Manuscript Wishlist (MSWL)

Last updated: May 2020

Mission Statement:

I look for books that delight readers, that help inspire wonder and imagination, that foster deep empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, that provide rich character representation of marginalized people groups, that take the reader on an adventure, that uncover fascinating stories from history’s footnotes, that explore issues of faith, that make people laugh or cry or jump from fright, that celebrate women and the female experience, that ask nitty gritty questions and don’t settle for easy answers, 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. Young Adult
  4. Adult Fiction (as of February 2020!)
  5. Graphic Novels (MG/YA)
  6. Quirky gift books
  7. Devotionals for the Christian market
  8. Books for both the general market, and the Christian market

In 2020—This year I’m particularly eager to sign more:

  1. Adult Fiction. I’m looking for Thrillers/Suspense, and Women’s Fiction—from book club picks to beach reads.
  2. Graphic Novels. I’m looking for more MG and YA graphic novels. Some recent favorites of mine include Pumpkinheads, Pashmina, and Making Friends. I’d also love to work with someone who has a hybrid format similar to Brian Selznick’s works.
  3. Picture book author/illustrators. Some of my favorite illustrators include Juana Martinez-Neal, Vashti Harrison, the Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, Anne Lambelet, and Emily Winfield Martin. I’m open to many different illustration aesthetics from hand-drawn to digitally rendered to unconventional mediums, and love having a wide range of styles on my list. I’m primarily looking for a unique, distinctive signature look. See below for more specifics on what I’m looking for in the picture book space.
  4. YA Rom Com/Romance. Some favorites include Don’t Date Rosa Santos and When Dimple Met Rishi. I’m looking for a strong, commercial hook here.
  5. Mermaids. I want mermaid stories across the board! (PB/MG/YA). The catch here is that I’m not looking for the falls-in-love-with-a-human trope, the human-discovers she’s a mermaid trope, or an epic fantasy that features wars and kingdoms and sea politics. So I guess I want a… quiet mermaid novel? 

Visual MSWL—If you’d like to see a visual version of my manuscript wishlist, head over to my MSWL Pinterest board.

Client Books—If you’d like to see some of the books I’ve represented, head over to my Amazon list. (But don’t forget to support your local bookstore!)

Submission Guidelines—check out my submission guidelines on my agency’s website.

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, Dark Places, 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 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, The Dollhouse, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Room, Daisy Jones & The Six, The Girls, The Mothers.
  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, Maybe in Another Life, The Rosie Project, Waiting for Tom Hanks.
  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.
  5. 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’d love to build an empire the way Austin Kleon has built an empire around his Steal Like an Artist series. I’m open to different topics and styles, but here are a few topics I’m specifically interested in: linguistics, science, historical footnotes. I’m also open to interactive journals with a great concept.
  6. Concept-Driven Photography Books—I’d love to do a drone photography book, for example. I’d also love to do something with a humor angle, like The Art of Clean Up.
  7. Lifestyle Books—I love books that toe the line between lifestyle, culture, and cookbook/craft book—like Scandinavian Gatherings, Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, How to Hygge, The Year of Cozy, etc.
  8. Devotionals—I’d love to represent more concept-driven devotionals for the Christian market. I represented a knitting devotional called Knit, Pray, Share and loved the specificity of it. Would love to do more devotionals with unique hooks!

PICTURE BOOKS:

  1. Contemporary Families—I love books that reflect real-life families and their real life experiences, particularly families and characters who haven’t been represented as much as white families have in picture books. Examples: Hair Love, My Papi Has a Motorcycle, Honeysmoke, Under My Hijab, Alma, Julian is a Mermaid, Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
  2. 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 a great entry point into reading. I loved We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Dragons Love Tacos, The Bad Seed, When Unicorns Poop, The Day the Crayons Quit, Maria the Matador, Mabel: A Mermaid Fabel, Brunhilda’s Backwards Day, I Don’t Like Koala, Escargot, Miss Hazeltime’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, Rot: the Cutest in the World.
  3. Magical books—I love anything by The Fan Brothers, David Litchfield, and Emily Winfield Martin. A few favorite magical books: The Night Gardener, The Antlered Ship, Ocean Meets Sky, The Bear and the Piano, Remarkables, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore, Lights on Cotton Rock, The Traveler’s Gift.
  4. Mermaids—Send me all of your mermaids!!
  5. Karaoke—I’d love a joyful picture book about karaoke, sort of like the karaoke equivalent of Hip-Hop Lollipop.
  6. Family + Cultural Traditions—I love picture books about family traditions/cultural traditions, especially when there is food, cooking, baking, or recipes involved. (Think Fry Bread or Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao.) 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. Check out my client Tina Cho’s upcoming picture book My Breakfast with Jesus for another example of this.
  7. 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 loved Hello, Lighthouse, for example.
  8. Spooky—I love spooky stories! Ghosts, haunted houses, cobwebs. If it was somehow possible for an author/illustrator to do a spooky-yet-entirely-kid-friendly picture book about rusalka, I would die of happiness. See How to Make Friends with a Ghost for my spooky book crush, as well as an upcoming picture book called The Ugly Doodles by my client Valeria Wicker.
  9. Cats—My cats Maple and Mulberry take it extremely personally that I’ve sold seven books about dogs but have yet to work on a single book about a cat, despite the fact I am completely obsessed with cats. Please, somebody, remedy this!
  10. Raccoons—I know, I know, raccoons are vicious and terrifying. But they’re also adorable! I’d love to have a raccoon picture book on my list. Preferably a funny one!
  11. Creativity—I am very much a creative, so I love picture books about art and creativity, like the iconic The Dot, and Ish. I also loved The Wonder and Beautiful Oops, and my client Valeria Wicker’s upcoming picture book The Ugly Doodles.
  12. Funny Christian picture books—I would love to see more funny Christian picture books in my inbox!

MIDDLE GRADE:

  1. Own Voices—I love 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 and experiences represented on my list.
  2. Magical Realism—This is my favorite genre in any age group, so I’d love to have more of it on my list.
  3. Graphic Novels—Some recent faves of mine were Pashmina and Making Friends, Witch Boy, and Fish Girl. I’d also like to put out into the universe: I would love to find the next Brian Selznick type of creator.
  4. Mermaids—Note: I’m happy to look at any mermaid project, but I’m not looking for the girl-discovers-she’s-a-mermaid narrative here.
  5. Historical Fiction—I am a history nerd and love historical fiction that feels like it’s uncovering a fresh story, especially a historical footnote or narrative that has been glossed over in textbooks. I recently loved Ship of Dolls.
  6. 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 because I was so scared. I want to work on books that inspire that same level of book-induced fright! Give me an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit.
  7. Epistolary Novel—I’d love an epistolary novel between two pen pals, or some sort of unique format.

YOUNG ADULT:

  1. Graphic Novels—I am really eager to acquire more YA graphic novels. Recent faves of mine include Pumpkinheads, and The Prince and the Dressmaker. I’d love to find something equally as atmospheric and fun as these two.
  2. Mermaids—Like I said up above, I’m looking for something very specific here! I’m not looking for an epic high fantasy, or a story in which someone discovers they’re a mermaid or a mermaid falls in love with a human. I want a quiet mermaid novel that shows what life under the sea is like in a dreamy, magical, lyrical way. Something that a non-genre reader could get into.
  3. Rom-Com—I’m dying for a commercial rom-com with a high concept instant hook. I’d love a concept like When Dimple Met Rishi with the romantic tone of Don’t Date Rosa Santos.
  4. Thriller/Suspense/Mystery—I am a sucker for a good whodunit. I loved One of Us Is Lying, Keep This to Yourself, and am currently loving the Truly Devious series. I also loved the mystery at the heart of Patron Saints of Nothing.
  5. Contemporary Realistic—In contemporary realistic YA, I’m looking for a distinctive, voice-y writer. When I think of a strong voice, I think of Robyn Schneider/John Green/Angie Thomas.
  6. Magical Realism—I’m looking for the next The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This is my all-time favorite book!!
  7. Atmospheric—I love books with a very strong atmospheric setting—boarding school, lighthouse, forest, things like that. Pull me into your world! I love flowery descriptions.
  8. Unique Form—I love stories that are told in unique formats like letters, emails, texts, etc. I loved Technically, You Started It.

NOT QUITE MY CUP OF TEA:

  1. Memoirs
  2. Sports stories
  3. Erotica
  4. Space operas
  5. Amish Fiction
  6. Angel/Demon narratives
  7. High/Epic Fantasy
  8. Stories with a “dreamscape” element

2020 Conferences, Workshops + Events

2020 Conferences, Workshops & Events:

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!