July/August 2020

Our annual Literary Agents Issue features profiles of eleven agents on what they want to read and how to query them; an in-depth look at the growing trend of agents representing poets; an interview with former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey; our twentieth annual roundup of the summer’s best debut fiction; special reports on the effects of COVID-19 on the business of books, indie bookstores, literary festivals, and authors’ creativity in quarantine; writing prompts; and more.


A Poetics of Resilience: A Q&A With Natasha Trethewey

by Joshunda Sanders
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In her new book, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir, the former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner contends with persistent trauma, both personal and cultural, going beyond witnessing to seek truth in all its complexity.

Special Section

Who We Are

by Various
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Eleven literary agents reveal what they want to read, how to query them, what inspires them, and how they will know if you’re the one.

What We Read

by Staff
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Twenty-five literary journals agents peruse to find new clients.

News and Trends

Secrets Hidden in the Stacks

by Adrienne Raphel

The Book Traces project at the University of Virginia documents annotations, marks, and objects found in library books, creating a record of readers’ engagement with the book as a physical object.

The Practical Writer

Publishing During a Pandemic: The Effects of COVID-19 on the Business of Books

by Michael Bourne
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A survey of the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic shutdowns on the book business. 

The Literary Life

The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write a poem with the help of Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler tool, a short story split into parts by the passing of a decade, and an essay that describes memorable photos.

What We Found in Writing: Authors on Creativity in Quarantine

by Various
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Thirteen writers, including Alexandra Kleeman, Ada Límon, and Nicole Sealey, describe writing—or not writing—during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic.