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Reading Queries During Covid-19 Shutdown

I’ve written and filmed on Querying During the Time of Covid-19 and I stand behind what I said. In these difficult times, we need books and agents are ready for queries, but what does that mean on the agenting side?

How We are Reading

There’s no doubt we are all reading differently now, industry professionals and readers. Some of us are struggling to stay focused and others are looking only for light books. How each agent is reading is not your concern. Your job as the author is to give them a book they can lose themselves in. Even those thinking they want light books will lose themselves in a dark book. That’s all we want, to lose ourselves.

That being said, Covid-19 and all that it has brought has forced everyone in publishing to look at things differently–the books we are publishing, our lists, and what’s next.

An Eye to the Future

There is no doubt that my thought process has been changed by Covid-19. I’m watching publishers move release dates, furlough or lay off employees and stop buying. It’s scary. I can’t pretend otherwise.

With that in mind, I need to look to my future as an agent and the future of BookEnds, and my clients. What do I need to build and ensure that we can sell now, and continue to grow and build even in the toughest of times? What do I need to do for my clients to ensure that when this is over they are still standing?

For every agent, this is going to be different. There is no right answer. I’m encouraging my agents and clients to keep moving forward. To keep doing what we do best and taking a close look at our lists to see where we might have holes for books that are most needed now and will be most needed two years from now.

This will likely mean more hustling than we usually do, but I also know we’re up to the task.

Personally, I’m looking for lots of new fiction. My goal for 2020 was to add 10 new authors. I might even expand that. I’m also looking for big nonfiction. Nonfiction is less subjective then fiction and to me feels like a place I want and need to be right now. But don’t let that discourage you if you’re a fiction writer. I’ve been reading nonstop during this time and clinging to those books I can’t put down. Send me that.

I’ve worked hard during our shutdown to keep our blog, Twitter, YouTube channel and Instagram active. Both as a way to help authors understand what’s going on in publishing during these times and to keep my own mind busy. It helps me to help you. I plan to continue to do so for years to come.

BookEnds isn’t going anywhere.

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11 comments

  1. Dearest Jessica, you have no idea what a strong and reassuring anchor your videos, tweets, and posts are for us right now. As an aspiring children’s picture book author, I am SO appreciative of your helpful advice and good humored encouragement. Although we’ve never met, you and James are, well, family. Please stay safe, and let’s lift our cups (there might be vodka in there!) to happier times.

  2. Thank you Jessica for helping us understand what’s happening in the world of publishing. Your passion, commitment and care for your clients as well as all authors is heartwarming. It is a scary and confusing time. Thank you for your posts which give hope during times of uncertainty. May BookEnds continue to grow and thrive.

  3. I’m (happily) agented, so this is not about me. I have three writing friends who, after years (yup!) of querying have *just* become agented during this pandemic, two of them with agents so well-known and reputable that (as they put it to me) they hadn’t even thought they’d get a response from , let alone “the call.” This confirms not only your agency’s stance, but that many agents are reading and offering.
    What does seem different and definitely not business as usual is the publisher’s acquisition side. We’d love your current experience and take on that, as you communicate with editors. You are on the front lines.
    For myself, I’m 100% certain books/stories are needed more than ever, and this keeps me going on my end.

  4. Thanks for the reassuring post. I will continue to write because it’s what keeps me sane and away from the fridge, but it’s good to know agents like you are still reading our queries. (For some of us they were harder to write than our novels)

  5. Thank you for this honest view on how you are reading and what you’ve seen in the warped publishing landscape. But still encouraging!

  6. Thank you very much for this and all your blogs/videos; they’re extremely helpful.
    I wondered if you’d ever done (or would consider doing) a video on each genre of writing – it would be really useful to see your ‘take’ on what to do and/or avoid that was specific to literary fiction/mystery-writing and so, for instance in terms of content/openings etc – just a thought!
    Thank you again for everything you’ve given us so far.

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