SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Paige Wheeler from Creative Media Agency

SPOTLIGHT FEATURE: Paige Wheeler from Creative Media Agency

Good morning, everyone!

Today we are excited to share with you a Spotlight On interview featuring Paige Wheeler from Creative Media Agency.

CMA was founded by Paige in 1997. As an agent, she represents a range of genres in fiction and non-fiction, including women’s, book club, romance (contemporary and historical), mystery, thriller, memoir, business, self-help and popular science. She also represents some young adult and middle grade fiction. She is not the best fit for picture books, short stories, sci-fi or academic non-fiction. Authors represented by Paige include A. J. Banner (In Another Light, published October 2021), Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette (A Dish to Die For, published August 2022) and Sheila Roberts (The Road to Christmas, published September 2022).

Paige is also active on Twitter at @pwheeler_agent where you can stay up to date on her projects.

Paige Wheeler

“Whenever people ask me what a literary agent does, the first word that comes to mind is advocacy.”

Hi Paige, thanks for speaking with us today!

What brought you to agenting?

I’ve been in publishing for over 30 years. I originally started on the editorial side of publishing before moving over to agenting. My first agenting position involved working in television and books – representing television writers, producers, and on camera celebrities. I also represented book authors, which was incredibly rewarding. I loved working with authors and advocating for their work, so I transitioned into literary agenting and formed Creative Media Agency in 1997. The agency grew quite quickly, so I formed Folio with two business partners. After eight years, I realized I missed the boutique experience, so I relaunched CMA.

What’s your favourite thing about being an agent?

Whenever people ask me what a literary agent does, the first word that comes to mind is advocacy. I absolutely love working with authors to shape their work and advocating for the best deal possible. I also work hard with my clients to plan out their career, looking down the road to future goals. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping a writer achieve their dreams of becoming a career author.

What makes for a successful author-agent relationship? How can both parties get the most out of the relationship?

I believe that communication is one of the most crucial aspects of building a successful author-agent relationship. My job is to figure out what the author wants and to chase after that, so we need to be able to talk openly and honestly. This starts at the beginning of the relationship when we discuss goals and preferred communication style.

What’s at the top of your fiction wish-list?

For adult fiction, I’m currently interested in Women’s Fiction (similar to Big Little Lies or What Happens in Paradise), Book Club Fiction (I absolutely loved Eleanor Oliphant is Fine), mysteries and thrillers (Behind Closed Doors was awesome), and romance, including contemporary romance, historical romance, and inspirational romance.

For YA and MG, I would love to find contemporary fiction (think Jenny Han or Sarah Dessen), Mystery (I adored One of Us is Lying), and Dystopian. For Middle Grade, I am also open to Fantasy.

Q. What’s at the top of your non-fiction wish-list?

For nonfiction, I’m looking for Memoirs similar to The Blueberry Years or Under the Tuscan Sun, Narrative Nonfiction (think Into Thin Air or Maybe You Should Talk to Someone), nonfiction that tackles women’s issues (such as Survival Mom or Girl Wash Your Face), Business/Entrepreneurship (Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office) and Practical Nonfiction (Home, Science, Self Help, Parenting, and Pop Reference).

Q. Is there any genre you’d rather not receive?

I’m not looking for picture books, short story collections, science fiction, poetry, screenplays, and academic nonfiction.

Q. What do you want to see in a query letter? And what do you hate?

For a fictional query, I love to see a strong, attention-grabbing synopsis as well as the first five pages of the manuscript. In your synopsis, I always appreciate when an author can clearly and concisely explain the heart of the story and what makes it unique. A good query letter will leave me excited to dive into the pages. If the author has previously published, they should include that in the query letter as well. Please also include “Query” in the subject of the email.

For a nonfiction query, I love when an author submits a concise nonfiction proposal packed with detail and information. Make sure you include recent comp titles and have a marketing and promotion section as well as solid steps for promoting your book. We ask that each author submits an extended author bio along with the query.

I always appreciate it when the author has done a bit of research on the agent/agency. So, it’s nice to include a personalized greeting. Please do not send out a mass email to 20 different agents. Also, it looks great if an author followed our query guidelines posted on our website, If an author sends in 20 pages with no query letter, it always gives me a moment of pause.

Q. Same question when it comes to the synopsis. What should writers do? What should they avoid?

For the synopsis, I would recommend creating a strong summary. Try to open it with an attention-grabbing line and include helpful details that sets your story apart. Please try to avoid any major plot holes. When reading a synopsis, I want to know what makes these characters interesting, the hook of the plot, and any interesting world building.

Q. What are you looking for in the opening pages of a novel? What really excites you?

I love a fresh, unique voice that immediately jumps off the page or a unique take on an old trope. Within the first few pages, I’m looking for complex, interesting characters, immersive writing, and an engaging hook. I want to be quickly pulled into a project without a massive interjection of backstory in the first chapter.

Q. What are some of your favourite authors and books?

Some of my favourite (non-client) authors include BA Paris, Peter Mayle, Kristin Hannah, Daniel Pink, Helen Hoang, and Kristan Higgins. As for books, 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.

Q. What interests or passions do you have beyond the world of books? What do you love?

I’ve always been into home design—I have a slew of shelter magazine strew about the house and I’m a recovery HGTV addict for the past 15 years. I enjoy reading about sustainable lifestyles but I sadly can’t live that way. Right now my biggest passion seems to be an addiction to K-dramas. I’m totally hooked and I can’t get enough. I watch them in Korean with the subtitles on. Subsequently, I’ve found I’m frequently craving Korean food.

Q. Any final words of advice for authors in the writing or querying process?

Don’t get too discouraged by a rejection. Reading preferences are highly subjective and I need to feel passionate about a project to take it on. Keep working on your craft and querying agents. It may take some time to find an agent that’s the right fit or to realize that you need to strengthen your writing. I don’t reject writers, I reject projects, so I generally offer authors the opportunity to resubmit with a different project.

The full interview can be found on Paige’s AgentMatch profile.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!

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    I have come to believe that I would wish to try another publisher since the books are selling very slowly.