THE FORBIDDEN ORCHID Cover Reveal!

Just look at this gorgeous cover for Sharon Biggs Waller’s follow-up to A MAD WICKED FOLLY:

ForbiddenOrchid_ForFinal_LR

THE FORBIDDEN ORCHID:

Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls’ father is a plant hunter, usually off adventuring through the jungles of China.

Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan fails to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid, meaning that he will be thrown into debtors’ prison and the girls will be sent to the orphanage or the poorhouse. Elodie’s father has one last chance to return to China, find the orchid, and save the family–and this time, thanks to an unforeseen twist of fate, Elodie is going with him. Elodie has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China.

But even if she can find the orchid, how can she find herself now that staid, responsible Elodie has seen how much the world has to offer?

You can pre-order THE FORBIDDEN ORCHID (which is coming from Viking this February) on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or check it out on Goodreads.

You can also find Sharon at her website, on Facebook, and on twitter.

NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED a “Most Influential LGBT Book”

Stuff like this really warms an agent’s heart. Here’s Hannah Moskowitz’s NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED on Buzzfeed’s MOST INFLUENTIAL LGBT BOOKS list…

original-9611-1435685755-4

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 10.16.16 AM

In addition to the many lists featuring this book, including a starred review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Kirkus recently placed NOP on its list of “11 Books That Grab You From Page One,” — of which Hannah’s is one of only three y.a. titles featured!

Check out NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED on Goodreads and order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, andIndiebound. Find out more about Hannah’s award winning novels on her website.

A Pretty Much Foolproof, Never-Fail, Silver-Bullet Query Opening

Hello there.

A few days ago I posted about my move to Folio Literary, and what I’ll be seeking.

As I rev up the ol’ query inbox (which is already rumbling with submissions), I figured I’d take a moment to talk a bit about the query letter.

How— I mean, for serious, how on earth— does anyone write a query letter?

It seems so difficult. Not only are you trying to put your best foot forward and stand out from the dozens— no, HUNDREDS UPON HUNDREDS— of other queriers, you’ve got to summarize your manuscript (impossible), make it sound exciting (huh?), comp it to other titles (um), talk a bit about yourself (embarrassing), and keep it all under half-a-page (yeah okay no).

As if writing the book wasn’t hard enough in the first place.

A lot has been written on strategies for great query letters. There are templates and forms online, webinars, talks, and even whole conferences dedicated to the subtle art of the pitch. I myself have gabbed on for hours about this subject without taking a breath. So how best to break down all this information, to actually put it to use?

Where, John (you might be heard to ask), does one *start*?

Though there are many paths up the mountain, for the sake of expediency, allow me to offer a…

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.36.34 PM

Firstly, and I can’t stress this enough (and believe me I’ve tried)— open your query:

Dear [Actual Name of Agent],

That is, the name of the agent you are querying, spelled correctly, as opposed to…

Dear Agent,

Dear Sirs,

Dear Ms. Cusick,

Dear Mr. Quetip,

Or just…

JOHN:

…which makes me feel like I’m being pursued by a creditor.

Some agents prefer last names, others are less formal. Me, I don’t mind “Dear John,” despite the connotations of heartbreak. But it’s hard to go wrong with a Mr. or Ms. followed by the agent’s surname.

Next, I recommend following a little formula. Ready? Don’t panic because it kind of sounds like math.

Here it is:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.39.00 PM

Where…

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.39.40 PM

So, X (your main character or protagonist) is Y (in the general place, time, circumstances of the protagonist’s every day life when the novel begins) until Z (the thing that makes the story a story happens).

Here are some examples.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.41.38 PM

Harry is the main character. At the beginning of the novel he’s a sad British boy (as opposed to an awkward pale girl or rambunctious mouse). That is, until Z: the thing that makes the story a story (and not just a boring portrait of a sad British boy’s life) happens.

Reading the above, I already have a sense of the genre, style, and even the market for the manuscript proposed, and the querier has only written a *single line*. Now, the writer has room to go into more detail, offer comp titles, and give a short bio. He or she has hooked me right out of the gate, without preamble. And if this first line sounds good, I’ll be much more interested to read whatever comes next.

Here are a few more examples:

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.44.01 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.44.10 PM

Get the idea?

So, if you find yourself stuck with your query letter, try this formula.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 2.45.22 PM

If you know any other query tips or techniques, or of useful online resources for query letter templates, etc., please post them in the comments!

Announcement: I’m Joining Folio Literary!

Folio-header-teal

I’m so very excited to announce that beginning July 1st, I will be joining the team at Folio Jr. /  Folio Literary Management. I couldn’t be more thrilled about this new chapter. I am so grateful to Sarah Davies and Greenhouse Literary for the incredible experience I’ve had over the past few years. It’s been a privilege to work so closely with one of the most insightful, gracious, and prolific agents in the business. I’ll continue to fan-boy from the sidelines for all of Greenhouse’s amazing clients and their work.

At Folio I’ll continue to represent my team of critically-acclaimed, bestselling authors. I’ll also be seeking innovative, stand-out picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels.

You ready? Let’s do this thing.

WHAT I’ll BE LOOKING FOR: I’m seeking unique voices in fiction for young people, 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 teen 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).

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 (Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri), Sparky! (Jenny Offill, Chris Appelhans) and That’s Not a Good Idea (Mo Willems).

WHAT I’M NOT LOOKING FOR: Picture book texts. I also tend to shy away from novels with talking animals, sports stories, and poetry.

HOW I WORK: As an author 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 by developing a debut project with a young writer, or helping a long-time author achieve that breakout novel. My goal is always to match authors with their dream editor, to secure the best deals possible, and grow an author’s readership over a long career.

HOW TO SUBMIT:

Please send your query along with the first 2500 words and the word QUERY in the subject line to john@foliolit.com. I try to respond to all queries, however if you do not hear from me within thirty days, please consider it a pass.

You can also find me online at johnmcusick.com and at twitter.com/johnmcusick

Happy Pub Day to Last Year’s Mistake!

A huge congrats to Gina Ciocca on the publication of her debut y.a., LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE! Called one of the most-anticipated debuts of the year by Barnes & Noble and Epic Reads…

LYMnorain

What people are saying:

“A fresh and raw love story about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. Ciocca’s voice is true and captivating, the perfect blend of angst and hope.” (Lindsey Leavitt, author of PRINCESS FOR HIRE and GOING VINTAGE)

Last Year’s Mistake hooked me from the beginning and left me with a smile at the end.” (Nicole Williams, New York Times bestselling author of the Crash series)

“A solid, thoughtful romance with plenty of angst.” (School Library Journal)

Before:
Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey’s parents decided to move away, she couldn’t wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn’t ready to let her go…

After:
Now it’s senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David’s family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey’s second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.

GinaCiocca_thumbJMC: When and how did you start writing?

Gina Ciocca:I’ve literally been writing since I knew how. In second and third grade, my friend Bridget and I would write stories about each other as the love interests to celebrity offspring during class and then swap notebooks to read them. They were long-winded and plotless, but so much fun! I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t love books and the imaginary worlds they can take you to.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?

I absolutely can. It was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. My school used to give us a half an hour or so for quiet reading time, but when I read this book I was so absorbed in the imaginary forest kingdom that thirty minutes felt more like two. I can still remember blinking and looking around as the teacher told us to close our books. It had felt so real to me – the golden trees, the rope swinging over the creek – that I was actually disoriented upon finding myself back in a sterile, fluorescently lit classroom. It was the first time I realized words could create magic.

My other childhood storytelling heroes are probably very common for my generation: Ann M. Martin’s BABYSITTERS CLUB Series (I was totally Mary Anne), Francine Pascal’s SWEET VALLEY TWINS series, Lucy Maude Montgomery’s ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, and anything by Christopher Pike.

Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?

I wanted to be an author my entire life, but I didn’t write my first book until I was almost 30, despite all my bookish obsessions and the fact that I had a BA in English. The latter was probably part of the problem – I had no idea what to do with my degree, and writing so much for school sort of burned me out. Once I graduated, I took an office job that had absolutely nothing to do with what I’d studied – or loved. I didn’t read or write for ages. As a result, I was pretty miserable, but it took me a long time to make the connection. I thought I was unhappy because I worked long hours for terrible pay in a place where I was over-utilized and underappreciated (which didn’t help!). Things got a little easier when I changed jobs in 2004, but it wasn’t until I suffered a miscarriage in 2009 that I took a step back and reevaluated my life a bit. Then a light bulb went off: I’d abandoned my outlet, and I needed to get back to doing what made me happy. I decided I was finally going to write a novel.

When I did, it was truly a rookie mess. 96,000 words, and at least 25,000 of them completely unnecessary. But I had no clue; I was just so proud of myself for finally seeing a concept through from beginning to end. Unsurprisingly, this was not the novel that got my foot in the door. But it *was* the one that broke me in, that introduced me to the online writing community, and that helped me find friends and critique partners that I treasure to this day.

Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?

It was hard, though due in large part to how green I was when I started querying, and the fact that I was querying a novel that didn’t fit in anywhere. It was about college-age girls, which I had no idea was not considered YA when I wrote it, and New Adult was not yet a thing. It was also paranormal in the post-Twilight era, which meant most agents ran screaming from it.

Querying LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE was totally different. I was older and wiser, had a lot more research and experience under my belt, and knew I had a marketable story. Agent responses started off slow, but once I revised my query and started entering contests, the requests really poured in. I think I had 14 or 15 agents request material, and two offers of representation. I chose John Cusick because I loved his editorial suggestions and felt they’d make the story stronger, and because he was so genuinely enthusiastic about the manuscript. The rest is history.

Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?

I used to write in my down time at work, but since I had my son in August 2013, I’m now a stay-at-home mom. Some people might think this makes it easier to write. They are wrong. My son cried constantly when he was first born, and I didn’t have time to shower, let alone write. Now, thank goodness, he’s mellowed out enough that I can write during his naps and after he goes to bed. Early morning and post-sunset are my time for my other kids – my stories.

Inspiration comes from everywhere: dreams, memories, people, places, songs. If one of those things makes me feel a certain way, I live for the challenge of trying to replicate it in a novel.

Can you tell us about your next book?

I have two finished manuscripts, the newest of which is a YA Contemporary that was ridiculously fun to write. The other is a YA psychological thriller that I’m currently revising, and I’m also converting a YA romance novella into a full-length novel. My writing cup runneth over, and I love it!

Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? What fictional character do you wish you’d invented?

I would kill to have dinner with V.C. Andrews. She passed away in the 80’s, but I bow to her ability to write the dark and twisted. One of these days I’m going to get brave and do a re-imagining of FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. And as I serve her wine at my dinner party, I’ll ask her to tell me on DL if she despised the ghost writer they hired after her death as much as I did.

Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?

I have several. Do your research, don’t be afraid of critique, surround yourself with topnotch CP’s, and write even if you’re not totally feeling the love for what you’re putting on the page. To quote myself, Let Your Suck Flow. http://writersblog-gina.blogspot.com/2011/12/just-let-your-suck-flow.html

Check out Gina’s awesome blog and follow her on twitter.

LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE on Goodreads and order at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.

COVER REVEAL TIME: Tommy Wallach’s THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE!!

The brilliant follow-up to his New York Times best-seller…

tumblr_inline_npfd44t3Na1rayeyw_540

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he hangs out in hotels, watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for. From the celebrated author of We All Looked Up comes a unique story of first and last loves.

Check out this great post about the making of the cover (complete with some, er, early concepts) on Tommy’s blog.

You can also check out WE ALL LOOKED UP on Goodreads. Order now at Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Indiebound.

LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE an Epic Reads “Most-Anticipated”

Well hello there…

comingsoon-june15

From Epic Reads: “Is there anything that electric chemistry can’t overcome? The past may be gone, but love has a way of holding on in this romantic debut novel told in alternating Before and After chapters.”

See the full list here.

Check out Gina’s awesome blog and follow her on twitter.

LAST YEAR’S MISTAKE on Goodreads and pre-order at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.

A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD by Hannah Moskowitz a “Can’t-Miss Galley” at BEA

[UPDATE: A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD also made Publishers Marketplace’s YA Buzz-Books for BEA! – 5.22.]

Hannah’s NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED already made a few great lists this year. I’m so thrilled to see her utterly original and heartbreaking fantasy A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD appearing on this Publishers Weekly list (in fine company I might add):

BEA 2015: Can’t-Miss Kids’ Galleys

History of Glitter and Blood cover

Check out A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD on Goodreads and order it at Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Check out NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED on Goodreads and order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, andIndiebound.

Find out more about Hannah’s award winning novels on her website and follow her on twitter.

Cover Reveal! Marina Cohen’s INN BETWEEN (Roaring Brook Press, 2016)

Inn Between cov 4CM

I remember the first time I read this super creepy middle grade, and I could. Not. Put. It. Down. The story follows 12-year-old Quinn, who is driving across country with her best friend’s family when a stopover at a creepy Victorian hotel in middle of the Nevada desert turns terrifying. I can’t wait for 2016!
Follow Marina Cohen on twitter and on her blog, and check out Inn Between on Goodreads.

Ink & Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani on Bustle’s 19 Best of May 2015

Debuting this month is Valynne E. Maetani’s Kirkus-starred-reviewed INK & ASHES! So excited to see it here (with some great company) on Bustle’s

19 Of May 2015’s Best YA Books, aka You’re Going To Want to Read All YA This Month!

23009011

Check out Ink and Ashes on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Amazon.

Check out Valynne Maetani on her website and twitter.