MSWL & Submission Guidelines

** I am closed for queries at this time**

Manuscript Wishlist:

mswlWhatever the category or genre, I am passionate about finding and promoting underrepresented and marginalized voices!

In fiction, strong female voices are near and dear to my heart, and I am particularly drawn to dark humor, twisted psychology, fresh retellings and reimaginings—especially untold histories, classic films, little-known myths and fairy tales, and classical ballets—nods to fandom, well-placed red herrings, and cultures and traditions from far off places I’ll likely never see.

My wish-list evolves often. You can also find real-time updates to my #MSWL on Twitter and on my Visual MSWL board. You can also find a much more thorough exploration of my interests here on

Commercial Fiction

I’m open to queries across the following genres: upmarket and commercial women’s fiction, historical, domestic/psychological thrillers, fantasy (not epic), and mysteries (more noir than cozy). Favorites include Megan Abbott, Kaui Hart Hemmings, Hannah Kent, Ami McKay, Kate Morton, Celeste Ng, Camille Perri, Rainbow Rowell, Victoria Schwab.

I’m particularly drawn to stories told through the female lens; extra points for dark and/or smart humor for today’s women (ex., How To Party With an Infant, Crimes Against a Book Club), and stories of young entrepreneurship in “a man’s world” (ex., The Animators, Girl Boss, The Other Einstein, Jeannie Van Der Hooven in House of Lies).

I am NOT interested in Christian fiction, genre romance, science fiction, or epic fantasy for adult audiences.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:

Alias Grace; The Assistants; Attachments; Burial Rights; Dare Me; A Darker Shade of Magic; Final Girls; The Forgotten Garden; In the Woods; Landline; The Magicians; Pretty Girls, Room, The Royal We, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo; Shades of Milk and Honey; Twenties Girl, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Witches of New York; Young Jane Young

Movies / TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d:

The Babadook; Bad Moms; Black Swan; Bletchley Circle; The Bold Type; Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; GLOW; The Good Place; House of Lies (Jeannie Van Der Hooven); Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; Parks & Rec; UnREAL; You Again

* Please note: I am NOT looking for Christian fiction, romance, military thrillers, or epic fantasy for adult audiences.

Young Adult and Middle Grade

I am open to queries of all genres, and I’m especially looking for dark narratives and well-developed antihero(in)es, lyrical works of magical realism, mad heists, contemporary with unique hook and humor, and horror… all the horror. Strong female voices are near and dear to my heart, and I am always drawn to dark humor, twisted psychology, fresh retellings and reimaginings, untold histories, and far-off lands.

My inbox is overwhelmed with fantasy lately; I’d love to be wowed by something entirely fresh, unexpected, and fantastically feminist. Recent loves have included The Hazel Wood, Caravel, This Savage Song, My Lady Jane, Furthermore, Kiersten White’s The Conquerers saga, and Libba Bray’s The Diviners series.

I’m also still (always) looking or a friendship love or break-up story (ie, where the relationship between best friends is the main focus) – I’m dying to find this generation’s answer to SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, and I’d love to see either a serious toned YA told in the style of The Last 5 Years, or a humorous, heart-filled story akin to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but for MG readership.

* Please no werewolves, angels, apocalypses, or dystopian societies.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:

YA – The Accident Season; All the Truth That’s In Me; Bone Gap; The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein; Fangirl; The Female of the Species; Glitter; A Great & Terrible Beauty; Imaginary Girls; Kill the Boy Band; Moxie; My Best Friend’s Exorcism; The Square Root of Summer; Tiger Lily; The Walls Around Us; When the Moon Was Ours

MGAmina’s Voice; Because You’ll Never Meet Me; Better Nate Than Ever; Dani Noir; Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library; The Girl Who Drank the Moon; How to Train Your Dragon; Liar and Spy; A Snicker of Magic; A Tale Dark and Grimm; The Truth About Jellyfish

Movies / TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d:

YA – Anastasia; Bates Motel; Catch Me If You Can; The Craft; Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; Dear White People; Easy A; The End of the F***ing World; Final Destination; The Final Girls (2015 slasher comedy); Happy Death Day; Heathers; I Ship It; Jaw Breaker; The OA; Orphan Black; Teen Witch; To The Bone; Scream Queens; Sugar and Spice; When in Rome

MG – Community; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Inside Out; Moana; Mr. Peabody & Sherman; So Weird; What We Did On Our Holiday; The Worst Witch; Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family

Graphic Novels – YA/MG

I am also open to graphic novel submissions in line with my YA/MG guidelines; preference to artist/illustrators.


In nonfiction, I’m looking for authors with strong platforms, unique stories, and a dedication to their audiences. I welcome proposals in the following areas: history; humor; pop culture; pop science/psychology; social and women’s issues; serious, well-researched true crime; and offbeat, quirky, or downright geeky topics explored through an academic lens.

* I am NOT looking for memoirs for adult audiences at the time.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:

All The Lives I Want; All the Single Ladies; The Confidence Game; Feminist Fight Club; Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History; Rise of the Rocket Girls; Of Mess and Moxie; The Secret History of Wonder Woman; Shrill; We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe; The Witch of Lime City

TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d:

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee; The Keepers; Lore; Momsplaining with Kristen Bell

Nonfiction for Young Readers

I am also open to memoirs, narrative stories, and books on intriguing topics for middle grade and young adult audiences. I am particularly interested in historical figures or events not typically discussed—the real-life unsung hero(in)es and game changers; preference to feminist/diverse subjects. And, as noted above, I am really into books exploring geek culture and feminism, and that encourage activism, involvement, and resistance.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:

Brown Girl Dreaming; Fannie Never Flinched; Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done; I Will Always Write Back, In the Shadow of Liberty; Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek; Positive: A Memoir; Queer, There, and Everywhere; Ten Days a Madwoman

Submission Instructions:

querymePlease submit your query letter, a 1-2 page synopsis, and first 5 pages to http://QueryMe.Online/jdlit_whitley. For graphic novel submissions ONLY, please use the artwork link at the bottom to upload appropriate sample(s) in lieu of pages. If the artwork is too large to upload via this platform, please link via Google Drive and provide the link at the bottom of your query.

PLEASE NOTE: I only accept Query Manager submissions; any queries sent by email or regular mail will not be considered.

Updated 8/9/2018

8 thoughts on “MSWL & Submission Guidelines

  1. Johanna says:

    I have a question that may seem stupid but personally I need an honest answer.. What if the author feels giving away the climax of the story in a synopsis ruins the page turning excitment?? Do literary agents really want to know what happens ahead of time?? Remember that movie the Crying Game? I never would’ve watched it if I already knew the “woman” was actually a man!! I was utterly shocked at that revelation!!
    Thank You,

    • Whitley Abell says:

      Speaking for myself personally, if I’ve requested the synopsis, I’m still going to want it. You are welcome to warn that the synopsis would ruin the excitement, but every synopsis for every book gives something away. We need to know that the writing can keep us reading even if we’ve already read the outline. Make sense?

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