Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, I’ve received many questions from writers (including my coaching clients) about the virus impact (current and future) on book authors, Literary Agents, Literary Agencies (including the Best Literary Agents at the Top Literary Agencies in our Literary Agents Database), and others working in the publishing industry.
This FAQ article is my response.
This post does NOT include health/medical advice or political commentary/rants, nor does it speak to the well-known personal toll of the virus that’s impacting so many. It simply addresses the business aspects of the pandemic, to authors and others in the publishing industry, which are dramatic but not dire.
Please share with those who will benefit.
And, of course, be safe…
Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ for Authors
What are the short- and long-term effects of social distancing for authors and the book publishing industry?
- Authors being hardest hit by COVID-19 are those who had books published right before the pandemic began or escalated: canceled literary festivals and fairs, book tours and signings, etc. Other authors, whose books were about to be published, are having their publication dates postponed until a time when it will be easier and better to promote their books.
- Published authors and publishers are now focusing more on online/virtual book signings, writers’ conferences, and meetings (between authors, literary agents, editors, publishers, etc.). To some extent, this is a shift that’s already been happening due to technological advances. However, that shift is now accelerating.
- More readers are reading, as many people are voluntarily self-isolating or being mandated to do so in some states. As you know, reading offers escape and entertainment, and it’s less expensive compared to many other options.
- More readers are buying books online according to a recent NY times article, which said B&N has seen an increase in online sales. This uptick is also due to readers inability to go to libraries, and libraries having a limited number of “copies” of each book that they will “virtually loan” simultaneously.
- More bookstores (chains and independents) will close as a result of the dramatic reduction of foot traffic. Subsequently, fewer print books will be manufactured, but, again, online sales will continue increasing.
- More writers are writing and trying to get agents. Many authors are using some of their suddenly unexpected free time to write and/or try to get representation.
Are agents still working and accepting author submissions?
Yes. Not one of my coaching clients has yet shared a rejection letter from an agent with me citing a temporary closure to submissions due to the pandemic. That will likely change, possibly soon. However, most people in the U.S., including those working in the publishing industry (agents, editors, publishers, etc.) don’t have sufficient savings or the ability to use the virus as an excuse to stop working.
Everyone needs to pay their bills. So, even if publishers stop acquiring books for a while, or if they start acquiring less books for a while, that doesn’t mean literary agents will stop looking at submissions taking on new clients for when things pick up again. And, yes, if things do slow down, they will pick up again. Like they always do, such as after 9/11. I was an agent during that time and the world changed, but it didn’t stop. That’s the most important in this FAQ, from my POV. The publishing industry isn’t going to end; it’s going to adapt.
Beyond the above, how is the pandemic affecting literary agents?
Due to the type of work they do, it’s relatively easy for book agents to work from home. Many already do. And, those who frequently, or sometimes, meet with editors and publishers, are now simply spending more time on phone calls and video chats.
Despite the above, should I query literary agents now. Or, should I wait?
If you’re ready to query now, query now. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Unless and 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.
Can/should I work on my author platform during this time?
Yes. Some of my coaching clients are at the stage of their process during which they’re working on improving/expanding their author profile or platform. That should continue, as that’s something any author can do during the pandemic, especially if you have extra time on your hands. Of course, if you are reaching out people/places, however, during a difficult time like this, you should acknowledge what’s happening in the world by wishing the person and those in their lives well during this difficult time. Otherwise, you’d seem like a sociopath or someone with their head buried in the sand.
Can/should I hire a service provider such as a book editor or website designer during this time?
If you were thinking about doing something like that in the near future, now might be a good time. Service providers such as editors (see my Book Editors for Hire FAQ here), website designers (see my 3-part Author Website Guide here), etc. might be more available and/or more eager to work with you since their business might have fallen off, or it might be about to, due to so many other people being preoccupied with, and affected by, the virus.
Are you experiencing (or expecting to experience) any interruption to your coaching services during the pandemic and recovery period?
No. Ingrid and I stopped leaving our home more than two weeks ago, to err on the side of safety. We’re in good health and hoping to stay that way. No more going to restaurants (doing some ordering in) or going to the gym (working out at home). And, when it comes to the news, we’re trying to watch just enough to stay informed but not so much that we get depressed. I’m sure you can relate.
Can I register for an Introductory Coaching Call with you during this time?
Yes. Click here to learn more about registering for an Introductory Coaching Call.
What should I do if I have a question not addressed above?
Click here to post a question about anything related to literary agents and book publisher here on my Frequently Asked Questions page.