We continue to live in unprecedented times, and that includes the way publishing seems to be working lately.
Publishing has always been known as both a slow moving business and a cyclical one, but that seems to be exaggerated lately. For myself and many of my colleagues, when publishers moved to work-from-home in March and April, things felt like they might grind to a halt. We were still selling books, but it was taking longer to get things like contract drafts, responses to contract changes and to finalize deal memos as publishers had to acclimate to having all of their regular meetings via video call, etc.
Then suddenly in July everything took off – it felt as if all the offers that publishers weren’t making in the previous months were suddenly being made now. And that also went for agent queries – suddenly our boxes were full of notifications from writers who had offers of representation from other agents. Editors were telling me that everything had become more competitive – that they were bringing several things to boards but unable to get any of them. And these weren’t small houses – these were big publishers being outbid by others.
If July was the top of the bell curve, then it seems we went on the downswing again in September. Offers are still being made and I am still selling books, but not with the furious pace of July. The same for offers of representation – I can see that people are still being offered representation from other agents, but not with the same (frankly, unsustainable) three-in-one-day pace as before. What did start coming in was all the contract drafts from those books sold in July, and which I’m still negotiating with publishers now.
I think that the uncertainty – of the pandemic, of the coming election, etc. – is exaggerating the publishing cycle in a way that I have never seen before. Even during the Great Recession of 2008, things slowed and we watched in horror as there were two days in a row of massive layoffs – but the regular pace of publishing just seemed to get slower and quieter all the way around.
Granted, this is one look from one agent at one agency, but it seems like we weren’t the only ones experiencing this.
So as authors, what do we do?
I know that you’ll probably groan when you read this – but the answer is, stay the course.
Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep reading. Keep going.
If things slow down again towards the end of the year, I am sure they will pick back up again in the months after. Publishers will always need books to sell, and that also means they will always need manuscripts to buy and to fill their lists for the coming years.
I have to remind myself of this too sometimes, as an author and as an agent. Especially when we get into the later part of the Fall, which even in a typical year publishing does slow down between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But as Jessica Faust and I were saying the other day – October is just another month.
We keep writing, reading and submitting.
On a personal note, Princesses Can Fix It! is now available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and you can add the book to your Goodreads. I’m also working on some super fun stuff – a virtual book launch (which I hope you’ll consider attending!), some fun printables for classroom and home use, and a cover reveal with KidLit411.
Stay well and vote!