Mary Cummings, Agent and Founder


Backstory to books

Inspiration and tips

Recent and forthcoming titles


Conferences and workshops


Always seeking

   See also - article on top wishes for right now

For picture books:
I always look for love themes. It's fundamental, right?! This could be love for a parent, for a friend, sibling, pet, etc. or love for the full world. (Be aware that I see too many love themes that are heavily mom focused, with the baby or child passive or oblique in the narrative. I'm seeking the back and forth dynamic, the "twosome"). 

Books with a clear storyline (beginning, middle, end) and those that are  character-based tend to get my attention, as well as stories with series potential.

For novels:
Especially in middle-grade, I really like fantasy or magical realism, but not stories with complex world-building. It's the easy and natural weaving in of magic or non-realistic elements into the ordinary world that intrigues me. 

Stories of bravery, friendship, yearning, and search for belonging captivate me, whether in realistic or fantasy/magical realist novels. How about a good mystery?! And, I'm itching for a story involving a museum. Also: I adore mythology.

I'd like to see a school story about an idealized relationship that develops more nuance (a crush, a best friend, a favorite teacher). 

In YA, I want to see a strong - but not romantic - relationship between two main characters. I tend to prefer young YA.

My tastes are pretty broad. I particularly like warmth. I tend to dislike cleverness and irony. I like humor, adventure, poignancy, and quirky charm. Kindness is important to me. I like adorable and cute. I like hopeful mixed with sad. I like gorgeous and lyrical. I like energetic and unconventional. 

I want a strong story arc and a vivid protagonist. I want something that kids will relate to, stirring or awakening new emotions and providing them with a look at possible ways to live in the world. 

My personal "golden time" with books growing up was when I was 9 - 11, and I have a special connection with middle grade work perhaps as a result of this. I began collecting picture books when I was in high school and truly love the form.

Besides what's noted above, please send me: 
- Stories about times, people and places underrepresented in children's and teen lit.  
- Picture books with a main character (like Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, etc.) with enough energy, personality and situation possibilities for a series.  
- Friendship stories.  
- Great read-aloud picture books.  
- Stories about important, complex relationships.  
- Middle grade and picture book narrative nonfiction.  
- Lyrically written science, nature, mindfulness and social awareness topics.  
- Climate and environment awareness.
- Adventure stories (twists, turns, hurdles and triumphs, please!).
- Mysteries.
- Humor! 
- Mythology. 
- Beautifully illustrated picture books (if you are an author/illustrator).  
- Stories about holidays, including those important to a minority community. 
- Middle grade or YA written in multiple formats (poetry and prose; diary and text; novel-in-verse, etc.).      

I look forward to hearing from you - but don't send attachments as they will be deleted without being read. (If you have a dummy or illustrations, send a link). Please also see CONTACT for submissions guidelines. (Note that, owing to the volume I receive, I am unable to respond unless there is a potential fit). Always helpful to hear a bit about you: your experience with kids, your occupation, where you live, any publications, etc. And, inclusion of recently published or forthcoming comps (titles that are in some way similar to your submission) and touch points for marketing will be  greatly appreciated.