Creating Breakout Middle Grade Novels from the Ground Up

Creating Breakout Middle Grade Novels from the Ground Up

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  • You are a writer looking to kick-start your publishing career
  • You are a writer who's received multiple rejections and is ready to change tactics
  • You are a writer who feels overwhelmed by the querying process
  • You are a writer who feels you're on the verge of ‚Äúgiving up."


If you've ever received a rejection with vague feedback like “I didn't love the voice," or “I'm afraid I can't sell this," this presentation is for you.

Discover how agents evaluate manuscripts (hint: it's not always about the writing), and learn the tropes, familiar ideas, and clichés that get most submissions sent to the trash bin. Here is the insider info you won't learn in writing courses: what agents are really looking for, and how you can craft a concept and pitch that will have them competing to represent you.

With practical tips and tricks, examples from query letters and published authors, and a nuts-and-bolts breakdown of the query-writing and submission process, literary agents John Cusick and Molly Jaffa provide you with the tools for breaking into this competitive market. Learn how to use social media and online resources to find the agent who's perfect for you. Craft a query letter that will stand out from the pack. Create a novel concept both unique and perfectly suited to the market. With a combined twenty-years experience representing young adult and children's book writers, John and Molly take you to the next level in your writing career.


  • The ins-and-outs of the middle-grade market: what's hot and what's not
  • How agents evaluate submissions for representation
  • How to identify your most marketable ideas
  • How to hone and develop your novels for best impact
  • When to revise, and when to walk away
  • How to approach agents, online and in person
  • Where to find the best resources for information on agents and agencies
  • How to write an unforgettable query letter / pitch


John M. Cusick is an agent with Folio Jr. / Folio Literary Management, representing picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels. He is also the author of GIRL PARTS and CHERRY MONEY BABY (Candlewick Press), as well as a regular speaker at writers conferences. His online writing on the craft and philosophy of writing receive thousands of hits a day. His clients include New York Times Bestselling Author Tommy Wallach (WE ALL LOOKED UP, Simon & Schuster), Courtney Alameda (SHUTTER, Feiwel & Friends) and Hannah Moskowitz (A HISTORY OF GLITTER AND BLOOD, Chronicle Books). You can find him at and on twitter, @johnmcusick.

Molly Jaffa is a literary agent and the Co-Director of International Rights at Folio Literary Management in New York. Her children's fiction clients include Lana Krumwiede (The Psi Chronicles middle grade trilogy and Just Itzy), #1 NYT bestselling author Julie Murphy (Side Effects May Vary and Dumplin'), Jeramey Kraatz (The Cloak Society), Kristen Lippert-Martin (Tabula Rasa), and Mahtab Narsimhan (Mission Mumbai). She represents picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction across all categories. Submissions guidelines can be viewed at You can follow her on Twitter @molly_jaffa.

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