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Agent Spotlight: John Cusick

This week's Agent Spotlight features John Cusick of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Status: Open to submissions.

bio-john-cusickAbout: “John Cusick joined Greenhouse in January 2013 after several years with a small New York agency, where he began as an assistant and rose to be an agent with a fast-developing client list. As well as being a YA author in his own right, John is a sought-after speaker on writing, both at writers’ conferences and via webinars. You can read his blog here: http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Greenhouse exclusively represents and manages the careers of authors writing fiction for children, from picturebooks through middle grade novels to sophisticated teen fiction.

“The name says it all. Greenhouse aims to nurture and grow the talent of exceptional writers.  With an emphasis on working creatively with clients, Greenhouse can help writers develop their voice and craft – and then be their advocate and long-term partner through the publishing process and beyond.

“We believe young people deserve great fiction. Greenhouse seeks outstandingly talented authors who are ready to put down roots. If you have a passion for excellence and a great story to tell, please get in touch.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Greenhouse Literary website.

John Cusick’s blog.  

Twitter - @johnmcusick.




AAR profile.

What He’s Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Middle grade and young adult fiction.

From the Greenhouse website (as of 2/2013):

“What John is seeking: Fiction by North American authors, from MG through YA. Particularly keen to see MG (and maybe YA) for boys. Fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories. Contemporary realism, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy, villains with vulnerabillity, bad decisions with best intentions, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, characters with histories, stories about siblings and about middle America.” (Link)

From an Interview (01/2013):

“I’d love to see a middle-grade series for boys set in a truly original fantasy or sci-fi world. I love page-turners, whether they’re adventure or contemporary romance; anything fast-paced is up my street. I like high sci-fi, but I’m especially interested in stories set in our contemporary world with a sci-fi or fantastical twist. Think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I love horror and suspense. I’d be interested to read a sprawling, romantic historical. Tolstoy for teens.” (Link)

From a Blog Profile (06/2012):

“I’m looking for strong contemporary young adult stories with a romantic twist, middle grade adventure for boys, historicals incorporating sci-fi elements, narrators who aren’t snarky, heroes who aren’t reluctant, parents who aren’t dead or alcoholics, bad decisions with good intentions, villains with vulnerability, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, finely composed and choreographed scenes, characters with history, best friends who aren’t destined to fall in love, stories about siblings, stories about middle America, and did I mention middle grade adventure for boys?” (Link)

What He Isn’t Looking For:

From the Agency Website:

“We are NOT looking for short stories, educational or religious/inspirational work, poetry, pre-school/novelty material, screenplays or writing aimed at adults.” (Link)

From a Blog Profile (06/2012):

“No angels, devils, Greek or Norse gods, no ‘Chosen Ones’ or ‘Dark Lords,’ no vampires, premonitions, or ponies.” (Link)

From an Interview (03/2010):

“I'll take this opportunity to say we’ve seen far too many protagonists with super powers, secret family curses, and latent magical abilities. In other words, stories where a typical kid finds out, ‘Surprise! You’re special.’ Unless it’s a truly original take on this concept, we have to say ‘no’ because these stories are too common.” (Link)

From an Interview (02/2010):

“I read far too many ‘City girl moves to small town and discovers a ghost’ queries. I much prefer to work with an author on a unique tale. Personally, I'm less interested in high fantasy, unless it offers a fresh take. We also have an agency policy against unicorns (not really a policy, more of an aversion).” (Link)

Editorial Agent?

“We take it as a given that writers will revise. More than ever, agents must develop manuscripts because editors can’t afford the risk of purchasing underdeveloped material.” (Link)


Gina Ciocca, Ryan Gebhart, Michael Kinch, Hannah Moskowitz, Bettina Restrepo, Judy Ann Sadler, Sharon Biggs Waller, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.  

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

“Prepare a query email WITH THE AGENT’S NAME IN THE SUBJECT LINE. The opening letter should be no longer than one page in length (if it were on paper) and should contain: word count of the manuscript; age group, brief synopsis of story (no more than 3 paragraphs); brief bio with details of any writing background you have. If you’re writing a novel: Paste the first 5 pages of your story into the body of the email. Please note: we do not accept or open attachments unless we specifically request them.” (Link)

See the Greenhouse Lit website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.

Query Tips:

“I like queries that simply describe the manuscript using clear, precise language. Gimmicks, jokes, and ‘clever’ queries won’t get you noticed— at least, not in the good way. I’m not a fan of rhetorical questions, such as, ‘What if you knew your boyfriend was Satan?’ Queries written in the protagonist’s voice are another pet peeve.” (Link)

Response Times:

The agency has a stated response time of 6 weeks for queries and 6-8 weeks for requested material (Link). If you do not hear back within this time, you may query again.

Stats on the web show Mr. Cusick usually responds within these timeframes.

What's the Buzz?

John Cusick joined Greenhouse Literary in January of 2013 after being with Scott Treimel NY since Oct 2007. Greenhouse specializes in children’s literature, is highly respected, and adheres to the AAR Canon of Ethics. Mr. Cusick’s clients appear happy with his representation.

I recommend following John on Twitter @johnmcusick and subscribing to his blog.

Worth Your Time:

(Agent*) Interviews:

Interview with John M. Cusick at Throwing Up Words (01/2013).

7 Questions For: Literary Agent John Cusick at Middle Grade Ninja (01/2013).

Mystery Agent Revealed + Interview at Operation Awesome (08/2012).

Q & A With Agent John Cusick at Scribe (03/2011).

Agent Interview with John Cusick at Down Under Wonderings (02/2011).

Interview with Author and Agent John Cusick at The Write Stuff (02/2011).

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Agent Interview: John Cusick of Scott Treimel NY at Cynsations (03/2010).

Interview with Literary Agent John Cusick at Editors, Agents and Blogs, Oh My! (02/2010).

*For a complete list of Mr. Cusick’s agent & author interviews, see this page on his blog.

Selected Blog Posts & Guest Posts:

Where’s John? – Conference and Event Dates (01/2013).

I’m Joining Greenhouse Literary! (01/2013).

Ten Surefire Ways to Turn Off a Prospective Agent (10/2011).

How Do I Pub My Non-Fiction Book? Q&A (08/2011).

YA Cliches, A List (02/2011).

Only the Young Die Good: Guest Post at The New Inquiry

Guest Post: John M. Cusick at Word for Teens (08/2010).

Around the Web: 

See the “What We Are Doing” page on the website for conferences and events.

The Greenhouse Literary Agency at P&E ($).

John Cusick at P&E ($, AAR).

The Greenhouse Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

The agency’s “top 10 tips for children’s fiction writers” are available here.

Client Success Story / Interview at Brenda Drake Writes (06/2012).

Free Fall Friday – John Cusick at Kathy Temean’s site (04/2012).


Please see the Greenhouse Literary Agency website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 2/1/13.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 7/19/12.


Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's and/or teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.


  1. Hi Casey, I'm repped by John and I have to say that he's a dream agent. He works so hard for his clients and is really passionate about shaping their careers. Oh, and he's super funny. I feel really lucky to be on his client list. If you're going to sub something to John follow the online form to the T and make sure it's as perfect as it can be. He really looks for out-of-the-ordinary stories, so keep that in mind. I was told by a load of agents that historicals don't sell unless they are paranormal or dark but he disagreed and ended up selling my manuscript really quickly.

  2. Thanks for another awesome agent spotlight. John sounds like an awesome agent and it's great that Sharon shared her experiences with him.

  3. And if he spelled his name Cusack I'd also ask him to marry me in the query letter. But I digress.