Industry Pro Wish Lists
It’s January, so that time of year again when B2W asks industry pros what’s on their wish lists for the year ahead!
There’s an eclectic mix of literary agents, editors and other experts sharing their wish lists this year. They come from both the worlds of publishing and screenwriting.
Enjoy the article and don’t forget to read B2W’s pointers at the end. Ready? Let’s go …
1) Anne Perry, Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus)
“I want the happiest of happy endings. I want every character to walk away happy (maybe even the villains?!) and everyone who reads the book to feel like they just made a new best friend.”
2) Steve La Rue, Dev Exec
“A good place to start is to ask yourself “What’s not on TV?” That’s how The X Files began as there had been no paranormal series since Night Stalker.”
3) Hannah Shephard, DHH Literary
“I’d love to find a big idea book … Something that takes the familiar and makes it magical/mind-blowing. I recently loved both The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd and Babel by R. F. Kuang so I’m thinking a novel that would sit alongside those and astound me with its cleverness and compelling plotting.”
4) Phoebe Morgan, HarperCollins
“On my wish list for 2023 I’d love a cleverly structured crime novel (like Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi). Also a really hooky commercial blockbuster novel with a one-line proposition that can immediately connect with and intrigue the reader (like The Silent Patient).”
5) Hattie Grunewald, The Blair Partnership
“In 2023 I’m looking for uplifting stories, original voices (often with a sparkle of humour) and easy-to-pitch concepts that really grab you – whether that’s a mystery, a love story or something else entirely.”
6) Sumaira Wilson, Spellbound Books
“A high concept thriller with a kick-arse South Asian Female Protagonist.”
7) Matthew Dench, The Dench Arnold Agency
“I would love to find a project that’s really commercial but is dealing with real issues within today’s society.”
8) Tom Chalmers, Legend Press
“What personally excites me are new voices or places, manuscripts that challenge my existing thinking and show me new perspectives, whether from a character, setting or both. As an independent publisher, we cherish the original rather than trying to repeat what others have done and there is no more motivating feeling than reading a work that you cannot wait to develop, package and offer to readers.”
9) Juliet Pickering, Blake Friedmann Literary Agency
“I’m looking for an intergenerational family story that spans decades (and countries, maybe!), in the manner of Pachinko.”
10) Steven Russell, Collective Talent
“All I’d ever seek when reading any writer for the first time is the work that they’d consider to be their calling card script … Something that lays out their sensibilities and tone in the best way! Ideally, they’ll be telling a story that only they can tell, and telling it better as such! If it’s a story, characters or a world they feel a real itch for and I share that itch, that’s the best possible start to any working relationship I can think of!” MORE: How To Find Your Writer’s Voice
11) Jean Kitson, Jean Kitson Press Associates
“Looking to find writers and projects that have real depth and heft to them; stories that are clear about why this story should be told now, and why this writer should be writing it. That doesn’t mean it has to be serious, or ripped from the headlines, but even the funniest stories should have a real sense of importance.
With so much material out there, why would an audience choose this? People talk a lot about ‘authenticity’ which can be seen in a limited way but I am always looking for writers who are able to translate their own experiences into a springboard for fiction, however tangentially.”
12) Oli Munson, AM Heath
“I’d love to find a crime novel or thriller set in the Celtic regions. So Ireland, Wales and Scotland but particularly Ireland.”
13) Roz Kidd, The Ki Agency
“Given the current dismal state of politics, war & global warming in the world today, we (rightly) keep hearing from producers and broadcasters that they’d love to see projects of any genre that LIFT THE SPIRITS and are EMOTIONALLY REWARDING. Whilst I totally agree with these sentiments, I always request that any new submissions are set in contemporary Britain or Europe and have big bold fresh new ideas. If any writer can shock, impress or make me laugh out loud, then their project is in with a chance.
We’re mainly after returning episodal TV scripts, so one hour for most genres or half hour if a sitcom or ‘bonkers/unclassifiable’ project. Sadly very few producers are now actively looking for feature film screenplays.
So, please send me outrageous and original new comedy and wild horror, both truly shocking or comedy horror if you understand the genre well enough. We’ve noticed that as horror has become fashionable, more producers are asking for it but dislike the genre, so will ask for ‘soft’ horror, which personally, I think is a waste of time, hence the comedy horror suggestion. Strong thrillers, new workplace dramas or comedies and a genuinely good but unusual romcoms will also always be welcome.”
14) Darcy Nicholson, Little Brown
“I am looking for pitch-led commercial fiction from under-represented voices, novels about women in middle age, a big love story and an epic, evocative historical novel.”
15) Barry Ryan, Producer
“I’d like to see a new take on crime that is not bloodthirsty … An unexplored precinct: we’ve done hospitals and schools, where next? Also ‘hidden history’ is a favourite of mine: tell me something I don’t know, or the REAL side of something I think I do.”
What Writers Can Learn From These Wish Lists?
These 15 industry pros have offered some real food for thought with their 2023 wish lists. Here’s what jumps out at me …
i) Selling, NOT selling out!
Lots of writers feel like paying too much attention to wish lists like these is ‘selling out’. They will say there’s no point paying too much attention to trends, or the big sales … By the time they’ve written their own, the industry will have moved on.
Yet like anything, it’s about balance. No, you don’t write SOLELY for the marketplace … but understanding what sells can help you pinpoint opportunities for your own writing. Also, it will help you work out if your project is a ‘hard sell’ or not!
ii) Big ideas rule in the 2020s
Note how many of the industry pros make reference to ‘big ideas’, topical themes or global storyworlds in their wish lists. Whilst ISSUES have always been popular, it seems like this year they will be bigger than ever. I’m also struck by how historical fiction – for both books and TV – seems to be back with a vengeance.
iii) Authenticity will be a watch-word again for 2023
Unsurprisingly then, authenticity (and/or diversity) seems to score highly with these industry pros. Just make sure you do your due diligence and don’t recycle stigma, myth or other ickiness without thinking. Emotional truth is where it’s at!
iv) Uplifting stories are in demand again
Since the pandemic, uplifting and ‘feel good’ stories have been in demand. It’s not hard to see why: life has been exceptionally tough and traumatic for far too many of us. The fact agents in particular want ‘feel good’ is a reminder that writing is about ENTERTAINMENT first.
v) Your writer’s voice is crucial
Lots of the industry pros on this list are most interested in writer’s voice … HOW we write our stories! This may include – but is not limited to – what we write, why we write it, tone and style. Not to mention the types of characters, genres, themes or topics.
I’ve said many times on this blog: the industry does NOT want vanilla writing. So if you take nothing else away from this post, figure out how to ‘find’ your Writer’s Voice, ASAP!