MJ Johnston


My Manuscript Wish List

I am only accepting agented submissions at this time!

Looking for all the fiction, my friends! Overall, I'm looking for novels that hit the sweet spot between commercial and literary with strong narrative voice and characters that sweep you away, both in contemporary and historical fiction. I'm constantly on the hunt for feel-good fiction that can't help but charm readers (think The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald or The Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland) and book club fiction that people just have to talk about.

Voicey, twenty-something fiction (both commercial and upmarket) that appeals to a wide audience in a "wow, yea, we've all been there" type of way is what I'm always searching for! Projects with really sharp hooks and multiple entry points that showcase the delirious highs and sharp corners of figuring out this whole adulthood business. Such a Fun Age, The Cactus, Normal People, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill are just some examples of the span of stories that represents and the various tone it can take! I'm also actively looking to widen our women's fiction list with projects that straddle that commercial/literary line. The Girl He Used to Know, Girls with Bright Futures, and something with the feel of Katherine Center are just a few examples.

Speculative slants in commercial fiction! I'm on the hunt for commercial fiction that feels really grounded in human emotion but has a slight (or very imaginative) speculative slant to a new story. We're looking for our next The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle over here! Especially speculative that feels like a warm hug or showcases the complicated but uplifting beauty of the human experience. If you read The House in the Cerulean Sea or The Midnight Library, you know what I'm talking about (and if you haven't, go pick them up!).

Thriller and suspense! I'm especially drawn to dark suspense that borders on literary (see Dark Things I Adore by Katie Lattari) and anything that has a sinister nostalgia aspect to it, whether that be unpacking a contained setting like a campus, summer camp, or hometown or unraveling past relationships, friends, and families in dark ways (The Secret History is an all-time vibe inspiration). Stories that have the dark academia aesthetic to them, the gritty schadenfreude of watching the elite unravel, and/or novels of obsession/revenge are also perfect for me. I'm a huge fan of locked-room or isolated settings and really cool gothic vibes. I love thriller/suspense stories so the more I see in my inbox, the happier I am!

All in all, if you can make me fall in love, cry on my couch, smile as big as I can, or cheer on a complicated character - I am there! I’m especially looking for stories that elevate marginalized voices, and I encourage submissions from #ownvoices authors across all the categories I acquire for.

Missed Connections (otherwise known as "current gaps on my list that I'd love to fill!"):

  • To the US-based historical novel that illuminates a side of history I do not know and the marginalized voices I have not yet heard, I'd love to listen! Anything with an immersive setting and authentic voice can mosey right into my inbox, double yes if it's atmospheric southern fiction. I had the immense joy of co-editing The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, and I'm very much on the hunt for my own addition to this growing part of our list!
  • I was the editor doomscrolling on Twitter, you were the perfect uplifting novel that made me laugh and feel warm and cozy inside. Anything that showcases a group of people coming together, in a fresh and inspirational way that makes me look around and go, "ah, there's so much goodness here," sign me up! Double points if it showcases a funny and smart, light-hearted voice (I'm having a bit of snark overload lately!).
  • Oh hello #ownvoices domestic suspense/thriller! I was attempting to fall asleep last night and you were the one compelling me to turn page after page with your fresh hook and plot twists that I did not. see. coming. I've been searching for a gripping suspense with a diverse cast of characters that has that immediate hook that pulls me in - and you just might be it! Bonus points if you're a fan of searing betrayals a la The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn and stunning reveals (hello The Silent Patient)!
  • Hey now, hey now, this [a young, fresh, amateur sleuth mystery in the vein of Dial A for Aunties] is what dreams are made of! I'd love to expand the "cozy" readership with some twenty-something stories that feel commercial and upmarket (and just so happen to feature a dead body or two). Let's solve some interesting murders with a diverse cast of characters and a completely fresh take on the category!

Fun facts about me:

I'm from Michigan (and I LOVE being from Michigan).

I paint, so anything with really rich descriptions of color and art are particularly intriguing to me.

Camping, running, eating nachos, and laying in my  hammock are just a few of my hobbies (and I take them pretty seriously).

Submission Guidelines

Vital Info

Fiction: Commercial, Family Saga, General, Historical, Horror, LGBTQ, Literary, Mystery, Thriller, Women’s Fiction

Favorite sub-genres:
I'd like the next...

Nora Ephron, The Secret History, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Taylor Swift (but for books, obviously), Gilmore Girls, The Good Place, White Lotus, Only Murders in the Building

My favorites include...

My Upcoming Events:

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