIW, I did recently read a blog by another agent who mentioned: if an agent remains open to queries, assume they are open to queries.

I think this is a great example of agent are people and people all operate differently.

Craig F said...

I have been dribbling out queries throughout this thing. The last couple were to agents I know will not respond unless interested and haven't heard a peep, so I don't know either.

It landed on us so suddenly the response is disjointed. It is impossible to cram everyone into a single basket. If your query grabs their attention, and your pages keep it up, go for it.

Odd stuff: The fullest part of the grocery yesterday was canned cat food. They still only allowed me to buy two cans. That means I will have to keep going back, instead of just going once a week. Maybe I'll find some paper towels and toilet paper on one of those trips.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP I had this exact same question. I started querying a couple of weeks before the world turned upside down and inside out. I can't decide what to do myself. As others have already suggested, I am watching agents on twitter. I am going to wait until after Easter to start querying again and re-evaluate when I get to that date. To see what is going on at that time.

Last night, our governor issued a "shelter-in-place" order for my county. Our cases and death tolls jumped up again over night, significantly, so going to keep working on next book and seeing how each day goes. At this point, I would not even be surprised if this is followed up by an attack of aliens or dragons. Dragons would be good. Dragons would be better than this shit.

And so goes day 894 of the Apocalypse. Weird. It's all just so weird. I can't get over how weird this is. It feels wrong in every way. Every way. Like yeah, maybe we are slowing the plague - fine, great, but it's weird. It's weird, weird. I don't like it. I don't want play global pandemic anymore. And I usually like weird. But not like this. Disease and depression combined. That's going to be such a winning combination.

Mister Furkles said...

Sorry for off topic: Craig, you can call the grocer and ask when the supply truck arrives. Then be one of the first into the store when shelves are loaded. My wife is doing this even though it means getting up earlier and feeding the Royal Felines a couple of hours late.

In addition, some stores have early 'over 60' hours when only people who look like they are over 60 can shop. The grocery here is offering this from 6am to 7:30am and Walmart is doing it on Tuesday mornings. Check your local stores and recruit family members who look the part to buy necessities, like cat food. Also in our state, pet supply store are essential businesses. As if your cat couldn't tell you that.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Pardon my changing lanes here but because we are faced with something so (ly word alert) monumentally disruptive, historically significant and terrifyingly deadly my attempts at writing anything considered worthy is nil. All this time at home to write feels like an ungodly gift I simply cannot unwrap.

Anybody else feel the same way?

CynthiaMc said...

It's a little surreal here. I work for a hospital, so for us it's normal, but not normal.

Starting tomorrow night our county is under a stay at home order (which also doesn't apply to us) so it'll no doubt get even more weird very shortly.

But the weather is beautiful, flowers are blooming, the people I know are saying "I love you" more and bitching less.

On my days off I find myself working on lighter projects and not the dark, intense ones I was working on. I just want to dig in my garden, feel the sun on my face and write things that will make people laugh.

Wishing everyone peace, health, and oodles of writing time.

Brigid said...

I'm home raising readers, aged 3 and 1, and my husband is a nurse, so very little has changed except losing access to our entire support circle and all of our outlets in one fell swoop. I feel as if I could write, but I don't have a moment to spare.

My husband's working extra. My mother--usually our greatest ally--is navigating cancer appts alone and trying to decide how coronavirus affects her surgery plans. The wee readers are unsettled; the big one talks about the Trolls and Bad Wizard Germs we're all helping to fight by making sure they can't jump from person to person. Like (Patricia Wrede's) Princess Cimorene, we melt the wizards away with soapy water and lemon.

I need voice to text rather desperately, as my novel is about an herbalist in a medieval pandemic. Maybe I just scribble notes between dishes? Pencils are waterproof...

Ann Bennett said...

When you write a blog and invite people into your life, those people start caring about you. I listened to you speak at Writer's Police Academy about three years ago. In short, I hope you are staying home and stay well during this mess. It will be over in about a month. Hopefully, enough will stay home and break the cycle. If everyone complied in a perfect world, it would end in 20 days.

Timothy Lowe said...

I think I would hold off. You don’t know what people are dealing with, and from my point of view, it’s very hard to focus right now. We also don’t know what’s happening at publishing houses. Maybe a better time to focus on online presence and brand building?

Christ, what a mess.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I've seen a number of agents on Twitter say "yes, we're still reading! Absolutely query!" Magazine editors are also (largely, in my experience) still reading. It isn't everybody, though, obviously. And I'm highly unlikely to be nudging anybody about anything right now, even if normally the calendar would call for it. It is what it is.

I'm still writing. Maybe a little more slowly than I would otherwise. And I got a new short story idea yesterday that I jotted down the conceit of, anyway. The main character is still crystallizing in my mind.

Kitty said...

As of yesterday afternoon, there were 25,665 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York State and 218 deaths. Of those there have been 14,905 confirmed cases and 192 deaths in just NY City alone.

I live in Steuben County (NY) where we have 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 0 deaths. I have family in Otsego Co. and Tioga Co.; both counties report 1 case each and 0 deaths. Most of counties east of the Hudson area (from Albany down to the city) report confirmed cases in single and low double digits with most of those counties reporting no deaths. So I try to keep all this in perspective. Still, my daughter and her husband are both nurses, and another son-in-law is a CO in a NYS prison, so I do worry.

NYS ranks first in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths. Outside of NYS, the numbers drop off considerably. NJ comes in second with 3,675 cases and 44 deaths. CA is third with 2,644 cases and 52 deaths.

Emma said...

I'm having a difficult time writing. I try. If life feels overwhelming, I give myself a pass. I even have a hard time reading now. My 89-y-o mom lives with us and even though I work from home and everyone is now on shutdown, she has developed a fever and cough.

My hours at work are cut in half, though I'm very happy to still have even that.

The only things that alleviate the ball of worry pressing on my chest are Netflix's "Tiger KIng" (oh. my. god. it's the perfect antidote to life right now), and working out.

Stay safe and healthy everyone. Do what you need to do to make yourselves happy and don't put pressure on yourselves unless you have deadlines.

Janet, I didn't see your Sunday post in time, but please accept my condolences. What a sad time.

Casey Karp said...

One of those cases where, as several people have said, "everybody is different". That applies to those of us querying as well as the queryees.

I'm continuing to query as usual, with one exception: I'm not checking off the Normans as rejections. I'll leave them as "Pending" until we settle into a new normal. It's not like leaving them open hurts anything; it's just another color on the spreadsheet. (White for not yet queried, light grey for query sent, dark grey for rejections, shades of green for full and partial requests.)

And belated DoY condolences. One of our crew is at the vet now with kidney issues and two others are having respiratory problems, so that bit of sad news just confirms that 2020 sucks as far as felines are concerned.

Stay strong, everyone. Life will improve again. Eventually.

Matt Adams said...

I'm actually starting to think this might be a good time to self publish. A lot of people stuck inside, looking for something new. Plus, because of the economic slowdown that will follow the crisis, publishing houses will likely contract even more than they already have.

I've never wanted to self publish because I wanted the validation of a big company paying me for my work. But I think the market -- already very tight -- is likely to be even tighter for a while. So if one wants their book out there to the world, they might end up having to do it themselves.

My other regret would be the lack of working with professionals to make my books as good as they could possibly be, and it would suck to miss out on that. But I am starting to think maybe it's the thing to do now, because at least it would exist beyond my personal network, and as much as i woould have preferred to trade publish, I'm starting to lose confidence in it as a realistic expecttion.

Alyssa R said...

Ha, Bad Wizard Germs! Now every time I wash my hands I'm going to picture Antorell screaming and shrinking... away... into nothing. ^_^
(Note to self: Must reread EFC. Thanks, Brigid!)

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Brigid, I would read the heck out of your medieval herbalist/plague novel!

Katja said...

Brigid, I'm pleased to read about your way of handling your little ones during this 'invisible' virus crisis. There was another invisible crisis when I was little, and the (understandable) hysteria around me, and usage of the word 'contamination' etc., is probably part of why I have had OCD almost all my life.

I am worried about the young and vulnerable children during this crisis. There will be some that will develop OCD because of this. There will. And I'm worried for them.

A playful way of teaching/getting your kids to do what is necessary right now, is kind of life saving, in my view. I mean mentally. But it's just as important, I think.

Keep playing this for them! :)

Brigid said...

Oh, thank you! It developed naturally from abbreviating the Enchanted Forest Chronicles as a bedtime story.

Would you consider writing an article on children's mental health during this crisis? I'd be happy to collaborate and share the strategies I use. It seems important. They're always listening!

And Jennifer Mugrage, thank you. If I make progress, I could use a crit partner.

I can be reached at brigid at sanitybakery dot com.

Katja said...

Yeah, why not. I have never written an article, but I am happy to try. Also I don't know where to send it to. I will email you shortly. :)

CynthiaMc said...

I am so sorry, Janet. I mostly stayed away from the computer over the weekend and only just now saw the post about the Duchess.

It made me cry.

Colin Smith said...

I missed Sunday's post too. I'm SO SORRY Janet!! :( DoY was as much a part of the Reef as anyone. We'll all miss her.

As for the topic, it's a toughie. This is perhaps a good time to be following agents on Twitter. From their conversation you can get some idea of whether they are engaged with work or just trying to maintain their own sanity until they can get back to work. Many, I think, are attempting to find a balance between these two. Janet would know better than me, but I can't imagine an agent will think it unreasonable for you to contact them (either via Twitter, email, or some other way) and ask directly: "I'm ready to query and would like to query you, but with all that's going on right now--is this a good time or should I wait a few weeks/months?"

These are strange times. Not really so strange for a home-bod, work-from-home person like me. I had an enjoyable birthday yesterday (thanks again to all the well-wishers) at home with the family. They got me gifts, but the best gift was just being able to spend the day with my wife and kids with nothing else to do. :)

Hang in there, everyone!

NLiu said...

Experience from places which have already been under lockdown for some time would suggest everyone is too stressed to do much the first couple of weeks, then productivity increases once everyone has adjusted to the situation. I can't pretend I know where the publishing industry is headed though. My guess is people will still want books. Whether they will be able to pay for them is another question.

As for staying sane, I can vouch for taking walks outside, limiting your time reading the news, and picking up some good reading material. For me it was my Bible - though sometimes I had to read the same thing three times to get through the static in my head.

All the best with the mini readers, Brigid! We've been using the lockdown to teach our biggest mini reader to read and she's doing so well! A small bit of happy news amid the scariness.

Feel for you guys. Keep calm and stay at home!