Thursday, November 17, 2016

I'm not ready but the agent's #MSWL has MY BOOK!!



I'm currently drafting a manuscript that I'm loving, and I'm planning on querying it in about a year. An agent who I want to query just tweeted an MSWL** request that matches my manuscript, which of course, has me over the moon. But my novel isn't nearly ready yet. What I'm wondering is, since she did tweet about it, should I send her a private message on Twitter just to say that I'm working on it and plan on querying her in a year? Would such a message help me at all? Or would that be terrible etiquette and totally turn her off before I've even begun? Should I just leave the matter alone, use her tweet as extra motivation fuel, and hope like hell that she's still looking for a manuscript like mine by the time I'm ready to query?
Wow, yet a new way to torment writers! I love it!
I wish I'd thought of it!

Of course, you're savvy enough to know you can't query for an unfinished manuscript.
And you're savvy enough to ask before firing off an enthused email.

In fact, you know the right thing to do: it's the last sentence of your question.  
Leave the matter alone, use her tweet as extra motivation fuel, and hope like hell that she's still looking for a manuscript like mine by the time I'm ready to query?
In other words, you really do know what to do and that's really nice to see since I read a lot of queries from people who...well...don't.

For those of you who are worried that you'll miss your chance, stop. We'll be looking for good work next year, and the year after that.  Each of us may not be looking for the exact same thing next year that we are this year, but there are a lot of agents. Someone will be looking for you.

      


**#MSWL is ManuScript Wish List. Agents list things they are particularly looking for and hashtag it #MSWL on Twitter.

I heard my slithery competitor Barbara Poelle is looking for vegan dino porn. 200,000 words minimum, preferably in a comic sans font and if you can work in some emojis, all the better. Make sure to tell her I told you to query.


   

33 comments:

Kitty said...

I'm glad you translated MSWL, because I thought it possibly meant Main Stream Women's Lit.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Ha! Janet, that last comment. You must be feeling better!

Opie-what exciting news that you happen to have a story in you that the market wants. Yes, use that MSWL knowledge as extra fuel to get your story plot-hole-less and polished.

Donnaeve said...

It's hard not to want to come out from the dark and shout, Yes! I got it! I got just the thing you're looking for! In my head! :)

This is what I think - for what it's worth. Like QOTKU has said umpteen times, (not her exact words, of course) no one, but no one can write your book but you... And what that means in relation to this is, she may not get what she's looking for from anyone else who saw that MSWL tweet. And even if she does get some material, it's possible something with it won't hit just right.

I'd keep tabs on her tweets/MSWL and more importantly, get busy writing.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I can't tell you how very tempted I am to write up a 200K manuscript of Vegan Dinoporn and send it to Barbara Poelle telling her that QOTKU told me to send it to her. And to make it extra special, in addition to the Comic Sans font, every other chapter will be in haiku, the rest in iambic pentameter. Colin will write the query, of course, to give it that extra flare. I wonder if I really could hire Colin to write my query for me. He has a wonderful knack for it.

OP- stay focused on finishing your book. It will find a home. I am trying to take that advice myself. Finish the book. Then queries and dreams.

DLM said...

Elise, the good news is, it wouldn't have to be so very many *different* words! ;P

This is another of those kind of nice problems to have. Hopefully, it's reassuring for OP; it would be for me.

kathy joyce said...

When agents write their wish lists, are they based on, "Hey, this is a cool idea, I want to read it!" Or, is it based on, "I know a publisher who wants this," or, "This is what the market seems to want now"? It seems a little unfair to authors if there isn't some intended market for the idea. To my read, so much on #MSWL seems like, "I feel like reading X, let's see if I can get someone to write it for me." Is publishing really that subjective?

Ellen said...

For Barbara Poelle ...

They said it would never work. He was a towering Tyrannosaurus, bloodthirsty and bold. She was a delicate herbivore, defenseless except for the flesh-tearing spikes that lined her back from head to haunch. Her parents were opposed. His parents wanted her for dinner. Preferably belly up. The tension could have caused an ice age. But from the moment she lifted her sexy tail, they fell in love. But could the predator really learn to leave his meat-eating ways behind ... or would his carnal desire turn carnivorous? Find out in Tyrannosaurus Sex: Forbidden Love.
<3

Kregger said...

When did Fred Flintstone's family pet become vegan?

Susan said...

Kathy: That's why I wish there was a MSWL for readers (maybe there is and I just don't know about it) that industry insiders paid attention to. Because readers dictate the market (or at least, they play a huge part through their buying trends), it would be nice if we could say "I'd love to read xyz" and have others vote/be able to chime in so those in the industry can see what readers are clamoring for. Writers shouldn't write to market, but maybe there's a way it could even help them. I know it's not how the industry works--and I'm not trying to change it--but I think it would certainly help infuse new ideas into a market that sometimes grows stale while allowing publishers to take a bit of a risk.

Just some early-morning musing.

Steve Stubbs said...

OP:

One additional thing is, now that the MSWL is out there, everybody and his dog is working on your book. They’re tanned. They’re rested. They’re after your contract.

There is only room for one player on the field. BUT – and here is the good news – writing these things is a superb learning exercise. Even though our book will not get published you will benefit immeasurably from writing it. And you will be able to read the book that does get published and see how the winning entry in the contest looks, which will be another learning experience.

Another possibility is to write the thing in four months instead of twelve. Business is about Who You Know. I am thinking of a woman who was paid $1,000,000 for an autobiography that was initially self published and had little chance of earning out since it was a first book If one of your competitors knows somebody, especially if s/he is a Mega Successful Author, you could get done yesterday and it won’t help. But it cannot hurt to get on the stick. Make your keyboard smoke.

If beaucoups of other people have the same idea as you, which appears to be the case, you are getting ideas from current events. There are several ways to avoid that. You can write an historical novel based on events in the past that are unknown except to a few historians. There are loads of those in old newspaper microfilms. You can write about things that have not happened yet (science fiction.) Or you can write about things that will never happen (fantasy). Old newspaper microfilms are probably your best bet. There is so much material out there it does not matter how many people are mining that source.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Oh no, don't tell me I've missed the gay cowboy bus, I've just finished the first draft.

Jenny Chou said...

I have a friend who just finished a MS that's written entirely in emojis. Should I tell her to query Barbara Poelle right away and use your name?

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I confess, I pretty much never have any idea what emojis are supposed to mean, unless it's very obvious (the most basic smiley faces, etc). But .gifs, I've had entire conversations with friends using .gifs!

I've subbed to an MSWL and still been rejected. So obviously the face that I thought it was perfect wasn't the same as the agent thinking so. It's how it goes. I also just this week had a magazine editor reply to one of my tweets and say "oh, but please right that story!" which felt really awesome (because previously only people who knew me personally have said such things) but then...once I do write it, do I just put that in the cover letter? It's not like it was actually solicited. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I'm thinking about a MSCL (ManuScript Complete List) where authors can tweet about their finished project. Sort of a "Who wants me?" kind of thing. And then agents have to query US. No? Okay... I'm off to feed horses. And pigs. And kittens.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I'm so glad I'm rarely on twitter and I miss most of the MSWL tweets. I think I'd go insane. I think we tend to take those things a little more seriously than we should. I imagine agents tweet those out with as much thought and consideration as any other tweet (which is to say, not a huge amount). To seriously switch up your MS or to even write a new book based on a tweet seems... over-eager.

I think it's a cool way for agents to say what they're looking for without making any promises or committing to a new genre. And I think it's a great way for writers to track down agents they might never have thought about querying.

Colin Smith said...

Late start today--I'm taking the day off. It's SecondBorn's 21st birthday. SecondBorn is my Asiaphile (learning a gazillion Asian languages, wants to move to Japan or China to teach English...), and she wants to try sake. We're going to a restaurant for lunch, and my wife's the designated driver. :)

TOPIC: What Janet said. Absolutely. The lovely Ms. Sinsheimer has put a lot of work into MSWL, and I'm sure a lot of writers benefit from it. I believe some contracts have been signed as a result. Personally, it makes no difference to me. I'm writing what I have, not what an agent says they want. If those things coincide, then wonderful... but just because some agent's MSWL says they want what I'm writing, doesn't mean they'll sign me. And just because an agent doesn't think they want my ms, doesn't mean they won't when they read it! :) In other words, I'll just stick with old fashioned querying.

Elise: Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll only be convinced I can write a half-decent query when one of them actually gets a healthy number of requests. :)

Susan: I thought someone was working on a "readers" version of MSWL...? Might be worth Googling.

Claire Bobrow said...

Ellen: I'd buy that! :-)

Beth said...

Ellen, I must have that story. Are they able to convince their families to live in harmony, or is the wedding like the one in Game of Thrones? Or do they elope and move far away to produce their own herd of spiky little dinos with oversized teeth?

As for reader #MSWL, you can find them in reviews. "Hurray, a romance with an older heroine" or "Great mystery, but I wish someone would write one where the sleuth was a cow." Of course, one reader's opinion doesn't exactly drive an industry.

Kensi Blonde said...

The MSWL hashtag can be very useful for writers with a finished product, but often has me laughing and shaking my head. Some agents don't seem to understand the economics or time suck of writing a novel, and will shoot off any old thing that pops into their heads while they're watching TV or have just read an article. I saw one about female Japanese divers in the 1920s. Does anyone have this hanging around their hard drive? Hey, maybe so, but unlikely. It can take years to properly research and write a novel - these are UNPAID years, mind you - and the notion that someone is going to get right down to work writing 87,000 words on female Japanese divers in the '20s (or some other esoteric topic) on the off chance some editor might pay up for it someday is a bit ludicrous, no?

Adib Khorram said...

Ellen, that sounds like a masterpiece. Send pages now!

I can't imagine any legitimate agent who DOESN'T understand how much time and energy go into writing a novel. And I don't think any agent who posts something on #MSWL is asking someone to write that novel—they're just hoping someone might have already written it.

Given the timescales involved in publishing, chasing an agents #MSWL seems like a losing proposition.

You know what I hate way more than seeing something I'm half-finished writing on an agent's wishlist? Seeing a deal for something that sounds super-similar to something I just finished. It's happened to me twice now.

RachelErin said...

I love MSWL, but I think it's important to realize agents use it differently, and keep it in perspective.

Obviously, once the book is done, if someone has a particular interest in your kind of book you can move them up the query list. There are a lot of agents, and someone tweeting: Hey, I'd love to see some fantasy with Incas! means I will query them earlier. (Note, my MS is pre-Incan, but it's close enough). I'll query that agent about six months after the MSWL tweet, but the chances of her getting and signing another MS in those six months is pretty slim. Plus, we may have completely different takes on South American inspired fantasy, so there wouldn't even be competition. Don't know until you query.

I also think it can reveal patterns. Just like TenQueries can show bizarre trends in queries, MSWL can show trends in what agents think will sell and what they want to read.

Also, agents use it really differently. Some MSWL's are broad and long-term, some are spur-of-the-moment whims and Hail Mary shots. A lot of the How I found My Agent/Client stories still say they didn't know what they wanted until they saw it, even if they use MSWL a lot.

I also think it can be a fun indicator of personality - if I like the sound of one of the MSWLs, even if it isn't remotely what I write, it's a data point that means we might have similar taste.

tl;dr if it's fun, you can learn something about the agent/market and/or get lucky with close match while you query. if not, just ignore it.

Jen said...

"I heard my slithery competitor Barbara Poelle is looking for vegan dino porn. 200,000 words minimum, preferably in a comic sans font and if you can work in some emojis, all the better. Make sure to tell her I told you to query."

HAHAHA!!!!! Alas, all my 200K dino porn isn't vegan. :-(

Kensi Blonde said...

Adib, I have literally seen, many times, "please someone write me this...." followed by some incredibly specific, arcane concept. I'm always tempted to write back, "Sure, for how much?"

Lennon Faris said...

OP, I can understand how tempting that is.

Something to consider, though: most people, even if they know what they generally like to read, ultimately fall in love with a story. Not an idea. Whether or not they love a book is almost always due to the writing, or the characters, or something embedded in the idea- not the idea itself.

It's great that you now know that particular agent might actually love your story. But, Agents turn down manuscripts that perfectly fit their MSWL all the time. I doubt sending an email will save you a spot. Your best bet is to take your time and make your story the absolute best it can be, then wow them (and hopefully several other agents!) with your finished product.

Ellen - lol. That was epic.

Andrea said...

About a readers' wish list, Penguin did something similar last week, with #AskPenguin. They asked you to tell them what kind of book you want to read and they reply with suggestions. Obviously this is about books that are already published, but still... it might give someone somewhere down the line an idea. I asked for "fantasy in the spirit of Ursula Le Guin regarding themes, interesting female characters and writing style" but I didn't get a reply from Penguin, unfortunately. So I'm taking Toni Morrison's advice and try to write the book I want to read.


Craig F said...

Does anyone even know if MSWL had created a sale? Every time I have looked at it there is a whole mess of esoteric crap that an agent wants to read. I have never seen it said that a publisher was looking for it. It seems like it is just what that agent might wish to read.

I know that it is a good thing for agents to read your work but it sounds like any kind of correspondence from this would only make for a very big letdown.

roadkills-r-us said...

I got *extremely* excited to see Ms. Poelle's MSWL.
"Look, honey!" I almost yelled at my wife. "I have that exact novel ready to go!"
She glanced at the screen, squinted, and said in her best Clint Eastwood voice, "Uh uh. I know what you're thinking. 'Did she type a capital V or only a lower?' Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is Barbara Poelle, the most powerful agent on dry land and would blow your manuscript's fonts clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
I almost cried, because of course I had written Vegan dino porn, not vegan dino porn. Some of my raptorous relatives are from the Vegan system, and I like to write what I know.

Back to dealing with editors and illustrators.

Panda in Chief said...

I always think of #MSWL as a way to find if someone is looking for what you've already written, not something that is going to direct what I write. After all, my agent did not know he was looking for a panda detective story with fine art references, before he read mine, now did he?

Anyway, I think we need to have a dino porn flash fiction contest. I might even enter. (I could write it while on the way to Carkoon. How is the internet connection there?)

Barbara Etlin said...

Oh crap, my dino porn novel is gluten-free, not vegan. Might as well give up right now...

Colin Smith said...

Dear Barbara Poelle,

Terry Dacktill's cattle farm is doing great business, especially with his fellow winged carnivores, until his prize steers start disappearing. When they turn up at a local hospital strung out on dope, Dacktill knows who's to blame: local dealer, pornographer, and radical animal rights activist, Tyrone Rex. Tyrone may be 40 feet tall with huge, shark-like teeth, but he hasn't been tearing into anything but tofu for the last 20 years. And he will continue to spoil Dacktill's meat supply, unless Dacktill can find a way to stop him. The stakes are high for Dacktill, especially since his foe has the ultimate blackmail weapon: photographs of Dacktill's girl, Steg O'Sorus, taken from a movie she made for Rex many years ago...

THE FINAL CUT is a 120,000 word Dino Thriller.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Wilbur Buttonweazer

Dena Pawling said...


Janet - does Ms. Poelle only want vegan Dino porn fiction? Because mine's vegan Dino porn narrative non-fiction. And does that need platform like other non-fiction?

Michael Seese said...

I've come across this situation as well. What I do is capture a screen shot of the tweet, and save it in the same directory on my PC as the WIP. There also is a way to capture the exact URL of the tweet. (I forget what it is, but it's not hard to find.)

Then, when it's time to query, I still put #MSWL in the subject line and say, "A while back you tweeted you were looking for X Well, I have it."

Kae Ridwyn said...

I'm needing these laughs today; thanks, QOTKU and Reiders :)
And thanks also to Michael Seese for the screenshot / how to phrase your tweet tip; that'll come in handy, one day - when the day job lets me finish the edit and query letter...