Our Story

A Letter from Cynthea Liu
President of STARTS WITH US


STARTS WITH US was born when a writer named Bryan Johnson had a collection of short stories for children and came to me for help with editing it. I let him know a short story anthology is often a hard sell to a major trade publisher unless you are already an established author or get really lucky in finding that incredible match. Bryan decided he would publish on his own, and I helped him edit and publish his work into a book called Code 7: Cracking the Code for an Epic Life. But little did I know, Code 7 was more than just a manuscript to Bryan.

Our work together on this one title has inspired over these last few years several large efforts to empower as many children as possible to think of the code they live by and how they can make a difference in the world. The Bryan Johnson Foundation was formed. Its mission?

Empower youth to architect pro-social aspirations and a shared responsibility for our future.

STARTS WITH US is also grounded in this mission. Bryan heard my stories of the children’s book community’s difficulties of getting published, especially for works that many publishers did not view as having a wide audience, including many genres like historical fiction or poetry, not to mention stories for children of all backgrounds, or what the market might view as niche topics like quantum mechanics as an example. In addition, many books that have been published that were not picked up by major retailers like Barnes and Noble or were not reviewed or highly reviewed by the major journals would quickly end up out of print and difficult to revive again. 

STARTS WITH US would be a new kind of publishing company.

STARTS WITH US would publish stories of empowerment for children that would buck trends–one that would publish quality content that matters, and we would do it in a way that no one has done before. To change things, it would have to “start with us.”

But one thing will not change.

We will push creatives to create their very best work.

This means we will offer feedback on submitted manuscripts or portfolios whenever possible. It will also mean that our creatives understand that our editorial opinions are our perspectives from our collective reading experience informed by our objective to create the most impactful and engaging content possible for the reader. Creatives will not be forced to implement a change that they themselves do not believe in. Instead, creatives will be pushed to find their own solutions to resolve issues so that everyone can stand behind the work. This is what we mean by creating our very best work.

How do I submit to STARTS WITH US?

Look for submission opportunities on our website. Join our newsletter to receive notifications. Follow us on social media to find out the latest.  Now get cracking!

Cynthea Liu