Friday, February 28, 2014

#MSWL Tips from Susan

Since Wednesday was a #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) day, and agents were tweeting what they’d love to find in their in-box, I thought I’d take a minute or two to write about how writers can use this information most effectively.

And, as a bonus, I rounded up the tweets from TBA Agents that day, so that you’ve got them all in one handy-dandy spot!  Thanks to Beth, my fellow TBA agent, for suggesting this idea. 

The first, most important thing to know about #MSWL tweets is that they’re not meant to exclude other book ideas and concepts.  The truth is, it’s fun (at least for me) to think about a very specific kind of book that I’d like to read.  And I do hope for kismet -- the book that fits my craving perfectly arrives that very day!  But I don’t think of this as sort of a fast food order, or any kind of order at all.  I want books that come from a writer’s heart first and foremost.  So, if you read over #MSWL posts and don’t see your book described – never fear!  Query anyway, because agents want to fall in love with excellent writing and story, more than they want any particular topic.

So what to do if you don’t see your book described exactly?  See if you can extrapolate an agent’s wishes more generally based on her #MSWL posts, and be sure to cross-reference that with the more general description of what she represents in her submission guidelines.  For instance, I asked for a book about Selkies.  No Selkie book up your sleeve?  Well, you might guess that I like fantasy, based on that post.  Check my sub guidelines to confirm – and yes, fantasy is included on my list.  Here's a link to more of what I'm looking for:

Don’t plan to write something for a #MSWL tweet.  By the time you’ve competed your manuscript, the agent is likely to have filled that niche, or to just be on to something else.

Make sure your manuscript is complete and polished before you send.  Don’t rush it because you’ve just seen the #MSWL tweet – think of all the other manuscripts that agents’ inboxes will be filling up with; make sure that your manuscript will really stand out.

You’ve surely read this elsewhere, but don’t pitch your book to an agent over twitter.  Go check her/his submission guidelines and query following their instructions.  In your cover letter, do mention that you’re querying as a result of seeing their #MSWL tweet.

And without further ado, here are the TBA tweets, by agent!  These are from the 26th, check our twitter feeds for more #MSWL.  And be sure to read our submission guidelines here: before sending your query.

More questions about how to use #MSWL tweets?  Feel free to ask in the comments section and I’ll reply there.

Jenny Bent:
·         Stylish psychological crime/suspense with at least one female lead (not cozy mystery, thanks).
·         Definitely would love some YA horror.
·         Women's fiction or YA with a strong gothic feel.
·         Historical fiction based on a famous real life person.
·         Non-genre fiction with a paranormal, fantasy or otherworldly element to it, like DISCOVERY OF WITCHES or NIGHT CIRCUS or GHOST BRIDE.
·         In general, I love strong, feisty female characters with a purpose.
·         Also, classic YA fantasy with at least one female lead, like the upcoming LARK RISING by Sandra Waugh

Gemma Cooper:
·         Middle grade ghost story - super creepy and evocative. Scare me please!
·         Voice driven girly tween/11+ tackling domestic issues with humour.
·         Boy 10+ action, adventure, screenplay style storytelling, fast pace. Think Alex Rider.
·         Middle grade fantasy with incredible world building and a fresh concept - boy or girl protagonist.
·         Younger fiction for girls - featuring or starring animals.
·         Short quirky picture books that demand to be re-read. Not message driven, just full of fun and humour.
·         And finally, a YA romance - I want to fall in love.
·         If you have any if these, or something packed with voice, please send along.

Louise Fury:
·         I am really looking for YA horror with a literary feel. Creep me out. Make me think. Blow me away with your words.

Molly Ker Hawn:
·         Send me your smart, funny YA contemp romance, your clever literary MG, your upmarket YA horror.

Susan Hawk:
·         Really want a big, juicy fantasy for MG or YA, set in a world that feels totally new.
·         As a kid I loved JOHN BELLAIRS. Are you writing the next HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS? Send to me!
·         I’d also love a very atmospheric Selkie story (but not mermaid). Think FOLK KEEPER for YA.
·         My favorite MG makes me laugh out loud and shed a tear too.
·         Love to see a YA project with a voice as amazing and heartbreaking as SPECTACULAR NOW.
·         Am always looking for diversity, for any age group.

Beth Phelan:
·         High on my YA #MSWL is a modern witch story.
·         More ghosts other creepy things. Psychological stuff that messes with your head.
·         MC who finds out (s)he was kidnapped as a baby but had a normal happy life--until parents are arrested.
·         Just signed a GREAT adult suspense and would love more!
·         Cookbook projects! Especially fun and unexpected appliance-based ideas.
·         YA with a whole lot of heart.
·         In love with American Horror Story and want some more YA horror to feed my sick mind!
·         Would LOVE a YA UCB camp story with teenaged aspiring stand-ups. Like Wet Hot American Summer with a serious side
·         Storms! But not dystopian or apocalyptic, YA.
·         Some more YA Fantasy with brand new settings
·         Looking for well-written LGBT YA with a very distinct voice
·         Send me more multicultural projects with vivid settings.

Brooks Sherman
·         I would love to work on some alternate history projects -- MG, YA, or adult. A fantasy element (a la BARTIMAEUS) would be just dandy.
·         Still looking for a historical project set in or around the WWI era to sink my fangs into. Speculative elements encouraged!
·         On the YA side, I'd love to find some projects with realistic settings and a speculative twist. (See: NOGGIN; GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE)
·         On the MG side, I'm still looking for someone to send me this generation's THE WITCHES. Are you my Dahl?
·         Out of left field: I would like a book on the history of pepper--fic or nonfic.  (It would go nicely on the coffee table next to SALT.)
·         Last request: I am still looking for a story set in or around the Affair of the Poisons. History is awesome, people.


  1. Thanks for the tips and putting these tweets together. Very helpful!

  2. I wish all agents were this specific with what they are currently looking for. Just sent my project to Beth after seeing that she's looking for a YA with "a whole lot of heart."