Manuscript Wishlist (MSWL)

Last updated: May 2022

Mission Statement:

I look for books that delight readers, that comfort readers, that help readers escape, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that cultivate empathy and compassion, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, that inspire reflection and conversation, that make people disappointed when they have to close the book and go to bed, and books that add a touch of magic to readers’ lives. 

What I represent, in general:

  1. Picture books
  2. Middle Grade
  3. Adult Fiction
  4. Graphic Novels (MG/YA/Adult)
  5. Quirky gift books

Visual MSWL—If you’re a visually minded person like me, head over to Pinterest to see my “visual manuscript wishlists.” I have one for kid lit, and one for adult books.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But if you don’t already know about Bookshop.org, check them out too! They are a fantastic online book retailer that supports brick and mortar bookstores.) I also have a Pinterest board of books I’ve worked on.

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website. If you are an author/illustrator please include a link to your portfolio.

A note to writers considering querying me: I hope you do. 🙂 I love, love, love receiving submissions. It’s an ongoing honor and delight to me that everyday, people scattered all over the world, send me their stories to read. What a privilege! Please know that I WANT you to submit your work to me. If you’re on the fence about whether you think your project is the right fit for me, but you think we’d make a good team—my vote is you just go for it. Your submission is never an email clogging up my inbox—it’s a gift that I can’t wait to open. I can’t wait to see what you’ve created!

PICTURE BOOKS:

  1. Picture book author/illustrators. I’m open to receiving submissions from authors, but I’m primarily looking to sign more author-illustrator clients. I’m open to many different illustration aesthetics from hand-drawn to digitally rendered to collage to unconventional mediums. I love having a wide range of styles on my list, and the main thing I’m looking for is a unique, distinctive look. Some of my favorite illustrators include Juana Martinez-Neal, Vashti Harrison, the Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, Anne Lambelet, Brian Selznick, Carson Ellis, Frank Morrison, and Emily Winfield Martin.
  2. Family Narratives—I love books that reflect families and their beautifully ordinary everyday experiences, particularly families and characters who haven’t been represented as much as white families traditionally have in picture book. Examples: Hair Love, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Honeysmoke, Under My Hijab, Alma, Julian is a Mermaid, Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
  3. Humor—I want the next hilarious, commercial-feeling, NYT Bestseller. It’s important to me that kids really love and are delighted by the books I represent, and humor is also a great entry point into reading for kids who are intimidated by books, so I take silly books seriously. 🙂 Some of my favorite humor-driven books are:  We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Dragons Love Tacos, The Bad Seed series, Where Bone?, When Unicorns Poop, The Day the Crayons Quit, Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, and Rot: the Cutest in the World.
  4. Magical books—I love magical stories that feel like the type of book that will stick with a child throughout their life. Anything by The Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, and Emily Winfield Martin. A few of my favorite magical books: The Night Gardener, The Antlered Ship, Ocean Meets Sky, The Bear and the Piano, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, and Lights on Cotton Rock.
  5. Mermaids—Send me all of your mermaids!! (What kind of mermaid have you not seen before? I love when fantastical stories are pure fun but also provide representation of some sort.)
  6. Karaoke—I’d love a joyful picture book about karaoke, sort of like the karaoke equivalent of Hip-Hop Lollipop.
  7. Traditions—I love picture books about family traditions/cultural traditions, especially when there is food, cooking, baking, or recipes involved. (Think Fry Bread, Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, Tomatoes for Neela.) I’d also love to see other family traditions, like holiday traditions (loved Night Tree, Mooncakes), house-cleansing or blessing ceremonies/traditions, etc. I also love books like Home and A World of Cookies for Santa which shows how people around the world do the same kind of thing in different ways.
  8. Atmospheric—I love a unique atmosphere/strong sense of place in books across the board. Because picture books are fully illustrated, they create the unique opportunity to create a really visually dazzling atmosphere, and I’d love to have more atmospheric picture books on my list. I think Hello Lighthouse is a great example of what I’m talking about.
  9. Spooky—I love spooky stories! (And I loved them as a kid too.) Ghosts, haunted houses, cobwebs. Some of my favorites include How to Make Friends with a Ghost, and The Ugly Doodles.
  10. Creativity—I love picture books about art and creativity, like the The Dot, Ish, The Ugly Doodles, The Wonder and Beautiful Oops.
  11. Funny Christian picture books—I would love to see more funny and charming Christian picture books in my inbox! They must feel contemporary and appealing to this current generation’s Christian children and their parents that value diversity and inclusivity. I loved how The Inventions of God (and Eva) and My Breakfast with Jesus both accomplished this in different ways. Here are a few of my other favorite Christian picture books.

MIDDLE GRADE:

  1. Magical Realism or Contemporary Fantasy—I love any stories with light touches of magic or fantasy that are still accessible to readers who aren’t “genre readers.” Some of my favorite magical MG tales include Circus Mirandus, and No Ordinary Thing.
  2. Voicey—I love contemporary slice of life stories with a strong voice, like Front Desk, and Stand Up, Yumi Chung! I’m eager to have a diverse swath of identities, backgrounds and experiences represented on my list, but they do not need to be stories centered around identity per se. I really love this take on representation in media.
  3. Graphic Novels—Some recent faves of mine were Pashmina, Witch Boy, and Measuring Up. I’d also like to put out into the universe: I would love to find the next Brian Selznick type of creator that doesn’t shy away from hybrid, unconventional formats.
  4. Historical Fiction—I am a history lover and enjoy historical fiction that feels like it’s shining a spotlight on a piece of history that’s been glossed over in textbooks. I want to see a hook/premise that I think will appeal to young readers, and an engaging voice. I’m open to epistolary novels or novels in verse as well. I love Brown Girl Dreaming, Ship of Dolls, House Without Walls, and Indian No More.
  5. Mystery—I’m hungry for a good mystery! I will never forget reading The Dollhouse Murders when I was in fifth grade and having to close the book for a moment because I was so scared. (But I loved it.) I want to work on books that inspire that same level of book-induced fright! Give me an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit.
  6. Epistolary Novel—I’d love an epistolary novel between two pen pals, or some sort of unique format (a story told through texts, etc.).

YOUNG ADULT:

  1. Graphic Novels—Right now in the Young Adult space, I am primarily interested in representing graphic novels. Recent faves of mine include Pumpkinheads, The Prince and the Dressmaker, The Girl from the Sea and the upcoming graphic novel Batter Royale by Leisl Adams which I represented and love so much. A couple specific things I’m looking for in this space: 1.) Something very atmospheric where the setting is a crucial element to the story. 2.) Something related to fashion design or sewing in some way. 3.) Something in the vein of Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls show.

ADULT:

  1. General Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! I love the feeling of when I finish reading a book and immediately need to talk to someone about it, and that’s what I’m looking for. I love interesting voices/POVs, dual timelines with a historical feel, rhythmic language, and anything that is both an engaging and accessible read, while being thought-provoking and layered at the same time. The biggest thing I’m looking for is a good hook and a distinctive voice. Some of my favorites include The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Dollhouse, Violeta, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Daisy Jones & The Six, Room.
  2. Thrillers—I love pageturning thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing them. I’m really looking for a hook here. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, Lisa Jewell, and I’m excited to see what Samantha Downing and Wendy Heard write next. I would love to see a fresh take on the genre from a POV we haven’t seen featured as prominently. Some of my favorite thrillers include Luckiest Girl Alive, The Woman in Cabin 10, Final Girls, Sharp Objects, Dark Places, Then She Was Gone, and Hunting Annabelle.
  3. Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on “frothy beach reads” that have both humor and heart. I love a strong voice + unique perspective. I really need a high concept commercial hook here. I welcome tropes of all stripes, especially enemies to lovers, slow burn/friends to lovers, fake relationships, and so on. Some of my recent favorites include Beach Read, The Unhoneymooners, Real Men Knit, Maybe in Another Life, Read Between the Lines, The Rosie Project, Waiting for Tom Hanks, The Proposal, and The Ex Hex,
  4. Speculative—I am looking for adult fiction with very light touches of magic/speculative elements. Mostly magical realism/grounded fantasy. I loved The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina, and The House in the Cerulean Sea.
  5. Unique Format—I love stories that are told in unique formats, whether that be epistolary, e-epistolary (I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette), transcripts (like Daisy Jones & The Six), a unique POV (think Room), etc. If it’s slightly outside a traditional novel format or voice, send it my way!
  6. Graphic Novels—I’d love to find some interesting contemporary graphic novels for adults. I’d be interested in humor, romance, nonfiction, or just contemporary stories in general. I’m open to projects with speculative elements but epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me. If you’re not sure, feel free to send it to me anyway! I’d also love a really unique format outside the box of the traditional graphic novel format, something like Caroline Preston’s books The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt and The War Bride’s Scrapbook.
  7. Historical Fiction—I love historical fiction and am especially fascinated by lesser known historical occurrences or anything really “specific” like the focus on the Barbizon Hotel in The Dollhouse, and the focus on the Trinity Test in Come Down Somewhere. I’m a sucker for a dial timeline. I’m open to any era, but I’m probably not the best fit for “ancient” historical fiction.
  8. Christian Fiction—I am open to Christian fiction of all stripes and genres. I represent authors Naomi Stephens and Jennifer L. Wright and would love to rep more in this space, especially in the areas of upbeat voicey contemporary romance and hook-y historical fiction. I am not the right fit for Christian fantasy, paranormal, angels/demons, spiritual warfare, basically anything speculative.
  9. Quirky Gift Books—I represented The Compendium of Magical Beasts, which is all about the anatomy of magical creatures, and would love to represent more gift books like this, especially a concept with series potential. I would love to see humor here, paired with a concept that makes it an irresistible impulse buy. I’d love to build an empire the way Austin Kleon has built an empire around his Steal Like an Artist series. I loved Floriography. I also love books that toe the line between gift book and lifestyle/cookbook/craft book like The Year of Cozy, How to Hygge, and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. I’m open to different topics and styles, but here are a few topics I’m specifically interested in: linguistics, pop science, historical footnotes. In the same vein of “quirky gift book” I’d love to do a concept-driven photography book, like The Art of Clean Up. Or a drone photography book. If it feels like a photography-driven book you’d find in a gift shop, then I’d love to take a look!
  10. Devotionals—I’d love to represent more concept-driven devotionals with unique hooks for the Christian market. I represented a knitting devotional called Knit, Pray, Share and loved the specificity of it. Christian publishers are often looking for a large platform/social media presence from devotional writers, so that is always a plus, but if you don’t have that, then an incredible hook that will easily find its readers is fantastic.

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stories (I quit tee-ball when I was 4 and faked stomach aches in P.E., so I’m afraid I am not your gal.)
  3. Erotica
  4. Space operas
  5. Amish Fiction
  6. Angel/Demon narratives
  7. Ancient historical fiction
  8. High/Epic Fantasy
  9. Military/FBI/espionage thrillers

I’m joining P.S. Literary!

I’m so excited to finally share that I’m joining P.S. Literary Agency! I’ve always seen PSLA as an agency that launches incredible careers while also having a warm, supportive voice and presence within the industry—which is something I can’t wait to be part of.

This is a big move for me—I’d been at Martin Literary since I was a shy 19-year-old intern and really feel like I grew up there. I’m so thankful for my time at MLM—especially for the mentorship I received and the brilliant friends I made. I learned the art of tenacity at Martin Literary, and for that I am forever grateful. I can’t wait to see what happens next. 🙂

I’m open to submissions for picture books, middle grade novels, adult fiction, and graphic novels. You can read my submission guidelines here: https://www.psliterary.com/submissions/

I look forward to making more magic at P.S. Literary!

Upcoming client books

I’m so excited for the following client books to publish within the next few months:

The perfect Christmas gift for the little ones in your life

Ever since I started my career as a literary agent, I’ve wanted to represent a Christmas picture book. I love the idea of having a book I can point to every Christmas season, especially one that has a timeless feeling. I have so many fond memories of reading Christmas books with my mom and sisters as a little kid. We’d take a bath, get in our PJs (often one of my dad’s t-shirts that looked like a nightgown when we wore them) and cuddle up in my parents’ jiggly water bed—and my mom would read to us. She’s a very animated, theatrical person so story time always felt like an event. I loved when she read The Polar Express, The Mitten (or anything by Jan Brett, really), The Legend of the Candy Cone, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, Christmas in the Big Woods (the maple syrup candy always sounded dreamy to me!). I wanted to represent a Christmas picture book that gave me that same nostalgic and timeless feeling, and along came The Gift Shop Bear by Phyllis Harris. I fell in love with the cozy, nostalgic feeling, the magical setting of the gift shop and the attic above it that Bear lived in in the off-season, the relationship with Annie and Bear. I was so happy that I was able to represent and sell this beautiful book, and now I’m so delighted to see people buying it and gifting it to the kids in their lives, along with a teddy bear to go along with it. What a special gift! I think this is a perfect gift for the little ones in your life. 🙂 You can order a copy on Bookshop, Amazon, Indiebound, or wherever you prefer to buy your books! A lot of Barnes & Noble locations are featuring it in their Christmas picture book section, too.

AgentChat on YouTube

I was recently invited to do a live AgentChat interview on YouTube with Sarah Nicolas, which was so much fun. Watch to get to know me a little bit better, get a few query tips, and most importantly: hear my cat Maple screaming in the background the entire time.

Thank you so much for having me, Sarah!

Opening to Adult Fiction Submissions

I’m really excited to be opening up to adult fiction submissions, as of February 2020. Here’s some insight into what I’ll be looking for:

ADULT:

  1. Thrillers—I love gritty, juicy thrillers, and want to work with people who want to build their careers around writing thrillers. I love Gillian Flynn, Jessica Knoll, Lisa Jewell. I’m excited to see what Samantha Downing and Wendy Heard write next. Some of my favorites include Luckiest Girl Alive, Sharp Objects Then She Was Gone, My Lovely Wife, Hunting Annabelle, and The Girl on the Train.
  2. Women’s Fiction—If you dream of Reese Witherspoon or Oprah ushering you into her book club, then I want to see your work! I love interesting voices/POVs, dual timelines with a historical feel, rhythmic language, generational sagas. Some of my favorites include Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Dollhouse, Room, The Girls, The Mothers, Little Fires Everywhere, Fates and Furies.
  3. Romantic Comedies—I’d love to work on “frothy beach reads” that have both humor and heart. I love a strong voice + unique perspective. I need a commercial hook here. Some of my recent favorites include The Unhoneymooners, Waiting for Tom Hanks, Maybe in Another Life, Playing with Matches, and The Rosie Project.
  4. Graphic Novels—I’d love to find some interesting contemporary graphic novels for adults. I’d be interested in nonfiction, or humor, or romance. Epic fantasy or space operas likely won’t be the best fit for me, but I’m open to taking a look at a wide range in this space.

Picture Book Webinar for 12×12 with Julie Hedlund

I’m really excited to be doing a live webinar about all things picture books for 12×12—an online empire built by Julie Hedlund, who is the Patron Saint of Helping Aspiring Picture Book Writers.

So I was very flattered when Julie reached out to me asking if I would be interested in doing this webinar.

Here are the details: the webinar will take place live on Feb. 26 at 10 AM PST, and I believe will be available for a time period after that as well. In order to access the webinar, you need to be a 12×12 member. You can become a member here: http://bit.ly/2RRcqcx

12×12 is an incredible resource no matter where you are at on your publishing/querying journey. Whenever first time writers come to me asking for advice, I point them toward 12×12, and SCBWI.

We will be talking about what makes a strong submission, what I look for in a picture book, current market trends, and what I hope to see pop up in my inbox in 2020. I’m really looking forward to it!

Making story time engaging

Aren’t our nieces so darling? We always look forward to getting to spend time with them when their parents have a date night.

I’ve read books to them before, but in the past I’ve tended to pick books based on what *I* wanted to read, rather than taking account of their current interests and picking a book based off of that. As a literary agent AND an auntie, I always want to encourage the love of reading. I knew that my older niece, Meira, is going through a potty humor phase (she is 5, after all) so when I saw WHEN UNICORNS POOP at Barnes & Noble, I knew I needed to check it out. I thought it was funny and clever, and chock-full of potty humor so it was the perfect fit.

This picture was taken for our first read-through when they both quietly listened. Then they asked to read it again, & they giggled through it. (Meira giggled at the book and Thea followed suit to be like big sis.) Then they asked to read it again & they made sound effects. Then they asked to read it AGAIN & they had it memorized.

My nieces are young and squirmy so I’ve learned that zippy, funny books are best for them, and if there’s a dash of potty humor, all the better. I have also learned: doing funny voices and accents, encouraging them to make sound effects, asking them to point to things on the page, etc. has kept them engaged. I want books to be fun for them! How do you keep your little, squirmy ones engaged?

P.S. I didn’t represent WHEN UNICORNS POOP, but that doesn’t mean I can’t plug it! You can buy it here, or at your local bookstore. I’ve seen it at most Barnes & Noble locations, too.

First paragraph of a query letter

Let’s talk about the first paragraph of a query letter! In my mind this is the most important part to get right, and I want to share some thoughts on how to make it strong.

I look for the first paragraph of a query letter to include a birdseye view of the project—AKA the basic stats: title + reader category + genre + word count), as well as a quick logline. This grounds the agent in the project + shows that you know your stuff.

This looks like:

BIPPITY BOPPITY BOOP is a YA Romance at 80,000 words in which a young magician enters a televised magic competition only to find out that the competition is rigged to make the producer’s son win—and even worse, she’s falling in love with him.

The first paragraph is also the right place to mention any specifics on why you’re querying the agent in question—you were referred by one of their clients, you saw something specific on their MSWL, etc. Keep it professional though! Don’t be like, “I saw on your Instagram that 65 weeks ago you went to Ice Cream Social. I too love that place!” This doesn’t feel professional to me.

Now let’s talk more about what you ~shouldn’t~ do in the first paragraph. A common mistake I see is when writers use this precious real estate to list the themes or issues explored in their project. This feels vague and fluffy to me.

This looks like: “My novel is about love and fear and forgiveness and mental health issues and my protagonist overcomes many obstacles to accomplish her goal.” This doesn’t give me any sense for what actually happens in your book!

Other common querying mistakes: bashing other books in the same age group/genre as yours, word count too high/low, not including the basics, and when it doesn’t feel like a professional email.

Some of you have heard this similar advice dozens of times before, but we repeat it so often because so many writers forget to include the basics! They are crucial!

This has been First Paragraph of a Query Letter 101 with Adria Goetz. Remember to list your basics and nail down a succinct logline and you’ll be golden! Go get ‘em! You’ve got this!