Once again #MSWL day is upon us. For the uninitiated, #MSWL is a Twitter hashtag that agents and editors use to indicate the kinds of manuscripts they’d like to see in their query inbox. These include a variety of genres, age groups, subjects, ideas, characters, issues, and any number of things that tickle an agent’s interest.

It’s a boon for querying writers as they can see an assortment of agents and editors who are looking for exactly what they’re writing. But it’s also great for agents in that we can reach writers who might not query us otherwise. I’ve had writers mention in the past that they didn’t know I repped a certain genre or didn’t think I’d be interested in that kind of story until they saw something similar in my #MSWL tweets.

There will invariably be some griping that agents only want certain kinds of books or that we want people to write books to fit our tastes. They’re missing the bigger picture—it’s not about telling writers what to write, but to give them ideas on the kinds of things that excite us.

  1. We’re letting writers who already have those kinds of stories know that we’re interested in manuscripts just like theirs.
  2. We’re giving ideas of the kinds of stories we enjoy as an indicator of what else we might be interested in representing. It’s not cut-and-paste so much as it is offering a mental image to use for comparison.
  3. For example, there are only so many ways to say that I like weird, bizarre, quirky stories before it sounds like gibberish. But if I say I want a story that could be described as Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey rolled into one big glorious mass of sinister oddity, you might get a mental image of what I’m looking for. Or it might just confuse you more than ever, and maybe even frighten you, in which case you’re better off querying someone with more boring normal tastes.
  4. But honestly, how awesome would it be if you could wish long and hard enough for that one perfect book and poof! you magically wish it into existence? That’s why #MSWL is so great—for me, it’s the potential to find that perfect manuscript that is everything I want in a book and more.

I’ve noticed that, overall, that the quality of submissions I get after participating in #MSWL tends to be of a higher caliber than the general slush pile. When writers cite a specific interest I mentioned during #MSWL, it indicates that they’re paying attention to details and are more likely to find a good match for their manuscript. Not always, but it can improve a query’s chances considerably.

So go forth and scour the #MSWL feed—keeping in mind it’s not a time to pitch or ask agents specifically about your manuscript. If you think your might be a match, just query me.

 

A note of caution: Anyone can tweet their #MSWL, and not all agents and publishers are created equal (i.e., there are plenty of incompetent agents and scammers out there) so always research agents thoroughly before querying to make sure they are legit. I fully expect every writer who signs with me to do plenty of Google-stalking beforehand. I’d actually be disappointed if they didn’t research me, because it’s important to know who you’ll be partnering with in your future literary endeavors.

 

Additional resources:

www.mswishlist.com Some intrepid writers have collected all the agent and editor #MSWL tweets/requests into one website and then tagged and categorized them to make it easily searchable.

www.manuscriptwishlist.com

Put together by agent Jessica Sinsheimer, who started the original #MSWL tag and Twitter party, this website allows agents and editors to submit paragraphs explaining their wishlist(s) in more detail.

 

And finally, below is a Storify collection of my #MSWL (and related) tweets.