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Agent Spotlight: John Cusick

This week's Agent Spotlight features John Cusick of Folio Jr.

Status: Open to submissions.

johnAbout: “I began my career in publishing as an agent’s assistant with Scott Treimel NY, where, along with dog-walking and coffee-fetching, I was fortunate enough to learn the ins-and-outs of publishing. I soon began representing a small list of clients, including Sharon Biggs Waller (A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, Viking Books for Young Readers), Ryan Gebhart (THERE WILL BE BEARS, Candlewick Press), and Hannah Moskowitz (A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD, Chronicle Books).

“In 2013 I joined Greenhouse Literary and grew my list to include many more critically acclaimed and bestselling authors, including New York Times bestseller Tommy Wallach (WE ALL LOOKED UP, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Courtney Alameda (SHUTTER, Feiwel and Friends), and Gina Ciocca (LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE, Simon Pulse). I also began representing picture book authors and illustrators, including Chana Stiefel (DADDY DEPOT, Feiwel & Friends), Julie Bayless (ROAR! Running Press Kids), and Eric Chase Anderson (CHUCK DUGAN IS AWOL, Chronicle Books).

“At Folio Jr. I’ll continue to represent a diverse list of iconoclastic voices in picture books, middle-grade, young adult, and everything in between.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Folio Jr., the division of Folio Literary Management devoted exclusively to the representation of today’s most stellar children’s book authors and artists, 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.

“Folio Jr. places both fiction and non-fiction with major publishers throughout the U.S. and around the world. We represent many first-time authors and illustrators, some of whom have gone on to become bestsellers and major award-winners. We also represent many well-established authors and artists, and work closely with them to take their careers to new heights. Folio Jr. is proud to offer a full complement of literary services in a changing publishing landscape, and to provide our clients with access to marketing services, website development, and media training that it takes to make each book a success. We are dedicated to supporting authors and artists across all platforms, from film adaptation to enhanced e-books and apps.” (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.

From the Folio Jr. website (as of 7/2015):

“I’m seeking unique voices, stories that move readers, moments that make me look up and say ‘Wow, yes. I’ve felt that.’ I want books that keep me turning the page. 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.

“In young adult and middle grade I’m drawn to contemporary realistic stories with strong hooks, as well as fresh fantasy set in our world and others. I love stories told in alternate formats (letters, texts…sticky notes?). Give me villains with vulnerability, bad decisions made with the best intentions, flawed heroes, and impossible odds. I love stories about siblings, the arts, and I have a particular soft spot for anything set in the culinary world (restaurants, diners, food trucks, etc.).

“I’m also seeking innovative, funny, quirky, and vibrant illustrators and author-illustrators. In picture books I’m seeking unforgettable characters, as well as story-driven texts. Some favorites (not represented by me) are Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri, Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans, and That’s Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems.” (Link)

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 the Agency Website:

“I am not currently seeking picture book texts. I also tend to shy away from novels with talking animals, sports stories, and poetry.” (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?

“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)


Courtney Alameda, Eric Chase Anderson, Gina Ciocca, Ryan Gebhart, Rahul Kanakia, Michael Kinch, Michelle Modesto, Hannah Moskowitz, Tommy Wallach, Sharon Biggs Waller, among others.

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 six weeks, 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:

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).

An Interview with John M. Cusick at Brenda Drake’s site (01/2014).

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

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

Around the Web: 

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

Folio Literary Management on P&E (Recommended, $).

Folio Literary Management thread on Absolute Write.

WIFYR Success Stories: Interview with Debut Author Courtney Alameda (04/2013).

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 Folio Jr. website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 7/22/15.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 7/22/15.


Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updated? 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/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.


  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.