Saturday, June 27, 2015

#pg70pit Agents' Combined Manuscript Wish List

Want to know what the agents participating in the  #pg70pit Contest are looking for?

Me too! After all, as a co-host, my job is to try and select the entries that have the best chance of finding the agent that's dying to sign that very manuscript. So I did a little research on #MSWL, and bios. And this is what I found.

Below is a combined Manuscript Wish List (MSWL) for the 27 agents partcipating in #pg70pit, divided by age category. In other words, a taste of what the agents are interested in seeing. The lists are long, but hopefully somewhat helpful! Enjoy!

Red text = Recurring themes that many agents mentioned

After the contest is over, I *might* be persuaded to post these divided up by agent. But it will take a bit of doing, so you'll have to convince me ;)

Who are the agents? Click here.

General #MSWL:
  • #WNDB: MCs of color
  • #WNDB: Stories set in other cultures, Caribbean, Asia, Cuba, Latina, Portugal 
  • #WNDB: Different abilities/disabilities, religions
  • Books that beg for a playlist
  • Bonus points for: Michigan settings, small town settings, stories involving rescue dogs, Doctor Who-esque, dolphins, dinosaurs, pirates, unusual subcultures
  • Cinematic feel
  • Contemporary
  • Diversity not only in race & gender identity, but also body types, abilities, religion. Intersectional.
  • Female protagonists that are "strong," but not in terms of physical strength.
    Instead of fighters, MCs with intelligence, emotional strength etc
  • Focus on friendship issues: falling-outs, break-ups etc
  • Non-US settings
  • Retellings: beyond fairytales, folktales, other retellings, alternate POVs (ie antagonists)
  • STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics)- heavy books,
    .... especially with female MCs
  • Thrillers
  • Voice-driven: poetic, literary

Middle Grade:

  • #WNDB - POCs as protags, different religions
  • Adventure stories, adventures but with a literary voice
  • Animal stories: Classic feel (ala Watership Down), or with animal not as protagonist, books with rescue dogs, books with dolphins, books with dinosaurs
  • Alternate History
  • Contemporary, contemporary, contemporary!!
  • Contemporary with very light fantasy or sci-fi elements, contemporary Sweet Valley Twins, funny/light-hearted, realistic but with a quirky plot
  • Coming-of-age
  • Crossover appeal to older age brackets
  • Dark, honest, dealing-with-adult issues
  • Fantasy: High fantasy with a fresh take, or fantasy that feels historical/real, big, unique worlds, heroic stories, unicorns, dragons and daredevil princesses
  • Historicals
  • Horror ala Goosebumps
  • Humor
  • Literary
  • Mysteries
  • Non-US Settings: Asia, Portugal
  • Protags who are: Spunky/brainy, funny/confident, Hermione-esque, Alanna-esque, Arya or Sansa Stark-esque, who are artists, who are into STEM, into sports
  • Retellings of non-fairytales
  • Sports themes: especially soccer or football
  • Stories that "teach" about an unusual subject: non-English language, obscure field of research
  • Steampunk or something similar
  • Voice that's smart but accessible
  • Voice that reads Victorian/Edwardian (ala E. Nesbit)

Young Adult:
  • #WNDB - Protags of Color please // LGBT // Dealing with mental health issues
  • Cinematic feel
  • Contemporary, Contemporary, Contemporary!
  • Contemporary Retellings: Shakespeare retellings, Breakfast Club reimagining, 
  • Contemporary: Voice driven novels from unusual perspectives, or that is hard-hitting, punky, or fangirly/geeky/cosplay/comic-con, or sporty
  • Contemporary with very light sci-fi or fantasy elements
  • Contemporary drama ala Gossip Girl
  • Edgy: Dark,  gritty hard-hitting, no romance, over-the-edge, teen sex workers, love interests with criminal records, stories about blackmail/revenge porn
  • Fantasy that feels "real"
  • Fantasy: High fantasy with fabulous world-building, Multi-cultural fantasy, fantasy with queer protags, fantasy in the vein of Red Queen & Darkest Part of the Forest, fantasy with an Arya or Sansa or Alanna protagonist, a Fantasy where you hang out with the "normal" kids -- the Hufflepuffs not the Harrys.
  • Female protagonists who are "strong" but not necessarily in the physical sense. They're not fighters
  • Female protags occupying stereotypically male roles/interests, lady knights
  • Focus on friendship/sisters. Girls supporting girls. Friend breakups. Books that aren't about romance.
  • Funny coming-of-age, full of heart, or quirky comedy ala Romy & Michele's HS Reunion
  • Geekery
  • Genre-bending / mashups
  • Historical: roaring 20's, Mad Men, hist-fic from unusual eras (e.g. Cold War), 1980s, Ancient China
  • Historical Fantasy, ala Great and Terrible Beauty, Moulin Rogue
  • Horror, Horror, Horror!
  • Horror set in Asia, gothic horror, historical horror, post-apoc horror, ghost stories, urban legends, twisted fairytale, horror dripping with blood/gore, also horror without much blood/gore, horror ala Turn of the Screw, atmopsheric horror ala Bates Motel
  • Issue stories that are stripped down, rather than self-indulgent. Humor okay.
  • Magical Realism
  • Mystery ala Veronica Mars, with a snappy protagonist, chick-lit detective story, a cozy but not cute mystery
  • Noir
  • Non-US Settings: Asia, Ireland, Middle East
  • Platonic Relationships
  • Protagonists ala Veronica Mars, Hermione Granger, Arya, Sansa, protags that are artists, protagonists that are geeky, or cunning/clever, lady knights, expats, protags who like STEM
  • Retellings: of non-fairytales, horror-fairytales, Romeo & Juliet in the Middle East, fairytales from the antagonist's perspective
  • Romance: Light-hearted with a super-sweet love story, romance ala Katie McGarry
  • Science Fiction: that's light on the sci-fi, sci-fi with aliens, SFF set in Asia, sci-fi that tackles moral questions, big/epic/adventure sci-fi
  • Shapeshifters of unusual varieties only
  • Sports stories, sporty girls ala Any Way You Slice It
  • Thrillers, Thrillers, Thrillers, THRILLERS! ;)
  • Thrillers: Psychological thrillers or high stakes mysteries, literary thrillers, thrillers with magic ala the Prestige, MCs who can "profile" ala Criminal Minds, light-hearted ala Catch Me If You Can, a heist story, creepy thrillers, revenge based thrillers
  • Unreliable Narrators

Adult Fiction:
  • Book club fiction: focus on friendships, contemporary fiction about love, friendship, family & overcoming adversity
  • Bookish settings: bookstores, libraries, manuscript archives
  • Cinematic stories
  • Characters: First generation Americans, 
  • Cozy mysteries: bonus points for a "Storage Wars" like team of characters, with humor
  • Dark/Edgy: Women behaving badly, Affairs, Serial killers (but not a crime novel), dark ballet
  • Fantasy: Epic, steampunk/gaslamp, fantasy that almost reads historical, fresh take on high fantasy, a Fantasy with Ferris Bueller as the MC, a Fantasy where you hang out with the "normal" people -- the Hufflepuffs not the Harrys.
  • Historical Fiction: anything set in roaring 20s, anything Mad-Men-esque, Anne Boleyn, 1980s
  • Issue driven stories
  • Horror: Psychological, medical
  • Light, quirky: Detective chick-lit, rom-coms
  • Literary: Love stories, tear-jerkers, Literary suspense
  • Magical Realism: magic realism with a literary voice
  • Non-US settings!!! Asia, Caribbean (w/local perspective), Ireland, Middle East,  a dark ballet set in Russia
  • Romance: Romantic comedy, steamy/swoony/spicy romance, a modern You've Got Mail, historical/regency, sci-fi romance
  • Science Fiction:  Sci-Fi that reads literary, Sci-fi that doesnt read like sci-fi, light-hearted sci-fi, non-western sci-fi, older protags, sci-fi with aliens, sci-fi that tackles moral questions, big/epic/adventure sci-fi, SFF humor re-invented (not derivative of Pratchett or Adams), sci-fi Oceans Eleven, Pushing Daisies, or Fiddler on the Roof. The Outsiders in Space. Sci-fi with a Stranger Than Fiction tone.
  • Steampunk ... or the next steampunk
  • Thrillers: suspense with a noir aesthetic, a thriller Girl w/Dragon Tattoo, but set in the Middle East, literary thriller ala Night Film, a thriller with magic/illusion ala the Prestige, crime fiction ala Thelma and Louise meets Broad City
  • Transgressive Fiction
  • Urban Fantasy that feels classic, but fresh, with new creatures
  • Voice: Literary, or Irreverent yet serious ala Doctor Who
  • Westerns
  • Women's Crime Fiction of the quirky variety
Related Resources: #MSWL Twitter Hashtag || MSWL Archives || MSWL Paragraph 
   ... and don't forget to check agent's bios / agency profiles!

See anything that sounds like your manuscript? Run and get your entry ready for #pg70pit! Submissions open soon!!!


  1. Oh goodness!!! Who's the one who's seeking Roaring Twenties stories?? :-)

  2. Bree Ogden is the one who's mentioned she likes Historical Fiction set in the Roaring Twenties! :D

  3. This is a spectacular idea, but if jumping in at page 70 and the author has done it right, how will the agents have any idea that the manuscript hits the MSWL?

  4. Rob --

    Lara explains it best on her blog, so check it out here:

    Its called the McLuhan Test and basically it works because page 70 is far enough into the book that things are moving along, and it may even give a better idea of the voice and narrative style of the book than the first pages (which can tend to be overworked).

    I think if the author is "doing it right" as you mention, an agent perusing page 70 will have a very clear taste of genre, character, and most importantly: whether or not they fall in love with the writing/voice.

    Voice is key. Plotting problems can be fixed. What a lot of agents want is to fall in love with is the writing and the characters, and that should be exactly what they'll get a taste of on page 70.

    That said, the Age Category, Genre, and a seven-word description of the main character will also be part of the #pg70pit entry. So the agent will have that to go off of as well. Enough to know whether or not to request a query & pages at least!

  5. Awesome sauce! Thanks for compiling this, Carissa! And a big shout out to a fellow ASU grad :D

  6. What a wonderful job you've done pulling this together!



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