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. 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.

Summer reads that feel like going back to my hometown and somehow have me day-dreaming about diving off docks and the could-have-beens always steal my heart! I devoured Every Summer After by Carley Fortune and want more complicated relationships you can’t help but root for. Bonus points if there’s a past/present dual timeline and the feeling of your feet once again standing on the soil that raised you. I just want a paperback that transports me to a place I somehow recognize as I swing in my hammock come June!

Clue, Only Murders in the Building, The Maid, White Lotus, Wednesday – I’m loving fresh takes on classic characters and mysteries! Please set me loose in a dilapidated manor house, surround me with a complicated group of characters who all have a motive, and let me solve a mystery that I never would have seen coming. Give me quirky horror, give me cozy witchy vibes, give me a fresh take on a locked room mystery! I also love anything that has a satricial edge to it (I just devoured The Semptember House and am dying for something like that on my list.

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, Must Love Books, 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. Beach Read, Girls with Bright Futures, and something with the feel of Lucy Score 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!).

Going off that – I’d love some more fantasy and folklore vibes on my list! Looking for adult fantasy that feels fresh in the space, transports us to a new world, and gives us a character to really root for. Bonus points if it’s on the cozy side!

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 always want a cheer on a “good for her!” type character. I’m a huge fan of locked-room or isolated settings and really cool gothic vibes. Also – erotic thriller! Send me all the dark thriller vibes, the popcorn reads, all of it. 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!”):

  • *cue dramatic GOT theme music* Rhaenyra, Alicent, Circe, Arya, Sansa – these unapologetic women have thrived in our fantasy shows and novels, but you’re the retelling of the badass women from our own histories and mythologies that I never knew I needed. Anything that sheds fresh light on the women we’ve heard but do not know is exactly what I’m looking for! Give me more in the vein of Clytemenestra by Costanza Casati and The Wolf Den!
  • To the 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. Triple yes if it has some sort of slight mystery or secret society of badass women at its core.
  • I was the adult fiction editor binge-reading The Inheritance Games trilogy, you were the adult novel that filled the puzzle void! Would love a fast-paced novel with high stakes, puzzles, old mansions, charming inhabitants, secret passages, and the possibility of a murder or many. Bonus points if there’s a love interest (or two).
  • 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!
  • 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).

Vital Info