Molly O’Neill

Molly O’Neill

Root Literary

My Manuscript Wish List


Molly O’Neill is a literary agent at Root Literary. For the past fifteen years, she has held various roles inside the publishing industry. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked as an Agent at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency; an Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she acquired Veronica Roth’s juggernaut Divergent series, among many other fantastic projects; as Head of Editorial at Storybird, a publishing/tech start-up; and in School & Library Marketing at both HarperCollins and Clarion Books. She loves the creative process and early-stage project development, is invigorated by business strategy and entrepreneurial thinking, and is fascinated by the intersections of art, commerce, creativity, and innovation. Molly is especially passionate about the people behind books, and takes pride in discovering and evangelizing talented authors and illustrators, expanding the global reach of their work, and finding new ways to build connections and community among creators, readers, stories, and their champions. You can learn more about her via her website or Twitter.

Fun facts about me:
  • I have been a florist, a cake decorator, and a waitress. (In my next life, I will apparently star in a small-town rom-com movie.)
  • Before moving to NYC, I lived in Houston, TX; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN; and all over Canada, and love things about all of those places. I am drawn to any story with a vivid sense of place, whether it’s one of these areas, or elsewhere.
  • I spent years intensively studying ballet growing up, and later was a theater nerd, so I’m forever looking for manuscripts that capture those kinds of artsy tween/teen microcosms while also having high enough stakes to interest readers unfamiliar with those worlds.
  • I’m a person of faith and am always looking for authentic explorations of (any) faith within the context of a larger middle grade or YA story. (I am not, however, looking for work that is primarily intended to proselytize, promote a specific agenda, or encourage readers toward the author’s specific set of beliefs.)
  • I won a jalapeño-eating contest in college.

•   I swoon for interesting settings, where the sense of place in a story is practically its own character.

  • I hate Jane Austen (I know! I’m sorry!), yet somehow they let me be an English major anyway.


Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be emailed to (Put "Molly" in the subject line so it gets filtered directly to me)

Please see the detailed wishlist and follow the submission guidelines on my website. If instructions are properly followed, you will receive an auto-response to confirm receipt of your submission.

NOTE: At this time, I do NOT represent: prescriptive nonfiction (i.e. self-help or diet books); adult thrillers, adult crime fiction, or adult SF/F; picture book texts (though I do work with illustrators and illustrators who also write); poetry; chapbooks; screenplays; or erotica.

Vital Info

Fiction: Children's, Commercial, Family Saga, Humor, Literary, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
Non-Fiction: Cookbooks, Memoir, Pop Culture, Science, Travel

Favorite sub-genres: Author-Illustrators, Children's Nonfiction, Commercial YA, Contemporary YA, Diversity, Historical Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor, Illustrated, Literary Middle Grade, Literary YA/MG, Magical Realism, Multiple POV, Popular Science/Psychology, Speculative Fiction, YA/MG graphic novel, award-winners!, commercial middle grade, groundbreaking structures, narrative non-fiction, picture books
I’d like the next…

…groundbreaking trendsetter of a MG or YA novel; the kind of book that has a “must-be-talked-about-with-others,” thanks to its resonant, universal themes that say something meaningful about what it means to be human; its fascinating and/or nontraditional structure; or its memorable setting, vibrant characters, or confident storytelling.

I look for books that transcend simple trends or or tropes or formulas, and become part of the canon, part of the conversation, the kind of books that readers still remember as formative and/or delightfully surprising, decades after they first read them. And hey, if they win awards like the Newbery or Caldecott or Printz or become bestsellers along the way, so much the better!

My favorites include…

I get nerdy about:

  • Wit, running jokes, ensemble casts and complex-but-ever-loyal friendships of shows like Parks & Rec or How I Met Your Mother;
  • The smarts and imagination and big what-ifs of Arrival or Battlestar Gallactica (though…let’s plan on a better ending, okay? Okay.)
  • The deeply human experiences, ordinary to extraordinary, explored by This American Life and Freaks and Geeks and This is Us;
  • Smart writing! Standouts of the past few years for brilliant, fresh, constantly surprising, writing include Hamilton and The Good Place; 
  • The epic emotions of Les Miserables (Team Eponine forever!);
  • The long, loyal friendship-turned-romance of Anne of Green Gables (I love a long-building love story);
  • The enduring (if slightly melodramatic) sense of magic found in A Little Princess; 
  • The masterfully simple-but-vivid writing of E.B. White in Charlotte’s Web (+ all his other writing, too);
  • Story structures that play with our illusion of time and reality and truth and choice like The Time Traveler’s Wife and Sliding Doors;
  • Friendship-centric stories, ones that could best be defined as “the love story of a friendship,” like those found in The King’s Speech or Code Name Verity or the musical Once;
  • All things tech, esp. when we are considering the inter-relationship between tech & humanity & emotions;
  • Humor: I love wit and sharp, smart humor, but shy away from snark-for-snark’s-sake and humor based on bodily functions. I like a humor that has a warmth to it, and is inviting, not excluding.
  • Redemption stories, particularly when the road to reaching redemption looks anything but familiar.
  • Romance that avoids telling the reader about characters falling in love but instead makes the reader feel all those powerful emotions alongside of the smitten couple themselves;
  • Authors who can weave together initially-disparate, unexpected ideas in compelling, perfectly-realized ways;
  • Anything that highlights creativity or the role of storytelling in the world (I ADORE the Netflix series Chef’s Table for its perspective on storytelling via food, for example).
  • …And many, many other things!




My Upcoming Events: