I've been kicking around the idea of offering paid critiques for several years now. The fellow writers I work with often ask if that's something I'm interested in doing. They say I have an instinct for diagnosing what a story needs and that I communicate in a positive and encouraging manner. They say I ask a lot of questions and get them thinking about their work in fresh ways. They say they walk away from the conversation energized and excited. It's my teacher's heart that informs my unique approach and it's the same inquiry-based method I use every day with my creative writing students. No matter where you're at in your picture book path to publication, I'd love to partner with you and be part of your story.
After years of critiquing manuscripts exclusively through notes and comments, I noticed I spent far too much time making sure my tone was right and that my thoughts were being explained in a particular way. I wanted people to hear my voice and enthusiasm, my teacher's warmth. I wanted them to understand where I was coming from and to include examples and references to fully flesh out my ideas. My long-winded notes were daunting, tedious, and the worst part...one-sided. Then came Covid. Then came the dawn of the video conference via Zoom. I started testing out Zoom critiques as giveaways and found the dynamic nature of the medium truly edifying. I didn't need to painfully explain my ideas and make sure my tone was fun and constructive--that came through automatically in the conversation! And that's the other thing that made me never go back to feedback on manuscripts--I was hungry for a conversation. When people get a note about something they have questions. They have a follow-up response. They want clarification. They want to learn. I noticed this. Through practice, my brand started taking shape. It wasn't regurgitated, cookie-cutter cliches or hardline edicts on how to make the work better...it was a talk about the work. An actual talk! It was organic. Back and forth! Spur of the moment! Live brainstorming with a fellow creative, united in thought toward a singular purpose: to strengthen a story and build the writer.
What to Expect
So, what will you get out of a one-hour Zoom call with me? Hopefully a new friend. A creative colleague. Someone cheering you on. Someone invested in your success. We'll talk picture book shop. I'll tell you anything you want to know about publishing and give you the unfiltered, inside scoop. I'll ask about what you're up to. Where you've been. How you're staying organized. How I can encourage you. I'll read your story out loud for you, channeling my reading skills as an actor and father of two young boys. I'll ask you questions about your book and give my thoughts on the big-picture, theme, comedic and emotional potential, marketability, comp titles, and line-level writing and execution. We'll talk about page-turn moments and pagination. We'll talk about individual words, art notes, and the relationship between art and words. Ultimately, we'll talk about what your book is, what it could be, and how to get it there. I'll take a look at your query letter (if you've got one) and give my commentary. I'll wrap things up with where we go from here. We'll reflect on what was most useful about the conversation, what your revision priorities are, and what you'll do next to get it ready for querying. Every conversation is unique. Authentic. Fun. And you'll leave knowing what you need to do with your story without feeling sad about it. That's what I'm offering. Nothing more...nothing less!
If you want to work with me, I'll keep it simple: fill out the form below, submit payment via Venmo*, and I'll be in touch to schedule and complete our session within a week--a one-week turnaround!
*Zelle and Paypal are available upon request--please indicate on the form's last question
To pay, log in to your Venmo account and search for "Brian-Gehrlein" or use the QR reader below. Zelle and Paypal are available upon request.
I was lucky enough to win a Zoom critique from Brian and I was blown away by his generosity, insight, and energy. The critique itself was very useful and included Brian reading my story back to me (so fun to hear someone read your story out loud!), plus areas to focus on and suggestions to improve the story. However, my favorite part of the conversation was the AMA-type conversation we had. I learned so much from Brian's journey and experience working with different agents and publishers. He wasn't afraid to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. His very "real" perspective was both refreshing and enlightening. (KATIE BRANDYBERRY)
I thoroughly enjoyed the critique session with Brian. He has a very bubbly personality which made our conversation very comfortable. I was very appreciative of the insights provided on the path to publication. The details discussed as he went through my manuscript line by line, was so valuable. I literally got goosebumps hearing Brian's feedback and suggestions about my story. Did I mention that I was completely blown away by his expressive Read Aloud? This entire experience has heightened my enthusiasm and was totally worth it! (NEEMA JN. BAPTISTE-FONTENELLE)
If the opportunity to have a Zoom critique with Brian Gehrlein arises . . . TAKE IT! He is such a kind and encouraging person. It was fun to hear him read my story aloud and put his theatrical skills to the test. He also helped me brainstorm places that could be clarified or enhanced. Brian also allowed me to ask him any questions about the publishing industry. It was fun to hear about his journey to publication. 10/10 would recommend! (RYANN JONES)
I've had four critiques from Brian, and each one has been a fantastic experience. Brian is super friendly and fun to work with, and his insights are brilliant. He has strong instincts on how to make a story better and shares generously from his creativity and experience. There is high value to what Brian offers, and I highly recommend working with him to make a story the best it can be. I leave every critique with Brian more confident that I will someday be a published author. (BLAIR MOORE)
Brian has a clear understanding of what it takes to get published. After my critique zoom meeting with Brian I was able to look at my manuscript with new eyes. We discussed ways to improve it and brainstormed possible solutions. I was able to jump into my revision with new hope that it will catch the attention of an agent or editor. (DEB BUSCHMAN)
Having a video critique with Brian was a fantastic experience, and my story is definitely better for it. I could tell from hearing him read it aloud that Brian really *got* my manuscript. He did a great job guiding me to the needed revisions without taking over the story, and I appreciated his willingness to ask questions and truly listen to where I wanted the story to go. His insight was spot-on, and I can tell it will strengthen what I'd already considered to be a very strong manuscript. In addition, Brian took an interest in learning about my writing journey, and gave some super helpful next-step guidance. Priceless. I left our meeting feeling highly motivated, validated, and ready to revise! (ANDI CHITTY)
Brian's critiques were so insightful and encouraging. He shared writing tips with me that he learned from his agent, applauded areas of my manuscript that he liked, and redirected me to rewrite one of my picture books as a middle grade novel when the content wasn't working for that young of an age group. I really enjoyed my Zoom calls with Brian, where he shared information about the publishing industry and how best to revise my manuscripts. I highly recommend working with him! (MARYNA DOUGHTY)
I was lucky enough to receive a mini mentorship with Brian through #kidlitzombieweek. I submitted two picture book manuscripts and one dummy, and we met three times over Zoom to talk about them. I loved the openness and enthusiasm Brian brought to those critique sessions. Not only did he have great ideas about what to improve, he also made sure to emphasize the things I was doing well. After every session, I had a clear idea of where to go next, and I felt excited to dive in right away. I highly recommend a critique with Brian! (RACHEL WILSON)
Brian’s critiques are specific and offer insight into all manners of craft in picture books. He knows picture books well and looks for elements that support a successful manuscript. His notes cover everything from word length to plot structure. His positive critiques are very helpful and push writers to the next step in their writing. I especially appreciate Brian’s ability to articulate suggested revisions in such a way that they can be thoughtfully applied. He has made me a better writer! (SANDY MCGRAW)
Take your writing to the next level with a critique by Brian. As leader of our critique group, Brian helped my writing grow leaps and bounds. You’ll get game-changing feedback on your manuscript because of his knowledge of what agents and editors are looking for. (ANNIE NOLL)
I am constantly blown away by how precise and perfect Brian’s suggestions are for my stories! Every comment and piece of feedback is on-point for transforming my writing into the best version possible. You do not want to miss out on an opportunity to work with this smart and kind man. Brian is professional and approachable. He is knowledgeable, and he presents that knowledge in an easy-to-understand manner. (JANEY MERRY)
Brian knows picture books! He gives insightful, thorough critiques that truly took my writing to the next level. His critiques are always positive and encouraging while still being honest and straightforward. He is a master with rhyme and meter and was able to critique my rhyming manuscript with a hawk eye until the meter was perfectly tight. He took the time to go through the manuscript line by line, highlighting where the meter was off. He was kind and genuine in the process and very quick to get back to me. I’m now ready (and even excited) to jump into the query trenches! Thank you Brian! (KAILEI PEW)
Brian takes his time to really understand your story and provide encouraging feedback that will have anyone excited about revising. He provides honest, positive, and clear feedback that focuses on the big picture items down the smallest details. He suggested in different areas of my story where I could add more funny moments to take the humor to the next level. And it did. The story would not be where it is, if it was not for his suggestions. Brian’s critiques will not only transform your writing, but change you as a writer. (ASHLEY SIERRA)
Brian is indeed very familiar with what agents and editors are looking for in picture book manuscripts. But more importantly, he is so connected to what makes picture books appeal to kids. His critiques helped me envision my stories as more than manuscripts to polish, but as future experiences to be shared with kids, which made a huge difference! (KATE PILIERO)
There are two main types of critiques: those that look at a piece holistically and those that focus on the line-level. It’s rare to find someone who can do both, and WELL. Brian does. First he looks at the story bones to help you discover if your foundation is strong. Then he looks at the details - the little things that turn an ok story into something special. All to help you laser in on what your story really needs. (LIZZY RIZZI)
After meeting at an SCWBI writing conference, Brian and I swapped manuscripts and query letters for about a year. I always found his critiques to be thorough and insightful! Brian has the ability to give both conceptual, big-picture feedback and suggestions on important details. He can really "Hemingway" your query letter and strip it down to the essentials because he knows you have minutes, maybe seconds, to catch an agent or editor's attention. Because he has a strong voice, good intuition and a keen understanding of the children's book market, Brian can provide an invaluable critique! (KATIE MEYER)
Brian's critique was spot on. His comments were thoughtful, actionable, and encouraging - and helped me get a troublesome manuscript ready for submission. I have several critique partners and am a member of two critique groups...but I will DEFINITELY be utilizing Brian's services in the future! (CHELSEA TORNETTO)