What I’m looking for

One of the greatest things about being an agent is that we constantly get new submissions. Seriously. I love getting queries and manuscripts and proposals, not knowing when I might find the next big thing, the next great thing, or the brand new thing. And right now, I’d really like the last thing on that list.

I see a lot of material. A lot of it looks pretty much the same: the humorous but touching memoir, the dystopian or paranormal YA, the adventurous middle grade. And all that is just fine, and you should keep sending it!  But I’d love to see something truly weird or off-beat. We’re updating our staff picks on the website, and you’ll see that my latest pick is Andrew Smith’s The Marbury Lens. If you haven’t read this book, do!  And if you have, you know just how off-beat and original it is, both in content and form. I would love to see some YA that really breaks the rules, whether that book is fantasy, paranormal or even contemporary. A.S. King, an author of mine, is another example of someone with a unique approach to form that I love–each of her books is a surprise.

I recently read Aimee Bender’s amazing The Particular Sadness of Lemoncake, another example of a book that doesn’t quite fit into any category. Depending on how you read it, it could be women’s fiction, magical realism, or a coming-of-age story, and it’s somehow all of these and none of these at once. And I loved it so much I couldn’t drag myself away from it, even when I needed to.

On the nonfiction front, I’d love something akin to the recent Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen, which isn’t so innovative in its structure, but certainly covers some odd territory. Not only is the book about one of the most written about places that supposedly doesn’t exist, it also makes some pretty jaw-dropping claims. I love off-beat topics for nonfiction, and it’d be great to see some more of those.

So give me your strange, your bizarre, your weirdo manuscripts striving to find publication. I’m in the mood to be surprised.

11 Responses to What I’m looking for

  1. How about a western? You would think after the success of True Grit, those would be back in style.

    I’m working on a Western about the most lawless town in the old west… and it wasn’t Tombstone, Dodge City or Deadwood.

    • Michael says:

      If it’s a McCabe & Mrs. Miller-style Western, it might be right for me. Try me with a query!

      • That is a pretty high standard to shoot for. As soon as I finish up the novel I’ll shoot you over a query.

        I’m in AZ and I’ve been to this town. They had one town Marshall who was sworn in at 3:00 in the afternoon and buried at 8:00 that night. :)

  2. I’m listening to Ship Breaker in my car now and I love it. I think it feels less like dystopia and more like The Cay or a Scott O’Dell book. Also, maybe it’s the reader’s accent, but it’s giving me the urge to go into a Pirates of the Caribbean movie binge. This makes me weird, right?

  3. Agent says: am looking for original, breaks the rules manuscript.

    Authors of original works fizz with interest.

    One bold author says: I am writing an original story, conjecturing that its genre might be about to enjoy a new day in the sun.

    Agent says: great I would like to see it – so long as it’s like a story that is already out there.

    Authors of original manuscripts sigh in despair.

    Authors of trite breathe easy. The status quo is maintained.

    • Michael says:

      I’m not sure how much more positive I could be than asking for a query! Plus, if you want an original western, look no further than McCabe & Mrs. Miller. And that was the point I was trying to make.

  4. Wow! Hit a nerve?
    Just exploiting the irony. You ask for original, then ask for it to be like something else.
    McCabe is original, fine. But anther story like it cant be. Can it?
    If you really seek an original western it should be nothing like McCabe, or any other work.
    Yes, a very nice thing, you opening the door for the guy’s query, but he is declaring his work as original, so why try and influence it not to be?

  5. Donna Hole says:

    This is a big help Michael. Thank you. The real problem with writing something “original” per se, isn’t in the concept itself, but in getting the query to sound original. Thats the toughest for me.


  6. Ed Ryan says:

    Michael, thanks for the post. I have something you may find interesting. I’ve sent you a query. Hope to hear back from you.


  7. I appreciate this post. I don’t think there’s anything an unagented writer wants to see more than an agent’s request for something specific.

  8. Willie says:

    Full of salient points. Don’t stop belveiing or writing!

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