Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Agent Spotlight: John Cusick

This week's Agent Spotlight features John Cusick of Folio Jr.
Status: Open to submissions.
johnAbout:  John Cusick is the Vice President and agent at Folio Jr., a division of Folio Literary.
“I represent a diverse list award winners and New York Times bestsellers. My focus is middle grade and young adult novels, as well as genre fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, horror) in the YA-adult crossover space and adult sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.
"I graduated Wesleyan University in 2007 with a double major in English and Russian Literature—a degree one professor called “fun but useless.” After working as a freelance writer, bookseller, dog walker, cashier, and radio host, I became a literary agent’s assistant and quickly began building my own list. Around the same time I also became an author; my young adult novels, Girl Parts and Cherry Money Baby, were published by Candlewick Press. My middle-grade, Dimension Why, is coming from Harper Collins in 2020.
"As a writer myself, I bring both a creative and commercial sensibility to my agenting style. I’m an editorial agent who works closely with my clients, whether it’s developing a debut project or helping a seasoned author take that next step. My goal is to match writers with their dream editor, secure the best deals possible, facilitate the exploitation of dramatic (film and TV) rights in my clients’ work, and grow authors’ readership over long careers.
"I am passionate about helping clients achieve their full potential, and I’m looking for dedicated, original, fervent, visionary creators.” (Link)
About the Agency:
A division of Folio Literary Management, Folio Jr. is wholly committed to offering our clients impeccable, individually tailored care. We strive not only to discover and cultivate the most compelling new voices and the most original and memorable styles of illustration, but also to indefatigably and strategically support our established writers and illustrators as they thrive and develop their careers in the publishing industry.” (Link)
Web Presence:
Folio Jr. website.
John Cusick’s blog.  
Publisher’s Marketplace page.
Twitter @johnmcusick.
What He’s Looking For:
Genres / Specialties:
Children’s literature, picture book through young adult, adult and crossover science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and genre fiction.
From his Publisher's Marketplace page:
"I’m seeking unique voices in middle-grade, young adult and YA/adult-crossover fiction, as well as adult sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. I want stories that move readers, moments that make me look up and say “Wow, yes. I’ve felt that.”
From the Folio Jr. website:
"I’m seeking unique voices in middle-grade, young adult, and young adult/adult-crossover fiction. I want stories that move readers, moments that make me look up and say “Wow, yes. I’ve felt that.”
"I want compelling page-turners that create life-long readers, stories that will inspire fandoms, characters readers will cosplay as, obsess over, and never forget. I want #ownvoices stories of all styles and genres, and am particularly interested in sci-fi, fantasy, and genre fiction from under-represented voices. I love the strange, iconoclastic, and unusual. Send me the books kids will sneak / steal / borrow in secret. Those intimate, dangerous, life-saving stories.
"I love proactive protagonists, kids and teens chasing a dream or a hero who swings in with a song in her heart and a knife in her teeth. I am not seeking picture book authors or illustrators, or non-fiction, at this time."
From an Interview (02/2014):
“I want contemporary realistic y.a. with a twist, something like SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY or OCD LOVE STORY. I’m dying for great middle-grade, either a coming of age like WHEN YOU REACH ME (which is also realistic with a twist), or a truly fresh fantasy like THE PECULIAR. I’m also keen for new author/illustrators.” (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 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?
“I’m a very editorial agent. I like working creatively with my clients, from the idea stage to line-level tweaks. I’m also very communicative. I like chatting with my folks by phone, email, text, whatever. I also hope to pair authors with the perfect editor. When an editor and a client totally hit it off, creatively and personally, I know I’ve done my job. Finally, when I say I want career-clients, that’s another way of saying I like to manage and develop the trajectory of an author’s career, to help build their audience and hone their craft from book to book.” (Link)
See the Folio Jr. website to see some of his clients.
Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).
Snail-Mail: No.  
Online-Form: No.
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“Please send your query along with the first 2500 words of your manuscript to [see website]. Please include the word QUERY in the subject line.”
See the Folio Jr. 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)
See this interview at I Write for Apples for a lot of great info and tips.
Response Times:
“I try to respond to all queries, however if you do not hear from me within thirty days, please consider it a pass.” (Link
What's the Buzz?
John Cusick is an established and well-respected literary agent with a strong list of clients and sales. He recently joined Folio Jr. where he will continue to represent authors of children’s and young adult literature.
I recommend following John on Twitter @johnmcusick and subscribing to his blog.
Worth Your Time:
Agent Interviews and Other Helpful Info:
Manuscript Wish List
Interview with Literary Agent John Cusick at Justin Colón Books (04/2018)
Middle Grade Ninja Episode 09: John Cusick
Agent John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Talks Picture Books at Frolicking Through Cyberspace (07/2014).
Query.Sign.Submit. with John Cusick at I Write for Apples (02/2014).
Interview with John Cusick at Guide to Literary Agents (10/2013).
John Cusick Agent/Author Interview at Kathy Temean’s site (09/2013).
Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with John Cusick at Fizzygirl (07/2013).
John Cusick Interview at SCBWI Squam Lake Writing Retreat (05/2013).
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:
A Pretty Much Foolproof, Never-Fail, Silver-Bullet Query Opening (07/2015).
Announcement: I’m Joining Folio Literary! (06/2015).
Gimmicky vs. Personal: A Query Tip (03/2013).
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
Please see the Folio Jr. website for contact and query information.
Profile Details:
Last updated: 4/24/20
Last Reviewed By Agent? 4/27/20.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updated? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7(at)gmail(dot)com
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's/YA fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying. The information found herein is subject to change.


Sharon Biggs Waller said...

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.

Natalie Aguirre said...

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

Lydia Kang said...

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