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Literary Agents See An Uptick In Writers Submitting Pandemic Stories


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.


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.

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