Submission Tips and Manuscript Wish Lists

 

Belcastro Literary Agency is a boutique agency; this means we are small, yet mighty! But as with all agencies, we each have particular submission guidelines we ask authors to follow. This helps us keep things organized, ensures we get the genres we actually represent, and gives us a chance to respond within a reasonable time frame.

For every agent, remember these:

  • ALWAYS check the submission guidelines
  • Do not invent genres to “fit” an agent’s MSWL; know your genre and target those who accept it.
  • Please refrain from bashing other writers or books; this says more about you than the story you’re trying to pitch.
  • The query and the synopsis are VERY different documents; research and know how to write each, rather than stating “synopsis in the query” or copy/pasting your query in the synopsis blank.
  • Check the agency website for policies on multiple submissions; at Belcastro, we ask that—once a project has been passed on by two agents—refrain from sending that manuscript to a Belcastro agent a third time. We are great at sharing and, if it’s passed on twice, it’s most likely not a fit for our team.
  • If an agent uses Query Manager, remember there may be areas where it asks you to repeat your genre, word count, title, etc.; DO NOT remove these details from the query just because it’s asked for elsewhere! Make sure your query, above all, is complete with all necessary info.
  • And with that, here’s what all of our agents are looking for and what they require from YOU!

ELLA MARIE SHUPE


Query Manager submission link

What I require on QM:

  • Query letter
  • Author bio
  • Synopsis
  • One-sentence pitch
  • Similar book titles
  • First 3 chapters

Age categories I accept:
YA, Adult

MSWL
My biggest joy is recommending new books, so I began my career as a literary agent with the goal of helping writers realize the dream of becoming a published author—so I can share them!
The stories that draw me in are full of complex characters and simmering with suspense.

Through both adult and young adult titles, I acquire mysteries and suspense/thrillers. Historical thrillers are especially intriguing. I lean toward female and diverse protagonists engaged in complex relationships. Also, a well-developed atmosphere is crucial. If the only woman in your story is the victim, please do not submit.

Adult science fiction, fantasy, and women’s fiction are all on my list, but I am extremely picky. Only a standout science fiction, a well-developed fantasy world, or an emotionally charged women’s fiction will get my attention.

Young adult historical needs a bit of suspense for me.

I typically do not acquire books that have been self-published. I will answer every query, but it takes time. Please know that I appreciate every submission, and I wish every author much success!

 

SHARON BELCASTRO


Query Manager submission link

What I require on QM:

  • Query
  • Author Bio
  • First 10 pages
  • Single paragraph pitch

Age categories I accept:
Select MG, YA, NA/Adult, Memoir

MSWL

As the child of an immigrant, I’m particularly hungry for immigrant and children of immigrant stories in all genres and markets. Would also really love to see some extraordinary, inspiring, and riveting memoirs. Especially from women and underrepresented voices.

I’m actively looking for all genres of YA with a special interest in diverse voices.

Middle Grade is not really for me unless it features immigrant or children of immigrants.

For a fiction query to really grab me I need to meet the protagonist, understand their goal, what will get in the way of achieving it and what is at stake if they fail. Of course, the market, genre and word count are important along with a short author bio with information pertinent to the story. Any more information for me is a distraction. Any less, and I don’t know what your story is about.

It’s very important for me that the author really understands the genre they are pitching. Word counts outside normal guidelines or statements like “this story will appeal to readers of all ages” are typically a dead giveaway that an author doesn’t really understand their market and will definitely give me pause.

Memoirs need to be complete for consideration, and I prefer a large platform but can be persuaded by a particularly interesting and unique story. A full proposal is also preferred with a strong marketing strategy.

I try to respond to all queries and full queries sent to my Query Manager. Queries sent through my email are likely to get lost.

 

CORTNEY RADOCAJ


What I require on QM:

  • Query letter
  • 1-2 page synopsis
  • First 5 pages
  • 1-2 sentence pitch (only in the designated spot on the QM form)

Age categories I accept:
YA, Adult

Genres I accept:

  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Horror
  • Contemporary
  • Thriller (YA ONLY)
  • Novel in verse

I DO NOT accept:

  • MG
  • 
Children’s/Picture Books
  • 
Crime/detective fiction
  • Mysteries
- Political/military thrillers
  • 
Non-fiction
  • Novellas, short story collections, poetry collections, or screenplays

MSWL

  • Morally ambiguous/conflicted protagonists
  • Raw, visceral representation of surviving trauma (and healing from it)
  • Angry characters bent on revenge, but extremely protective of those they love
  • Blood magic, witches, and magic systems with severe/tangible consequences
  • Fantasy rooted in cultures/mythologies outside of the Western scope
  • Horror that’s intrinsically tied to grief, trauma, and family (think THE BABADOOK and HEREDITARY in their raw portrayals of unbridled grief)
  • Folkloric contemporary fantasy (bonus points for Appalachian culture/setting)
  • Hardened, cynical characters who trust slowly but love fiercely
  • Both lighthearted rom-coms and more melancholic, darker contemporary
  • Heart-wrenching threads of romance with multiple layers of emotion (enemies-to-lovers is always a favorite!)
  • Subtle mythology/fairytale retellings (think ACOMAF being a Hades/Persephone retelling; too obvious/overt is a turn-off for me)
  • Complicated/nuanced familial relationships and friendships
  • Queer and neurodivergent authors/characters (though ALL marginalized authors are always encouraged and welcome to query)

 

KAITLYN JOHNSON


What I require on QM:

  • Query
  • Author Bio
  • Synopsis (1 page single spaced; 2 pages double spaced)
  • First 5 Pages

Age categories I accept:
Upper MG, YA, NA/Adult, GN (all ages)

I DO NOT accept:
Nonfiction, Short Stories, PB/CB, Thriller/Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Novellas, Poetry

  • Stories heavily dependent on religious motives/events/themes
  • Stories heavily dependent on rape, drug or physical abuse
  • Stories focusing on Henry VIII, Shakespeare, American Civil War (unless BIPOC), or Greek gods/myths

MSWL

I am definitely on the hunt for more diverse, BIPOC, queer, and mental health authors and narratives. Looking for inclusive stories where the authors have a deep connection to either the culture, experience, or perspective of the main characters. I am also very interested in the MG horror/graphic novel sphere (nothing too graphic, please)

Upper Middle Grade – I want this word count no lower than 40k; often, if lower, the voice is too youthful for me; searching for contemporary, fantasy (all subgenres), historical, horror/paranormal, and light sci fi; special interest for family themes, first crushes (especially if queer), monsters that reflect internal struggle, horror with dolls, ghosts, creepy crawlies

Young Adult – mostly, I want contemporary stories that give us new, unique perspectives and life situations; super into romcoms; open to historical/historical romance (very interested in non-European or American situations), fantasy (must have in depth worldbuilding, stakes, and magical system); open to select paranormal with creatures not seen much

New Adult/Adult – if new adult, that means I want crossover appeal (older characters but themes YA can connect with); looking for rom com, contemporary, fantasy (hard sell but, if spectacular, I want it), and horror that brings to light societal flaws/fractures or mental health aspects

Graphic Novel – I would love to find Graphic Novels that focus on queer spaces, mental health focuses, and horror elements; pretty open minded on topics/themes

 

HANNAH VAN VELS


What I require on QM:

  • Query
  • Synopsis
  • First 10 Pages
  • One-sentence pitch

Age categories I accept:
PB, MG, YA, NA/Adult

MSWL

First and foremost, I’m building an inclusive list with a variety of voices and genres. I’m looking for BIPOC voices, queer voices, disabled voices, and generally, voices from historically excluded backgrounds, regardless of genre. I love identity-driven stories that reflect the first-hand, lived experiences of the creators.

Picture Books: I prefer human characters over animal characters any day of the week in my PBs; books that don’t shy away from tough topics; cultural and family traditions and how they shape us; celebrating the messiness and complexity of family; drawn to lyrical voice with silly/fun wordplay; I also take Nonfiction PB in biographies or eras that have been historically excluded

Middle Grade:

  • Fantasy – magical schools, humor and heart, magic; stories inspired by myths, folklore, or legends, particularly those that are non-European in origin; I’m particularly interested in Aztec and Mayan-mythology based fantasy
    Historical – focusing on BIPOC stories and historically marginalized voices/characters
  • Contemporary – friendships/growing up; special interest in books with an environmental bent to them
  • Adventure – I would love to find a MG version of The Mummy (the Brendan Frasier version); autistic characters where the story conflict is not centered on that
  • Science fiction – accessible, character-led stories that you don’t need a degree in physics to follow along; if you can comp to Animorphs, I’ve already got hearts in my eyes
  • Horror or paranormal – ghosts, creepy crawlies, and witches

Young Adult:

  • Contemporary – high concept, aimed at all genders; evergreen themes: body positivity, self-love, coming-of-age, girls supporting girls, friendship and friendship breakups, and slow-burn romances; romantic comedies starring queer characters (emphasis on ace, aro, and trans-led)
  • Fantasy – character-driven (all subgenres!); I’m looking for strong world-building, strange magic, empathetic villains, morally gray heroes, and subversive fantasy tropes (special interest in Native and Indigenous stories)
  • Thrillers – creeptastic/gritty thrillers with a tightly-knit, well-paced plot, clever and nuanced characters; isolated settings such as islands and boarding schools; I steer clear of excessive on-page violence
  • Horror – ghosts, vampires, witches, and the otherwise macabre; southern Gothic and other atmospheric vibes (special interest in carnivals or theme parks)

New Adult/Adult:

  • Contemporary –straddles the line between YA and Adult audiences; particularly interested in the adventures of twenty-something women navigating the start of professional life after college; romantic comedies, especially if they are queer; books with a baking or cooking aspects
  • Horror – dark and devious (like Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House); paranormal aspects welcome; gothic and witchy and atmospheric
  • Fantasy – The key is accessibility and intrigue; more Patrick Rothfuss than J.R.R. Tolkien; I am not a good fit for epic adult fantasy; I’m looking for a well-developed world and magic system with very real stakes. Bonus points if your MC isn’t the typical “Chosen One”

I am NOT a good fit for:

  • Epic fantasy with dragons and elves
  • Overt Greek and Roman mythology-based retellings
  • Bigot learns a lesson at the expense of marginalized people
  • Word counts longer than 125k
  • Titles that have been previously published

©2021 Belcastro Agency

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested” – Francis Bacon