EDITOR AND AGENT WISHLISTS: Be Gruesome. Be Dark. Be Original

Can I tell you how much I love agent and editors “wish-lists”?  It’s not because I’m trying to get an agent or editor interested in my work necessarily. I have an agent, Kris Rothstein and HER job is getting editors interested in my work.

It’s just fun to get an insight into what other people want to read, or what professionals in our industry think will sell. It’s interesting how far away agents wish-lists are from what is flying off the shelves in book stores. Agents are saying “dystopia is over” yet Delirium and Divergent are topping the NYT Bestsellers. Of course, agents are predicting that dystopia will be over by the time any books in their slushpile actually reach the bookstores (about two years). It’s a brave assertion, because really, who can be sure?

Vampires are over too, according to agents, and maybe this is true. But I have the feeling that maybe vampires are so over they might actually be ready to come back pretty soon. If I was an agent or editor, I’d be keeping a couple of vampires parked just in case.

Ultimately these wishlists are about taste. Two agents I follow on twitter recently shared the fact that they both wanted to see a YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I was pretty happy about that actually, since my WIP basically fits that bill.

Here are some other quirky things agents and editors are looking for:

Renee from Lyrical Press is looking for: “BDSM (male dom/female sub) hot enough to melt everything in my freezer…and I just did some serious food shopping and my freezer is packed, so bring on the burn!”

Uh…*blush*…I write YA and middle grade so, maybe not.

The Donald Maass Agency used to post wishlists monthly. These days they are doing writing prompts, but one of their previous wishlists practically went viral so you can find it memorialized in various places on the web, such as here. A couple of my favorites from this classic wishlist: A Huck Finn-like fantasy featuring a raft trip down the Mississippi, with magic. The next The World According to Garp, about an idiot savant.

Pretty specific, no?

Ellen Pepus from the Signature Literary Agency was looking for novels with a food theme, including recipes! And who can blame her?

In fact, I’d love novel that includes actual food. Like you buy the novel and it comes with vouchers for sushi or something. Right?

Mary Kole outlines her wishes at kidlit.com. My favorite of her requests? “A YA or MG set in a theater”.

As a theater brat I can relate. All those men in black t-shirts.

Sarah Davies from Greenhouse Literary (the agency of my friend Jeyn Roberts) is always very generous on her blog with detail what she sees to much and what she’d like to see more. Recently she asked for more ghosts, space and foreign settings, among other things.

What about a foreign ghost in space? Yes?

Immortal Ink Publishing will be open for submissions in May this year and they have a long wish list that can be summed up thus: “Be gruesome. Be dark. Be original”

I think I might get that printed on a t-shirt.

Entangled Publishing blogs a new wishlist every month. Their February 2012 wishlist includes: “roommates-to-lovers (bonus points if there are multiple roommates in on the plot to get the hero and heroine together), best-friends-to-lovers, forbidden office romance, and best-friend’s-older-brother (or best-friend’s-off-limits-younger-sister). Moderate to high heat levels welcome, “

Makes me sort of warm just reading their wish list.

Finally the Andrew Lownie Agency recently did a summary of what editors are looking for this year. These are UK editors so I’m not sure what to make of that. It’s possible that this is what US editors will be looking for next year, if publishing is anything like music and fashion.

6 thoughts on “EDITOR AND AGENT WISHLISTS: Be Gruesome. Be Dark. Be Original

  1. Hi from Immortal Ink Publishing!

    I think publishers and agents would do better to look more at what they want to read and ask for that (and stop trying to guess what readers want, or claiming they “know”), since they are often so wrong anyway.

    Pick something you like reading, and let other readers who might like that sort of thing know it’s out there. That’s what we are doing 🙂 In a way, we’re really just readers that want to invest in and support other authors that we enjoy reading, because want to share our favorite reads with the other readers we know.

    Great post, and have a lovely day!

    Yours in Books,

    1. I agree. I think where you run into problems is when editors and agents try to guess what children and teens might like to read. Which is perhaps why the middle grade and YA side of the industry is so unpredictable. I’ve read some books aimed at young readers that I can’t imagine children ever enjoying and some others that children seem to love that I find ridiculous. So that’s a challenge.

  2. Well said. The teen/children audience is the hardest. You can talk to the ones you are able to get in contact with, but even that will be limiting since a few can’t possibly represent a whole.

    Many publishers also go on what’s sold in the past. While I don’t discredit that method completely, the problem with that is that just because you’re selling red socks and people are buying red socks doesn’t mean that they only think red socks are OK but are really looking for BLUE socks and would LOVE blue socks if they could find them.

    In other words, you can only buy what is available to buy. So saying that kids don’t like ‘xyz’ because they aren’t buying it doesn’t work if xyz was never available for them to buy in the first place (or, conversely, was so buried beneath everything else that they couldn’t find it!)

    Excuse my strange analogies. I’m sorta known for them 😛

    And thank you for the discussion. I think you have some awesome viewpoints on this topic.

    Yours in Books,

  3. This is so interesting! I didn’t even know that these types of wish lists existed – maybe because I’m not a writer 🙂 But as a reader… I’m pretty fascinated by the idea of these specific queries. While a few sound interesting, I hope that many writers don’t just try to fit into those slots. It seems like it would be much easier to write something that you truly loved if you came up with the idea yourself. If you (meaning any/all writers) truly loved your work, then I’m guessing it will be much more attractive to readers as well.

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