Friday, January 24, 2014


I love Januarys – the year is wide-open before you and possibilities abound (it’s the kissing cousin to September, with school starting and the feeling of fresh start).  A perfect time let you know what kind of projects I’d love to find this year!

I took on a number of picture book writers and illustrators in 2013, so my focus this year is on middle-grade and young adult novels. 

Here’s what I look for in a book for any age reader:

-- Powerful, original voice
-- A great hook and strong plot
-- Real, textured, imperfect characters.  I love quirky, but not for its own sake; quirkiness that feels true and fully integrated to its character.
-- Writing with literary quality, that’s commercial too
-- Heart.  I want to be emotionally invested in a book
-- Humor is key; even if the book is dark or fairly serious, I want some humor.  Because life is like that.
-- Blow me away!  I want to read something that feels different.

More specifically, in both YA and MG, what I want most right now is a big, juicy fantasy, with gorgeous, complex world-building and high stakes, that’s not at the expense of your characters.  It’s cold and gray in Brooklyn!  Transport me to a world that feels really new.

I’d love to find a funny and layered Contemporary YA story.  Give me a great romance, but don’t stop there – add family dynamics, or a mother-daughter thread, shifting friendships, big stakes.  My client Rachael Allen’s book 17 FIRST KISSES is a great example of a book layered like this (and it’s coming out this June!).  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is another favorite contemporary YA, with very strong voice.

YA Historical Fiction that sweeps the reader up in the past, but feels immediate as well.  Something romantic please!  I’m interested in most periods, and especially like Elizabethan and Victorian England, as well as 20th century American.

YA with a unique story-telling device.  Think WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE? for teens – a story that incorporates  a mix of emails, letters, diary entries etc to form the narrative.  Or something like THE 19TH WIFE, that combines a present-day story and mirrors that to a historical one.  I also like multiple points of view.

YA Sci-Fi.  I’m seeing quite a bit of sci-fi, but I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of machines becoming intelligent enough to outsmart their creators.  A fresh imagining of that concept please!  A recent favorite sci-fi novel is THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO, which I loved for its originality and heartbreaking characters, this is the kind of sci-fi I’m looking for.

A couple others I’d love to see: a YA story about cloning, a YA mystery with tons of creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere or a YA about boarding school secret societies.

In middle-grade, I’m drawn to literary, character-driven stories with a twist.  Think BREADCRUMBS or BECAUSE OF MR. TERUPT.  I’m a sucker for bittersweet.

A fantastical MG in the vein of Joan Aiken’s WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE -- something gothic, Dickensian, historical or an alternate history.

I love MG time-travel stories, and would love to find something that re-invents that concept.

MG novel in verse.  Jackie Woodson’s LOCOMOTION is a favorite, and I’d love to find an emotional verse novel.

A favorite kind of MG historical fiction has the main character meeting up with a famous historical figure – a kid who spends time in the company of Susan B Anthony or Marco Polo, for instance. 

I’m a fan of fairy tale retellings, for both MG and YA, especially ones that use a lesser known tale, and make use of the darker threads in these stories.  Some favorite fairy tales are Tam Lin, the Six Swans, and Goose Girl, and my all time favorite example of this kind of book is THE PERILOUS GARD.

Thanks for reading this list, and not to worry if your book doesn’t neatly match something I’ve described here.  What I really want is great writing and a great read, and I’m open to possibilities.  It is January after all!

I can’t wait to read your projects, thank you for sending them my way!


  1. Well, darn it. I read this just about 3 hours after sending you my artist's bio and some images of my art. I wasn't aware that you weren't looking for picture book illustrator's in 2014. Sorry about that!

    Kimberly Wlassak
    Gerushia's New World

  2. Awesome! I have a YA historical fantasy involving gargoyles and colonial Boston that I just might be sending your way soon. Thanks for posting your list!

  3. Great list! As someone new to YA and MG genres, I found a good website at write4kids that discusses the difference. Apparently, it's not just an age thing (8-12 for MG, 12+ for YA), but how complex the characters, themes, plots get. I've written a contemporary coming-of-age fantasy (on a dare from my spouse) about a boy who starts out at 11 and ends up as an 18 year old simply by speeding ahead through a series of time shifts, guided by an elderly magician, in his quest to find a perfect world in which his mother and deceased father (a Vietnam vet) are reunited. So it crosses the age barrier between MG and YA. I'm not sure if that's a good thing when it comes to marketing such a book. It's sort of like Harry Potter, who goes from 11 to 17 by the end of the series. But that's a different story!

  4. Hi Kimberly, I am particularly interested in middle-grade and YA right now, but that doesn't mean that I am closed to illustrators. Thanks for sending to me, I'm happy to take a look!

  5. Hi Susan, can I submit a middle grade book from the UK?

  6. Hi Michelle, I'm opening to queries on Jan 12th, and would be happy to see it then, thanks!

  7. Hi there Susan, I have a book that I have self-published - Trevor the Burping, Farting Goblin. Trevor is a goblin - a goblin with serious problems. He farts, he burps, he is in a heap of trouble and he has just landed in the back garden of two teenagers. Sisters Hannah and Phoebe are plunged into a world of mythical mayhem, troublesome trolls, uncivilized unicorns, dangerous dragons and a wicked witch after Hannah finds the mean, green, stink machine in the bottom of her school bag.
    Arrogant Trevor needs Hannah and Phoebe to help him save his world from a tyrant and together the three of them embark on an adventure filled with laughter, fantasy and danger as they attempt to bring peace to his land.
    It is a story filled with action, magic and a fair dose of sarcasm.
    Please let me know if you are at all interested in something that has been self-published, whether in any case the idea outlined above is something that you are looking for and also if you think that the title would likely put people off? Thank you for your time.
    Best wishes with the new list

  8. Hi Jonathan, I'm happy to see projects that have been self-published. I can't really answer the rest until I see it. Many thanks for asking!

    1. Hi Susan thanks for the response and that is really good news. Quick question (and apologies if I missed it but...) how do I go about submitting? What information do you require, to which email address and in what format - i.e. attachments or embedded in the email?

  9. Please see our website for information on submission. Thanks!