Funny Women: A Literary Agent’s Manuscript Wish List


As a literary agent, I’m often asked what I look for in a manuscript. Here’s what I tell writers:

I want your book to turn water into full-bodied Merlot.

I want your book to make me hear colors and taste sounds.

I want your book to resurrect the muse of literature, give her a tasteful makeover, then slap her in the face.

Send me a manuscript that feels as powerful as witnessing the birth of my first son.

Think outside the box! Think 50 Shades of Gray but a children’s board book. Think Cujo but written by Jesus Christ.

I’m interested in reading the next big YA novel about a rag-tag crew of misfits on an impossible quest–but set in a dimension where there is no thought or memory. And the sun is a blazing light of unrelenting horror that dissolves the human mind. And the dimension is ruled by a plum-shaped, balding man who reminds me of my father. And at the end of their journey, the crew realizes that the real treasure is the merciful jaws of death.

I want a manuscript that burns bright and hot, cutting down my heating bill by 32 percent.

I crave the sort of get-rich-quick book that shows a guy how to make a quick $2,000 by selling old baseball cards.

I’m burning for a manuscript that will wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me that it loves me.

No chick lit (girl stuff) or bit lit (tech-bro thrillers) or knit lit (textile-themed cozy mysteries).

I’m a sucker for pet detective paranormal erotica. But nothing that’s going to make me blush on the subway.

On the hunt for a manuscript that erases my dark spots and age lines. Bonus if it stops my parents from getting divorced in 1978.

I represent hard Sci-Fi, which means stoic men and aliens and technology in deep space. Not soft Sci-Fi, which is written by mothers. Space is hard and cold, and no one can hear you scream. Women sound ugly when they scream, and spacemen need a break.

Seeking graphic novels without talking animals. Also no talking humans. Ideally: no talking.

Actively seeking diverse voices to tell fresh and compelling stories about white men.

I represent the type of author who will go back in time, kill baby Hitler, garrote baby Hemmingway, then re-write A Farewell to Arms as an upmarket rom-com.

Your book should open my third eye. Ideally, it would also open my first eye, which is swollen shut after that Soft Sci-Fi writer punched me. Now I can’t see, so I’ve been judging manuscripts by mouthfeel. Please send me 1,000 tender, silky pages with an astringent tang.

Send me a horror thriller that will give me nightmares–but not that nightmare with the piano recital, the pizza dough, and the feral pigs.

Send me a book that limns the boundary between poignant beauty and piercing pain, that strokes the gentle loam of the human soul, and that can be made into a 13-movie franchise.

I need a book that gives me the high of MDMA without the risk of faintness, dehydration, or a nosy mall cop telling me to put my shirt back on in the food court.

Please send me a literal bag of gold.

Surprise me! Maybe I don’t know what I’m looking for!

Probably not your book.




Rumpus original art by Natalie Peeples

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Kathleen Founds is the author of the award-winning novel-in-stories, When Mystical Creatures Attack! and the graphic novel Bipolar Bear & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Health Insurance: a Fable for Grownups. Her work has been published in The Sun, The Rumpus, Salon, Good Housekeeping, and The New Yorker online. She is also the creator of the website “Depression Whackamole”. More from this author →