Recently, I talked about #MSWL (the hashtag for Manuscript Wish List), where agents and editors post what they’d like to see in their inboxes. If you missed that post, check it out here: http://labelleseditorialservices.com/blog/its-that-day-again/. What I didn’t talk about in that post is when you should or shouldn’t check this hashtag. Let’s go over that today.
Okay, I’ll admit I peruse that hashtag often because I’m curious what agents want right now. This helps me get an idea of the market, which means I can offer more up-to-date advice when working with authors on their stories and query letters. If you pop over there occasionally to see what’s hot at the moment, that’s fine, but don’t make the mistake others have made. Don’t use the #MSWL as a way to come up with story ideas.
Because by the time you write and polish your story, the agent might have already found a story like it, or the market might have changed and he/she no longer wants it. The exception, of course, is for those who can pump out quality books in weeks or a few months instead of a year. Even then, there’s the risk that the agent might have been inundated with similar stories. How would yours stand out? Maybe your story would be different enough, but there’s definitely more of a risk writing this way.
A better way to use #MSWL, and the way it’s intended to be used, is for you to scan the hashtag when you’re ready to query. That way, you’ll know which of the agents on the hashtag (or website) are specifically looking for stories like yours.
Another way to use the hashtag is to go through agent wish lists during your final revision round. Maybe your story fits exactly what an agent wants, except, ah crap, your story has pink unicorns, and pink unicorns aren’t selling. Better to know now, rather than after you’ve queried all your favorite agents, right? All you have to do is change the pink unicorns to something else. Ha. Look at that. Pink unicorns aren’t selling, but one of your top agents wants flying giraffes. Hold on a second. What’s that? Your story would still work if you replaced the pink unicorns with flying giraffes AND it wouldn’t add much time to your revision schedule so you could still query in a month or two? Woohoo! Go for it. Assuming you’re okay with the change. It is your story, after all.
There’s a BUT to add to the advice I just gave you. It’s still important for you to know your market. What has sold recently? Check Publisher’s Marketplace. What’s hot in the bookstores? And be cautious. Some agents have very eclectic tastes. If only one agent wants flying giraffes, but the others all want pigacorns (pigs with a unicorn horn), you might want to reconsider adding flying giraffes to your story. It might be a harder sell. Plus, if many agents are asking for pigacorns, that’s probably an indication that editors are asking for them, which means an easier sell for agents and you.
The #MSWL is a great tool for those querying, especially since some agents add more details about what they’re currently seeking on the hashtag than what they have posted on their agency’s website. But, if you don’t see your type of story mentioned on the hashtag, it doesn’t mean agents don’t want it, so don’t get discouraged. Query anyway.
Good luck on your agent/editor search.
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