Rachel Beck’s Manuscript Wish List

By Rachel Beck

Holloway Literary’s motto is We love a good story! And I think this sums up, in a very broad way, what all agents are looking to represent: a good story. I thought it might be useful to sum up in more detail what I’m looking for right now—what I’d love to see cross my inbox. Consider this a shout-out to any writers who are looking to pitch me at the moment. If your book falls into any of these categories, do not stop, drop and roll; do not pass go. Send me your manuscript instead!

  • Women’s fiction that slants lighter in tone: I don’t want to say “chick lit” because it’s a scary term in the industry. But I’m talking about stories where the characters are a bit younger, the themes less weighty and the voice a little more youthful. Some of my favorite authors who write lighter women’s fiction are Emily Giffin (my all-time favorite!!), Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella. These are books for and about twenty-somethings or early thirty-somethings figuring it all out. The plots and topics addressed aren’t super dramatic or complex—the premise can be quite simple, actually—but they are about real-life questions and crossroads, and the dilemmas faced on the page are relatable, the characters flawed but trying.
  • Women’s fiction that leans heavier in tone and tackles weighty issues: These types of stories often focus on moral or ethical issues. A perfect example is Liane Moriarty. (Her plot twists are awesome!) Jodi Picoult is also a great one. (Her characters are fabulous!) Maybe there’s a hint of suspense. Often the characters are caught in a questionable moral situation. A good person who does/did something bad. Someone caught between a real rock and a hard place. A story that makes you look at a period of history or a situation or a type of person in a new way.mswishlist
  • A complex family saga that perhaps spans generations of family members: Diane Chamberlain is one of my favorite authors for the way she’s able to wind together these sort of fantastically complex and deep family stories. Multiple POV’s work well in these sorts of stories. Check out Before the Storm for an example of this done really well; it’s my favorite of her books and one of my favorite novels in general.
  • Thrillers: If you are the next Gillian Flynn, I will adore you. I’m a big fan of “unexpected witness” stories such as The Girl on the Train or The Woman in Cabin 10. I don’t like traditional suspense stories as much; I’m not looking for formulaic authors who write detective stories, but something more out of the box, fresh and with a twist that makes your hair stand up on end or gives you goose bumps. Unreliable narrators are juicy, as are unlikeable narrators, such as Amy from Gone Girl and Ani from Luckiest Girl Alive, one of the best books I’ve read recently. Mary Kubica and Heather Gudenkauf are two great authors in this genre; check ‘em out!
  • Literary or historic period piece: I would be open to something similar to The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, or Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. Especially ones set in New York City or the South, in the 1920’s or 1950’s (two of my favorite eras!) that are rich in setting and period details.
  • unnamedA beautiful, moving young adult book: Something as emotionally powerful as The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Call me a masochist, but the sadder the better. It’s very competitive out there for young adult authors, so anything that comes along right now has to really stand out. Larger-than-life premise and characters. Books about really big issues that teenagers today face. Broken homes, diversity, LGBTQ, all of this is really good. I’m okay with death and darkness. Terminal illness, eating disorders, mental health disorders, gender identity—bring it on!


If any of this strikes a chord with you, please think of me for your submissions! Or maybe I’ve inspired you to write something in one of these genres. Even better, maybe you already have something cooking or complete that sounds like I might be into based on this. If so, waste no time hitting send—I’d love to see it!

Rachel is an agent with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and then follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Burkot.