Kristin Rockaway’s debut novel, THE WILD WOMAN’S GUIDE TO TRAVELING THE WORLD, is a smart, sexy, fun work of commercial women’s fiction that will be published by Center Street in June 2017. Kristin first queried Jennifer in June of 2015—here’s how our connection was made.
KRISTIN: Before I queried Jennifer, I’d been in the trenches for about four months. I’d had a few full requests, as well as an R&R, but I was struggling a bit with how to define the genre for my book. I felt as though the story straddled the line between women’s fiction and contemporary romance; when people asked me for comps, I often referred to the works of Emily Giffin. So when I was doing my twice-weekly perusal of the #MSWL hashtag, I was thrilled to see Jennifer’s tweet:
“Also looking for more commercial women's fiction with standout plots. Playing with the genre is excellent. Love Emily Giffin. #MSWL”
At the time, Jennifer’s website expressed a preference for nonfiction, YA, and upmarket women’s fiction, so I hadn’t added her to my list of agents to query. This one little tweet changed everything. I looked up her submission guidelines, tweaked my existing query letter, and sent it off the same day.
JENNIFER: I was thrilled to get Kristin’s query so quickly in response to my MSWL tweet—she sent just a few hours later! Travel is a passion of mine, so my interest was automatically piqued by a query for a book about a twenty-something who falls in love with an American artist in Hong Kong, disrupting her five-year plan.
But at the end of her query, Kristin included the line, “Given your recent manuscript wishlist request for commercial women's fiction written in the style of Emily Giffin, I think you may be an excellent representative for my manuscript.” That definitely sealed the deal for my request—it confirmed that it was likely in the vein of something I was eager to see, and it showed that she’d done research.
As a newer agent, I was able to read fairly quickly, and I was thrilled that the manuscript completely held up to the promise of the query letter. Though the themes weren’t quite as subversive as Giffin’s can be, it had the fun, commercial feel that I was looking for and a strong hook. I had immediate ideas for revisions, and I couldn’t wait to talk to Kristin.
KRISTIN: When Jennifer called to offer me representation, I was so anxious that I found it hard to speak. But my nerves began to fade when she listed all the things she loved about my story – the travel, the feminist undertones – and I could tell she really understood me as an author. Her ideas for revisions resonated with me; not only would they place the book firmly in the Women’s Fiction genre, but they would make the story stronger. And when I told her about the thoughts I had for future projects, she sounded enthusiastic.
It was a struggle not to accept her offer on the spot, but I knew I had to contact a few other agents who had my full – one of whom subsequently offered me rep. I took a couple of days to mull over my decision and talk it through with my friends and loved ones. My husband’s advice was to trust my gut. And everything in my gut was saying, “Go with Jennifer.”
To be perfectly honest, my one hesitation with accepting Jennifer’s offer was her status as a newer agent. When I signed with her, she had yet to sell a book. But she just got me, and I felt like we clicked. I knew from her MSWL tweet that she was looking for something really specific – something I loved to write! – and that kind of match doesn’t happen very often. She’s also extremely intelligent and committed (I mean, she went to Harvard Law), and from her use of MSWL, she clearly has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in publishing. I could see our agent-author relationship lasting over the long-term. So I said yes!
JENNIFER: I definitely clicked with Kristin right away. I think one of the benefits of MSWL (and Twitter in general) is that you can really get a feel for an agent’s personality and see not just if they’ll like this particular book but if they might like your future books and just be someone with whom you can get along. Every agent-author relationship is different, but Kristin is someone I’ve come to enjoy as a person as well as a writer, and that started with our initial call.
MSWL is a particularly powerful tool for newer agents. When I first started, I was still figuring out exactly what I wanted to represent. (Even now, it’s ever evolving as I read more.) MSWL let me get the word out more quickly and directly than a website update and allowed me to reach potential clients like Kristin who may not have heard of me yet or may have been unsure whether they wanted to query me. As Kristin hinted at, I do think it gives an agent a certain legitimacy.
And even now, many of my best queries are MSWL queries. The last client I signed reached out because of my “love for foods and the stories behind them.” I always get excited when I see a MSWL query in my inbox, and though I read every query carefully, I do give them extra special attention.
KRISTIN: If it weren’t for MSWL, I probably never would have queried Jennifer when I did. It allowed me to get a real-time glimpse into what she was looking to acquire – something that wasn’t even listed in her bio. So understandably, I’m a huge fan of the hashtag. Here are some tips I learned while navigating the MSWL query process:
- Search MSWL often. Agents post to this hashtag on a daily basis, so strike while the iron is hot. If you’re replying to a tweet that was posted a year ago, it may no longer be relevant – or the wish may have already been fulfilled.
- Follow submission guidelines. Replying to an MSWL tweet doesn’t exempt you from following the proper process. Check the agent’s submission guidelines (usually found on their agency’s website) and query them in their preferred format.
- Make sure it’s a true match. This should go without saying, but don’t reference an MSWL tweet in your query letter unless you’re actually sending a manuscript that lives up to the request.
JENNIFER: I completely agree with Kristin’s love for the hashtag and the website. MSWL allows you to be much more targeted in your submissions, and more specificity can only benefit you. From an agent’s perspective, I’d add just a bit of nuance to her tips:
- While a same-day MSWL request/submission like Kristin’s fills my agent heart with joy, most agents seem to agree that their wishlist is somewhat evergreen. Even if a request is a year old, it’s worth sending a query to find out if the agent is still looking for that sort of book.
- And absolutely be honest—your query and manuscript should be a genuine response to a MSWL request. However, I think MSWL gives you an opportunity to take calculated chances. For instance, I recently received a query for a book that was slightly outside of what I usually represent in response to a MSWL tweet about happy relationships. They were upfront about their genre and explained why they thought it would be a good fit, and I appreciated the opportunity to take a look. I, for one, am never upset about receiving a query that’s sent with purpose.
- I would add, too, that it’s great to put MSWL in the subject line and explain what you’re responding to and why at the top of your query. Kristin incorporated it at the end, and while I obviously still saw it and responded, I think it’s savvy to tell me why I should be excited about what I’m about to read.
We’re so thankful to MSWL for helping to bring us together—we might not have found each other without it! We hope that our story is both helpful and inspirational to both writers and agents. On both sides of the query fence, we’re all looking for a great agent-author match.