Also known as
What I’d Like to See in my Agent Inbox for 2018
In general, my manuscript wish list stays the same no matter the season or year! But for 2018, I’m really hoping to see these kinds of projects in particular appear in my inbox.
My inbox typically floods with fantasy manuscripts across the age categories. I don’t mind that one bit! But I’m already pretty particular about fantasy, and I do represent a variety of fantasy writers already. To really expand my list, I’d like to see more in these categories and genres.
Adult Historical Fiction || I love all sorts of historical fiction, especially when it branches off little-known aspects of history, or it takes on a fresh new look at popular historical events (WWI and WWII, for example, are incredibly common on the shelves, but it’s how the story is told or the unique perspective the story is told through that brings them to the shelves). My favorite historical fiction includes Shadow on the Crown (Emma of Normandy and early British history), Letters from Skye (WWI/WWII parallel narrative told entirely in epistolary format), The Alice Network (WWI/WWII parallel narrative shining light on female spy networks). I’m attracted to Between Two Fires (early Welsh history), The White Russian (because I find Russian history fascinating), and Hild (life of a nun). I would love to see some more light shed on impressive women in history and the things they accomplished despite society’s limitations (STEM, feminism, code-breaking, politics). Admittedly, I’m most drawn to European (specifically English) history, but I’m open to reading anything as long as the premise is compelling and fresh.
Adult Contemporary Women’s Fiction || Some of my favorite contemporary women’s fiction tends to be a bit on the morally ambiguous side of things, tackling taboo topics or shedding light on a hot-button issue in a new way. The queen of this, I think, is Jodi Picoult. I also adore women’s fiction that is about the average woman doing average things, experiencing the difficulties of everyday life, and growing from it — such as A Window Opens, Leave Me, and The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living. On the flip-side, I love chick-lit — humorous women’s fiction that’s appealing to a millennial audience, about young women in the workplace and the silly things that happen in their life. My absolute favorite is Sophie Kinsella, along with The Hating Game, Attachments, and You and Me, Always. Romance is not a primary draw for me, but it doesn’t turn me off to the story, either!
Adult Historical Fantasy || I’m such a sucker for these, especially if there are elements of romance. The voice and the writing in historical fantasy is exactly what I love about the two genres separately. It’s accessible, even when it’s a world entirely different from our own. The characters’ voices are enticing, their daily life is familiar, as if I’ve always been a part of it, thanks to the historical aspects of the world. Some of my favorite books and series, such as Outlander, Daughter of the Forest, and The Winter Witch, are historical fantasies. Others, such as City of Brass, Uprooted, and The Queen of Blood, are inspired by history and folklore, though not necessarily part of actual historical pasts. I’d love to see more historical fantasies inspired by other cultures’ histories and folklore.
Young Adult Contemporary Fiction || It is all about the voice for me when it comes to YA contemporary. It needs to feel and sound authentic to the teen reader, as they are the target audience. When I read YA contemporary, I need to feel like I’m talking to my high school best friend. It’s not a matter of nostalgia, but a bit like living in my memory — every emotion, every action, how angry and elated I would feel after certain events transpired, how important specific things were for me and why. Teen readers can spot inauthenticity in a heartbeat, and you want to make sure you have their desires and heartbreaks in the voice of your protagonist. You’re not an adult trying to be a teen — you are a teen, you get them. Talk to any secondary education teacher or school or YA librarian, and they really understand them.
That said, I am seeking fantastic rom-coms like When Dimple Met Rishi (technology camps!) and Anna and the French Kiss (study abroad programs!), badass heroines like Dumplin’ (fighting against stereotypes), books that handle mental states with honesty like When We Collided and What to Say Next, and great family and friendship dynamics like Emma Mills, Morgan Matson, and Jenny Han. I tend to lean on the lighter side of things, with hope at the end of the tunnel, rather than something dark and gritty from the get go and very little humor to carry throughout. I do like tear-jerkers, but I want that spark of hope and inspiration at the end.
Young Adult Fantasy || The YA world is difficult to break into, especially in fantasy. But I’m such a sucker for YA fantasy — I love all the worlds and ideas and originality that floods the market. That’s the issue at stake, though: it needs to be original. So while I love fairytale retellings, they need to be proper retellings, with twists and turns and (for goodness’s sake) new names. I love culturally-influenced or mythology-inspired stories, but I’m not interested in Greek or Roman mythology whatsoever. (Never have been.) I love historically-inspired fantasies, too, such as Walk on Earth a Stranger. That said, I’m very much into elemental magic — when magic is innate, a part of the world, or part of the world’s faith/mythology — over all other kinds of fantasies. Think Star-Touched Queen, Shadowfell, and Hunted. If you have a YA fantasy, send it my way, especially if they fit into any of the above criteria. I’m especially hunting down a Viking-inspired fantasy…
Young Adult Historical || Historical fiction is very hard to break into in YA. Sometimes it needs to have magical elements, sometimes it needs to be an era that readers are familiar with. But that usually limits it to WWII novels or fantasy. So what do I want that’s different from that? Simple. Look to your own city, look to the history books, look to your family history, and see what seemingly small event had a large impact for that area. A Prisoner of Night and Fog is set in Germany in the 1930s, not quite WWII but through the perspective of someone in the middle of the frightening changes in the country; Outrun the Moon is set during the San Francisco earthquake, and how race and economic status barriers fell in a state of emergency; A Madness So Discreet is set across America in the 1800s, battling patriarchy and standing up for those unlawfully sentenced to mental institutions; The Forbidden Orchid is set in Asia as a Victorian girl hunts down her father, a man in the middle of a race to find a perfect, rare orchid. There are so many more — but great YA historical fiction requires an intriguing and original premise, a general accessibility, and bringing the past to life.
For a final once-over, feel free to follow my #mswl on Twitter and on #MSWL website, follow #MSWLaesthetic, read my Manuscript Wishlist post, follow submission guidelines, read up on Publishers Marketplace deals, and catch up on this blog once in a while to read my thoughts and reviews of published works. Every little bit helps to getting representation! Oh, and as a reminder:
ALWAYS seeking: diversity. We each experience life differently because of diversity. Race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, mentality, health, economic status, religious affiliation, all of it. The obvious shouldn’t need to be said — that I want my projects to reflect the beautiful diversity of the world, that I want to see and share with others life through another’s eyes, that I want to see these differences expressed through art and creation and culture, that these books need to be on bookshelves — but that’s the state of things. So yes, there is no question to it: I want diversity.
ALWAYS open to queries: even during times of the year when publishing seems extra busy, or extra slow, or I’m on vacation or traveling or anything — I am open to queries. I never close. I read every single query. It’s unfair to you as the writer to try to keep track of all the agents who are opened or closed, and (selfishly) it’s unfair to me to be closed when something truly remarkable could have been in my inbox for me to represent. SO! With that said, if I’m busy or traveling or on vacation, I’ll have an away message up with clear, simple instructions about what will happen with your query in the time I’m away. I am never closed to queries.
NEVER seeking: anything in space, anything set in the future, thrillers and suspense (psychological, military, legal, political, or otherwise), all nonfiction projects (poems, essays, memoirs, how-tos, everything nonfiction), paranormal romance, erotica. If your project uses any of these concepts to describe it, it’s an automatic no. I’m not the agent for any of these projects, so please do not send them to me.
I hope this is helpful! I look forward to reading and selling excellent manuscripts in 2018!
4 thoughts on “MSWL for 2018”
Cool, Laura. I’m going to send you a query. Nice to meet you!
Do you have any suggestions on when to query for a project a second time (or whether to do so)? I’m just unsure as to whether a story may not be a good fit for you “now” based on the market or if you just do not find the story a match for you at all. I realize agents are hit with so many queries that personal feedback is often not a possibility. But it’s hard to know where agents stand without it (I’m sure you’ve hear this before and I’m sorry if I’m making you roll your eyes). I don’t want to add to your inbox with repeat queries that you just will never be game for. Not only does it add to your workload, but I keep hoping against hope to land my dream agent (you, lol *insert awkward laughter*), but may need to just put closure on it and move on. Does that make sense?
So to be specific, I’ve queried two different projects with you this year, which were both rejected. Should I wait until later in the year to try again or just lay it to rest and hopefully another project in the future will be a fit? And I’m querying multiple agents of course, but I’m sure you understand when there are certain clients you want you fixate on the hope that it’ll work out with them. Any thoughts would be appreciated if you’ve the time or inclination.
If it’s not a fit for me, it’s not a fit for me. I’m not just thinking about the market, I’m also thinking about my personal general interest. I represent for whole careers, not trends. This is a subjective industry, and if I’m not interested from the beginning then I’m not the right match for the project. You want someone who is excited about your work from day one.
That said, in general, there is a rule of thumb in querying that if you want to re-query a project, you need to wait several months to a year (or more), and after you’ve worked on further revisions (based upon critique partner, beta reader, or other agent feedback). Re-querying the same project just to see if the agent changed their mind a couple months later is not ideal.
That’s good to know. I will readjust my querying from here on out with that in mind. Thanks so much!