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Literary Agents See An Uptick In Writers Submitting Pandemic Stories

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. You finally have time to write that novel you've been talking about. Some people are actually doing just that. Erin Clyburn is a literary agent who says she is seeing an uptick in submissions from writers.

ERIN CLYBURN: It's definitely increasing, like, day to day.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And it's not hard to guess what's inspiring them.

CLYBURN: I got one with a protagonist whose last name was Covid.

MARTIN: Clyburn is seeing more stories related to pandemics and viruses. But she says not everything she gets could be mistaken for George Orwell.

CLYBURN: People will say, I wrote this manuscript while I've been home for the last couple of months. It's unlikely that a manuscript could be finished in a couple of months and have that level of polish that it would typically need to be sent to an agent.

GREENE: Literary agent Kari Sutherland says, don't rush to submit that masterpiece.

KARI SUTHERLAND: You really get one shot with an agent. I don't usually ask for a revise and resubmit.

GREENE: And if you are writing a pandemic novel, you may, in fact, be too late.

SUTHERLAND: By the time you've written something that you see is a trend, well, publishers have already filled their pipelines with those kinds of stories.

GREENE: Sutherland says editors are veering away from pandemic-related work.

SUTHERLAND: Everyone is looking more for an escape from our current circumstances. And they don't particularly want to be reading about deadly viruses.

MARTIN: So what's her advice to writers?

SUTHERLAND: Focus on making sure that you're creating the kinds of stories that are going to reach into people's hearts.

MARTIN: And Clyburn's advice? Be sure the work is really ready before you push it out into the world.

CLYBURN: Put together a draft that is as polished and as solid and something that you're going to be proud to send to agents.

MARTIN: Future Austens and Tolstoys, remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. And "War And Peace" wasn't written after a few weeks in quarantine.

(SOUNDBITE OF FEVERKIN'S "FEBRUARY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.