Book Broker – an interview with Paige Wheeler
Agent: Paige Wheeler
Preferred genres: A few of my favorite genres include women’s fiction, contemporary and historical romance, mysteries, thrillers, memoirs, and narrative nonfiction. I’m also looking for contemporary young adult and middle grade. For more detail on my wish list, visit CMA’s website!
Bio: Paige Wheeler is currently president and owner of Creative Media Agency, Inc. She was one of the founders of Folio Literary Management, LLC as well as a former television agent and book editor. She’s worked in publishing since 1991 and has been representing authors for most of her career. She’s been fortunate to represent many successful books, including New York Times bestsellers and USA Today bestsellers, as well as international and local bestsellers. Her background in book editing has enabled her to collaborate with authors to help shape a project, and experience as a television agent has been useful in getting a number of projects made into movies.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
For the query letter, it’s important that the author can clearly and concisely explain the heart of the story. What makes your story unique? You want a strong, attention-grabbing synopsis. A good submission leaves me wanting to read more. You only have a few pages to hook your reader, so focus on creating compelling characters, a unique voice, and an intriguing plot.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
If an author's query letter feels overly complicated, directionless, or rambling, it signals that the manuscript might need more work.
3) What’s at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
I would love to represent more nonfiction titles, particularly pop reference or self-help. I’m also interested in narrative nonfiction and memoirs that tell a transformational story. As for fiction, I’m looking for book club fiction that has a unique twist and an interesting story, similar to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
4) How much importance do you give to comparable titles in a query letter? How do they help you assess whether a manuscript is a good fit for your list?
I love comparable titles in a query letter and appreciate when an author is thoughtful about the comps they include in their submission. They can help me gauge the tone or atmosphere of the story. However, I know it can sometimes be difficult to find a great comp. If an author's comps are way off, say literary fiction and they are decidedly writing commercial, it helps me gauge how cognizant the author is of their own work.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
I'm especially drawn into a manuscript that has a high concept and a fresh, distinct voice. I want that voice to take over the page, and I want to be fully immersed in the story. If you have a clever plot, that's a bonus. One common snag is over explanation or opening with heavy backstory. I want to jump right into the characters and their world, so if I have to read through pages of background information, it can pull me out of the story.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
I would love for the publishing industry to provide more support for authors, especially with regards to marketing and publicity. There are so many wonderful books that come out each year, and they don’t always receive the attention they deserve.
7) What’s the best (non-client) book you’ve read recently, and how did it hook you?
There are two books I’ve read recently that I thoroughly enjoyed. The first was One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. I loved the premise of the story. I’m a big fan of any story that has an innovative twist on a classic book or film. The plot was intriguing and kept me guessing until the end. The other book I loved was The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni. Not only was the story engaging and well-told, but the nonlinear timeline kept me on my toes.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you’re working with at the moment?
I’m excited to be working with USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean. Her novel These Tangled Vines was released this past June and is currently an Amazon #1 Best Seller. We’re currently working on her upcoming release, Beyond the Moonlit Sea, which follows a woman’s search for answers when her husband vanishes in the night in a riveting page-turner about love, deception, and redemption. It will be available in June 2022.