Monday, July 14, 2008

Who needs a needs list?

I’m sure many writers are wondering why they’ve received rejections from me recently, since I’m open to just about anything right now. For those who might be curious, I’ve listed a few reasons why below:

If you’ve sent me a query for a mystery. I only have one editor who is looking for mysteries at the present time and to get her attention the novel must have a woman protagonist and a dog must be integral to the story. If you story has a male lead, I’m sorry, but I have no market for these books.

If you’ve sent me a query in which I cannot discern what the book is about in the first few paragraphs, I’ve stopped reading as I don’t have time to dig that information out. Please study our list of past posts under queries for information on this subject.

If you’ve sent me a children’s picture book. I haven’t ever handled these. My partner does, but she’s really not looking for anything at the moment.

If you’ve sent me a YA novel that isn’t commercially marketable. To find what is commercially viable, look at recent YA best-seller lists (try Amazon or Publisher’s Weekly at your local library) or subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace.

If you’ve sent me a suspense/ thriller featuring a male protagonist. These are not readily marketable and I already have enough of these. Marketable suspense/thrillers must be primarily writing from a female’s perspective or I cannot do much with them. One exception to this is if you are multi-published (within this decade) and have a good sales record. This may not hold true for other agents, but it does for me and the editors I work with.

If you’ve sent me a romance or a women’s fiction that is written from a man’s perspective, it has been, or will be, rejected. Romances written from a male perspective are “love stories” and fall within the mainstream category. Also, there is no such thing as a women’s fiction that features a guy as the main character. This violates the very definition of women’s fiction. If you don’t know what that definition is, see the list on the left side of this blog, go to Wikipedia, or Google on women’s fiction.

If you’ve sent me a mainstream novel from a male perspective and are not published, then there is nothing I can do to help you, as I already have enough of these.

If you’ve sent me poetry, a western, an action/adventure, a script, a novella (unless it’s erotica), an urban fantasy with a male protagonist, an earth-based science fiction, or a fantasy novel that’s like all the others out there, then you’ve probably been rejected.

Our needs here change constantly, so I’ll remain open to everything rather than updating a needs list that’s outdated almost as soon as it’s posted. Hope this helps.



Bernita said...

Hmmm, I have a paranormal mystery/urban fantasy with a female protagonist and a Doom Dog named Dumbarton who shows up now and then. Unfortunately it's only 80,000 words. As I remember, you consider that to short, so I haven't queried.

Scott Jensen said...

Why are male protagonists unmarketable these days?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Urban fantasy with a female and a dog--simply irresistible! Wasn't that a song? Anyway, I'd like to see it. Email contact is on the Web site.

Word count, what word count? When we revamped everything we removed any mention of word count. Why,inquiring mind wonder? Because, for the most part no one paid attention to them, and, secondly, word counts are all over the place anyway right now.

Scott Jensen said...

What about a private detective that works for the mafia to solve crimes done against it? It's not as if they will go to the cops for help. Currently, it is a male protagonist with a Doberman Pinscher, but I could change him into the daughter of a godfather that plays the above private detective as sort of a serious hobby of hers. Doberman staying the same. Or is the urban fantasy mystery gal and dog more to your liking?

Tara Ryan said...

I have two WIP right now, but the one further back on the burner is a mystery in which a dog plays a role in the death. It is intended to be a series and the dog does not reoccur, but all of my novels include dogs (I own a doggie daycare, so I'm partial). My other WIP is a romantic comedy w/paranormal elements in which the protag opens a doggie daycare. That's the one I'm focusing on finishing. Hopefully your editor will still be interested when I get them done! :-)

John B. said...

I was about to send you a query and your blog told me, "Don't bother." Yes, I am a male protagonist featuring a female protagonist in a mainstream story. Should I put a match to it or wait for the axis to right itself again someday? What about a personal memoir by an ordinary guy with a nice story to tell?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...


I wouldn't go so far as to say that books starring male protagonists are completely unmarketable, it's just that they are harder to place than those with female protagonists. Actually, I think women readers love to read good novels starring engaging male characters, so if we marketed books directly to readers, we definitely would take on more of these types of books. However, we deal with editors, not readers, and editors are telling us that from new writers they prefer female leads, for whatever reasons they have. This is not to say that there can be no male characters in books we are presently seeking. This is far from the truth, as most successful novels have males in secondary roles. I think most of the confusion also stems from the fact that a great deal of high-selling books feature males. But if you dig deeper, you’ll see that these firmly established authors who have huge audiences. Examples include James Patterson, John Grisham, and Clive Cussler,

We could get into a long explanation about why this is so, but that would only confuse the issue because, as I said above, it’s what editors are asking me for that dictates what I’m looking for, and right now, almost all of them want female leads across all the genres.


Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Scott--Please remember that there is only one editor looking for dog mysteries and they need to be more of a humorous cozy. The urban fantasy with the dog only has mystery elements in it; it’s really not a mystery per se. So, yes, a real mystery might fit that bill, but before going to a great deal of trouble please, again, understand that there is only ONE editor who might be interested in a mystery with a dog in it and it has to be a specific kind of mystery as I mentioned above. I would hesitate to have you change your novel when it is just a long shot. If you could change it to the granddaughter doing investigating as an amateur sleuth, make it funny, and make sure the dog is an INTEGRAL part of the story at ALL TIMES, then it might have a chance. But that seems like a lot of work for one possibility.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

A book in which a dog plays a role in a death would not be something that would be of much interest to this editor. As I said, the dog has to be integral to the story and in the series beyond. The romantic comedy you mention with the doggie daycare would probably be of more interest to Sharene.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...


I’m really confused here. I guess I don’t understand what you mean by, “Yes, I’m a male protagonist featuring a female protagonist in a mainstream story?” The answer to should you “put a match to it” (I hope you mean metaphorically) would depend on what the story is about. Publishing is cyclical, so it never hurts to hold on to a manuscript and watch the markets. If it’s indeed mainstream, it would be, for us, a very hard sell, especially from a new writer. My advice would be to try to market it on your own as finding a publisher for your story might be easier than finding an agent, and keep your eyes on the markets and how they change. I don’t see the mainstream market opening up to new writers any time soon, but this industry is full of happy surprises.

As for the personal memoir, it really depends on the story and how well it’s written. If it’s unique, that might overcome any lack of celebrity, but it would have to be extremely ground-breaking. Everyone has a story to tell, and because of that, the memoir market is really VERY crowded, as you can imagine. However, some very nice stories are getting published by smaller publishers who specialize in certain types of real-life experiences. For example, a publisher who caters to readers dealing with autism would be more open to a memoir from someone who is autistic or someone who grew up with someone who is autistic. A publisher whose lines are dedicated to older readers would be more open to memoirs dealing with Alzheimer’s, and some Southern publishers like to offer memoirs from Southerners. And so on. There’s an article in this month’s AARP magazine about writing memoirs that might be of interest.

JKB said...

That's really interesting that everyone wants female leads across genres. Good for me, since all my MS have female heroines, but still.

Do you find this is cyclical? And thanks for a great blog!

Scott Jensen said...

Hi Robert,

A humorous cozy? *laugh* No, mine is not humorous per se. It has humor in it (mainly black humor) but I wouldn't classify it as a humorous cozy. In fact, it isn't a cozy but more hard-boiled. Also, I skimmed over the text to see how much of a re-write would be needed to change the lead from male to female and I think it would be too much. The lead flirts with women in the book, beds one, and nearly all the other characters would interact differently with the lead. That and the mafia is a very male-dominated "industry" so it would be a constant stretch for the lead to be female and do what the lead needs to do. Oh well. I hope future "needs list" postings will show an opening for this book. And since this is meant to be a novel series, I am planning on writing the next one in the series and if I can make it heads and shoulders above the original, the original will morph itself into a "practice" novel. ;-)


P.S. I would like to hear your thoughts on why editors want female leads and readers want male leads.

Hilary said...

Do ever place much Christian fiction? I have a MS with a female lead that's probably more in line with a love story than anything else, but I'm curious about your experience with christian fiction.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Hi Hilary,
We've worked with Christian fiction in the past, placing two YA novels and a romance we adored; however, we no longer represent inspirational books. This is a very difficult market to work in, as each publisher has extremely specific guidelines, some of which can be denomination-specific. Even larger publishers have very set requirements and needs for their audiences. Also, in many cases, a writer can place his/her own books in this market without needing an agent, although when we quit representing it, more and more Christian publishers were asking for agented submissions. One or more of our agents may still be listed in a market guide as taking inspirational fiction, but at this time, neither of us is looking for these types of projects.

Good luck with your work!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Wonder if my work fits your editor's needs for paranormal mystery with female protag and dog.

My paranormal mystery "cozy" has a feisty fifty year old female protagonist and a half-paranoid, half Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Slider. He sleeps on his back with all four legs stuck up in the air and insists on non-fat yogurt atop his doggie nuggets. 18th century pirate Jean Lafitte has dirty karma that needs cleaning and returns to help protagonist solve a case involving the slave trade.

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

Sylvia, Send me a query with the information you've posted here and I'll ask the editor if she's interested.