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What’s on the ‘manuscript wishlist’ of literary agents?

The other day, a friend sent me a link to something called “manuscript wishlist” -- a Twitter thread (#MSWL) from literary agents who are looking for that next best-selling blockbuster manuscript by an unknown writer. (Also online at mswishlist.com)

It’s fascinating to troll the posts and see what they’re hoping to find. (And poets, I’m sorry, but you can all stop reading right now. They’re not looking for poetry.)

One agent wrote: “I’d really love a hot contemporary romance about women (and men, I guess) who brew their own beer.”

I thought that might be a joke until I saw the response, from another agent: “Ooooh, ME TOO. Where is my contemporary romance novel version of the movie DRINKING BUDDIES?”

One agent wants great stories for men and boys (“women readers dominate fiction trends,” he says, although I’m not sure I’d agree), and another says she is “absolutely actively looking for diversity and nonwhite protagonists. Let’s fix this problem.”

Some of the desires are quite specific: “Is anyone writing #MG (­middle-grade) or #YA (young adult) about homosexuals in Berlin during the Holocaust? Send it my way!” And some are murky: “In nonfiction also looking for unique memoirs, and narrative nonfiction on topics-angles yet to be explored.”

It’s a fascinating and slightly depressing thread to scroll through. This is what agents are looking for, but is it what readers are looking for? And -- dare I ask -- is it what writers want to write?

Links along the side of the page list more than 60 genres: You can click on wish lists for adventure, cyberpunk, memoir, romance, time travel, or westerns.

Literary fiction is there, but only to augment other genres: “literary thrillers,” literary YA, and “upmarket lit fic set in cool places.”

One agent wants a book that is like Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being,” but how could there be such a book? Ozeki’s wonderful novel was completely original.

Lots of calls for paranormal, young adult and paranormal young adult. But no calls for poetry. You poets are on your own. (TNS)

By Laurie Hertzel

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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