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Deciphering #MSWL

You’ve now read a month of #MSWL posts during the BookEnds #MSWL Madness and you know which books we would love to see on our lists and some of our favorite themes and genres. What you don’t always know when reading #MSWL is how you should interpret our wants, desires, and favorite books. Does that mean Jessica Faust only wants single-title transgender sleuths with magical abilities?

Not at all. The truth about #MSWL is that there is one thing we all really want. We all want a book that makes us miss our subway stop, read late into the night and feel like we’ve just found the greatest treasure the world has to offer. It makes us itch to pick up the phone at 2 am when we’re pretty sure the author isn’t awake enough to receive our offer call. That book could fit exactly our #MSWL or it could be something we didn’t even know we wanted.

#MSWL works. We’ve all had successes because we advertised, promoted and connected with what an author was writing, but most of the clients I took on in 2017 had nothing to do with #MSWL, they were just books that I loved reading. Some, frankly, I probably wouldn’t have wanted at all if you’d described it in vague #MSWL terms, but the query got me anyway.

So use #MSWL to see if there’s a seemingly perfectly matched agent out there. And then query everyone else as well.


Category: Blog



  1. I went to one day ‘how to get published’ event on Saturday. The last part of the day was a panel of three agents from different agencies explaining how it works from their POV. About the only thing they agreed on was follow the instructions for submissions, everything else especially what to include in a synopsis was pretty much polar opposites, which is concerning.

    One of them was very much, I don’t like XYZ but anything else send it in and give it as much consideration as anything else.

    A lot of the people attending found that strange and in quiet groups questioned he reasons.

    I found him, friendly, helpful and very encouraging (and he is interested in my MS when I finish polishing it). You’ve just said that you’re #MSWL is more a guide than a tablet of stone. So an enthusiastic agent with a broad range of interests wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing?
    Sorry for the long winded reply/question.

  2. I don’t even mind the laughably specific requests, because, hey, one never knows, right? But when they are preceded by “Someone write me this!” followed by a laughably specific request, well, that makes me laugh.

    1. Or the idea can be so laughably specific you start with. “I don’t know much about that genre and mixed with that really?”
      Followed by “yes love this is book research, honestly making notes for other ideas is good, it gives my subconscious time to think”

      And ending with a file of notes on two subjects and a few characters you didn’t know anything about until someone posted her #MSWL

  3. Not to mention the potential legal pickle a writer who actually ran with one of these hyper-specific requests could find him or herself in if that idea turned into a bestseller with a different agent onboard.

  4. Charlotte: I think when you read books all day and study books all night it’s understandable that agents get “laughably specific.” We spend most of our time thinking about books and every story we hear from friends, an article we read, or tv show we watch turns into a book idea. You’d be surprised by how “laughably specific” can often turn into a book. Ask my clients.

    As for the legal pickle. You can’t copyright an idea and 140 characters aren’t enough to sue anyone over. It’s an idea, but the execution is what really matters.

    1. Great, I’d love to know how many of your clients took a very specific idea from you and turned it into a book that sold. Can you list them?

      As a very very longtime professional writer, it’s a bit much to ask for specific tweets to be turned into books, which take anywhere from one to twenty years to write, without payment, and for an agent who may very well have forgotten the tweet once you query it, or who may not want that concept anymore.

      Brainstorming with a client isn’t a bad thing. For one, you know your clients’ abilities and interests. For two, that client won’t have to spend months to years querying. For three, presumably you are brainstorming ideas that you’re aware an editor may want.

      But to randomly sent out hyper-specific requests, and I’ve seen some doozies, just seems the equivalent to people in a bar who say “You’re a writer? Hey, I’ve got a story idea!”

      But if you’ve got some authors who have taken your ideas and run with them I’d love to hear more.

      1. I’m afraid sharing which ideas I took to clients and they ran with is their story to share, not mine. I don’t think agents are asking authors to take a tweet and write a story. They are asking if you have a story like that please send it their way. However, authors can do whatever they want.

  5. I’m awake at your 2am, so if (when!) you fall in love with my ms feel free to pick up the phone *grin*.

    I enjoy reading the specifics of what an agent might be interested in, because even if I haven’t written it there’s a lot to be learnt about the agent and the industry in general (for example, watching the #mswl for #ownvoices momentum, or how zombies are dead).

  6. Okay because I just have to……
    You said: “It makes us itch to pick up the phone at 2 am when we’re pretty sure the author isn’t awake enough to receive our offer call.”

    PLEASE! Pick up the phone at 2 am! I’ll be awake enough… I PROMISE! (or if I’m not, I’ll fake it good enough til I am… just sayin’)

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