MSWL & Submission Guidelines

In fiction, strong female voices are near and dear to my heart, and I am particularly drawn to dark twists, fresh retellings and reimaginings—especially untold histories, classic films, little-known myths and fairy tales, and classical ballets—and cultures and traditions from parts of the world I’ll likely never see.

I am a big supporter of the rise in diverse voices and stories, and welcome submissions from any and all Own Voice authors!

My wish-list evolves often. You can also find real-time updates to my #MSWL on Twitter and on my Visual MSWL board:

**IMPORTANT: I am currently closed to unsolicited submissions, but am accepting queries related to specific MSWL items found here or my Twitter and Pinterest MSWL feeds, linked below.

Please note that by specific, I mean more than genre matches. So, for example, not just “YA Historical” but YA Historicals “with real-life badass female protagonists”; not “MG Contemporary” but “MG contemporary friendship comp to Because You’ll Never Meet Me”.

Commercial Fiction

When it comes to Commercial Fiction, my tastes definitely lean towards stories told through the female lens. I’m especially looking for:

Historical in the vein on Hannah Kent’s BURIAL RIGHTS, Kate Morton’s THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, Jenni L. Walsh’s BECOMING BONNIE

Thrillers with a literary bent (Megan Abbott’s DARE ME) or a psychological focus (Riley Sager’s FINAL GIRLS)

Mysteries (both contemporary and historical); I’ll take ‘em quirky with a relatable narrator, and would love to find a true female-driven noir

Clever, compelling upmarket narratives à la Maria Semple and Emma Straub; extra points for humor for today’s women (HOW TO PARTY WITH AN INFANT, CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB)

Commercial women’s fiction for smart girls à la Sophie Kinsella, Rainbow Rowell, and Taylor Jenkins Reid

Stories of young entrepreneurship in “a man’s world” (ex., THE ANIMATORS, Jeannie Van Der Hooven in House of Lies)

Immersive, inventive fantasies on par with THE MAGICIANS and A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC

Literary horror with a touch of dark satire (Grady Hendrix’s MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM)

Other books I’d love to see comp’d:
The American Girl, And Then There Were None, Attachments, Beautiful Poison, In the Woods, Landline, Pretty Girls, Room, The Royal We, Twenties Girl, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, The Witches of New York

Movies / TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d:
The Babadook, Black Swan, Bletchley Circle, Brain Dead, Friends From College, GLOW, The Good Place, Parks & Rec, Thirteen (BBC), UnREAL, You Again

* Please note: I am NOT looking for genre romance, sci-fi, or epic fantasy for adult audiences.

Young Adult

Dark narratives with well-developed antihero/ines (THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES <– I’m a sucker for books that compare to TFotS!)

Building off that, I am a sucker for dark comedies (Jaw Breakers, Heathers – especially with the character revisions to JD in the musical adaptation)

Contemporary, realistic young adult with a strong voice and compelling characters (Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Sandhya Menon, E. Lockhart, Emery Lord); extra points for fresh premise, powerful atmosphere, and/or laugh out loud comedy

Magical realism, whether truly literary (WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS) or bordering on thriller (THE WALLS AROUND US)

Gripping mysteries/thrillers (WITH MALICE, ONE OF US IS LYING, Veronica Mars)

Horror, whether straight up scary (The Conjuring, Oculus), or with a healthy helping of kitsch and/or self-awareness (Scream, Scream Queens, Cabin in the Woods)

Fresh, unexpected, and/or epically feminist fantasy. Recent loves have included CARAVEL, THIS SAVAGE SONG/OUR DARK DUET, AND I DARKEN, MY LADY JANE, THE DIVINERS series

Historical fiction with real-life badass female protagonists (CODE NAME VERITY)

Wildly imaginative literary retellings that look beyond the primary characters (TIGER LILY)

Tangible-yet-gripping speculative/science fiction (The OA, Orphan Black)

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 younger readership.

I also really want a good realistic (or, at the very least, realism-based SF/F) Grey-/Demi-Ace YA. TASHA HEARTS TOLSTOY is glorious, but does not end the need for representation.

Other books I’d love to see comp’d:
The Accident Season, All the Truth That’s In Me, Bone Gap, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Fangirl, Glitter, A Great & Terrible Beauty, Heist Society,  Imaginary Girls, Kill the Boy Band, More Happy Than Not, Moxie, The Square Root of Summer, There’s Someone Inside Your House, When Dimple Met Rishi

Other movies / TV I’d love to see comp’d:
Anastasia, Ashby, Bates Motel, Catch Me If You Can, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Dear White People, Easy A, Final Destination, The Final Girls (2015 slasher comedy), I Ship It, Party Down, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Teen Witch, To The Bone, Sugar and Spice, When in Rome

* Please no zombies, werewolves, vampires, or dystopian societies.

Middle Grade

Contemporary friendship and coming-of-age stories (BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME, AMINA’S VOICE, COUNTING IN 7S)

A thrilling, geeky adventure, preferably with an awesome female protagonist with a great voice. Heists, P.I.s, and clumsy spies would be in welcome company

Dark and twisted stories blurring the line between reality and fantasy (CORALINE, SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS, Wednesday Addams)

Fantasy, especially contemporary (THE TAIL OF EMILY WINDSNAP) or with a literary bent (THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, FURTHERMORE)

Other books I’d love to see comp’d:
Better Nate Than Ever, A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Dani Noir, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, How to Train Your Dragon, Liar and Spy, The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox, Princess Academy, A Snicker of Magic, The Truth About Jellyfish

Movies / TV Shows I’d love to see comp’d:
Community, Inside Out, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, So Weird, The Way Way Back, What We Did On Our Holiday, The Worst Witch

Graphic Novels – YA/MG

I’m looking for the same things as in Young Adult and Middle Grade above in the graphic novel. Strong preference to author-illustrators.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:
Awkward, Ghosts, Graveyard Shakes, In Real Life, Nimona, Roller Girl, Piper, The Witch Boy, This One Summer


I am also open to both narrative and prescriptive nonfiction from seasoned writers with strong platforms in the following areas of interest: current affairs, history, humor, pop culture, pop science/psychology, social history, true crime, women’s issues, and off-beat topics explored through an academic lens.

I am also open to both narrative and prescriptive nonfiction from seasoned writers with strong platforms in the following areas of interest: current affairs, history, humor, pop culture, pop science/psychology, social history, true crime, women’s issues, and off-beat topics explored through an academic lens.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:
All the Single Ladies, The Confidence Game, Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History, Rise of the Rocket Girls, Of Mess and Moxie, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Soldier Girls, We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe, The Witch of Lime City

Nonfiction for Young Readers

I am particularly looking for MG/YA nonfiction in the following areas:

  • Historical non-fiction around figures/events not typically discussed—the real-life heroines and heroes, the game changers
  • Memoirs, narrative stories, and books on intriguing topics teen can see themselves in.
  • Preference to feminist/diverse subjects.

Please Note: I am NOT looking for memoirs for adult audiences at the time.

Books I’d love to see comp’d:
Brown Girl Dreaming, Fannie Never Flinched, Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child, I Will Always Write Back, In the Shadow of Liberty, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Positive: A Memoir, Queer, There, and Everywhere, Some Assembly Required, Ten Days a Madwoman

Submission Instructions:

I am no longer accepting queries via email. Please submit your query via my Query Manager page.

Updated 12/13/2017

14 thoughts on “MSWL & Submission Guidelines

  1. Emily says:

    Hi Whitley! I noticed on Inklings Literary Agency website it says to include a synopsis. Do you require this as well or do you prefer to just receive the query and first ten pages?


    • Whitley Abell says:

      Personally, I don’t read the synopsis unless I love the sample pages, so I don’t need to see it. Actually, if you do send, I prefer to see the synopsis after the sample. Reading the play by play before getting to the actual sample can distract me from focusing on the motivation and the stakes.

  2. 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?

      • Johanna Butler says:

        Well, whit I sent you a query etc. So, please heed.. A synopsis would ruin the emotions the book incites. lmho 🙂 I’ll bet you are so intrigued by my 10 page sub. you won’t request a synopsis instead you’ll eagerly request the entire piece lol lol It’s a great read!!

      • Johanna Butler says:

        P.S. I just re-read your wish list. The “Leopard’ fits snugly on top. You finally responded to my question today, Oct. 14th which is my sister’s birthday. And, your going stop excepting queries on Nov. 1st, my mother’s birthday lmho 🙂 Confucius says, “there are no such things as coincidence.” Or was that my dad 🙂

  3. Dianne Gardner says:

    HI Whitney I do historical fantasies but I would love to do your revisionist Princess Kaʻiulani. I have a friend in Hawaii I’ll start research. This story is very much like the one I did of Manuel II of Portugal.

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