Agent Spotlight: Erin Casey

Agent Spotlight: Erin Casey

Happy Tuesday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!

Hey, kidlit fam. We've had a full month of awesome stuff so let's jump right in and finish it out strong!

Fist off, many congrats goes to Kristy Nuttall for winning a signed copy of Charlotte Agell's MAYBE TOMORROW? Happen to miss that Author Spotlight? Read the interview here. Definitely spend some time with that book--you'll be SO pleased you did!

This past Friday we had a very special Author & Champion Spotlight Interview with Kaitlyn Sanchez! Her giveaway is still going strong until Friday morning, so be sure to share her post to toss your name into the raffle for one of her two critiques--open to PB, CB, MG, and YA!

This post marks just about exactly one year for Picture Book Spotlight existing. I know right? It feels much longer for me too. SO MUCH has happened since I decided to take my silly little lit blog and change it into a more industry-interview focused direction. Since then, I signed with my agent, Melissa Richeson, raised a tiny human, went on submission, returned to teaching (high school English), and did a bunch of other kidlit writing somethings in between (one big something I'm just DYING to tell you all about).

My very first post was with Brian Lies. We talked about GOT TO GET TO BEAR'S! and THE ROUGH PATCH which I was (and still am) gaga about.

Over this past year I've learned a lot and been humbled by the community I've found. We all know how lonely this work can be. My time with this website and the people I've met and the conversations along the way make it feel...not so lonely at all.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my passion. Thank you for letting me be silly. And ask deep questions. And for helping me spotlight and champion stories our kids need.

Originally I wanted to share a bit of the numbers over the past year. Reflect on some of the highlights and what I'm looking forward to continuing in the future. But you don't need that.

So I'll leave you with some encouragement instead. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep dreaming. Knock with confidence...knock 600 times.

Until the door opens.

You're not alone. Your story matters. Your VOICE matters. So straighten that spine...

and let us hear it.

Cheers, kidlit fam. (sips pretend champagne out of a plastic cup) Cheers.

And Agent Spotlight and giveaway with Erin Casey of Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency!

A pad of paper within arm’s reach so I can jot down all the random thoughts and lists I come up with.

A beverage I can sip on while staring out the window, trying to find just the right words for the email I’m writing.

My amazing colleagues who provide so much support and education as I continue to find my place in this industry.

What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator or pantry?

Cheerios! They are my go-to when I need to eat NOW.

What’s your favorite thing about being an agent?

I love that I get to find “diamonds in the rough” and help make a complete stranger’s (and my own) dreams come true.

What makes Gallt & Zacker unique as a literary agency?

Having only worked at two literary agencies in my career, I don’t feel knowledgeable enough about other agencies to really compare and contrast, but I can tell you what I value about my agency. We are a small but mighty crew of six women who are dedicated to diversifying the world of children’s literature both on the creative and professional sides. We promote honest conversation and question-asking with one another and with our clients to ensure that everyone feels informed and supported (which has been invaluable to me in an industry that can sometimes feel inscrutable). Plus, our clients rock!

Yes! I opened to queries less than a year ago and though I’ve signed my first few clients, none of them are PB authors or illustrators.

What types of picture book submissions are you most excited about in 2020?

I am most actively looking for author-illustrators, so I’m hoping to find creatives who know how to pair text and art so that they are balanced storytellers. Even in picture books I’m looking for a “hook,” so I’d love to see fresh stories that are relevant in our modern world and don’t rehash the same old plots/formats/voices. I’m also finding myself drawn to nonfiction picture books about a particular event, product, movement, or other out-of-the box ideas.

What genres of picture books are maybe not the best fit for you?

Picture book biographies, unless the world really needs that person’s story. I also don’t often connect with stories that revolve around a joke without depth of story or character, or stories that follow their inspiration too closely (barely re-imagined fairy-tales, for example).

If you pass on a project, do you encourage authors and illustrators to resubmit after significant revision? If so, how much time is respectful to do so?

If I want to see a revision I will ask the author to revise and resubmit outright, and I will have laid out my detailed thoughts in my email or edit letter/notes. If I do that, you can send the revision back as soon as you feel you’ve given the revision the time and effort it deserves and are ready to share it with me.

Anyone is free to query me again with a revision, but I ask authors to try to be self-aware about the changes they make. If I didn't request a revise and resubmit in my email passing, I would need to see major changes to the picture book so that I have something new and fresh with which to connect. Revisions should never be rushed! Take your time before you send that new draft out into the world. Let it sit in a desk drawer for a little while and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Picture books usually have the fastest turn-around time, particularly if the writer is inspired and sees the path forward, but I still wouldn’t hope to see a revision for at least a month after I passed. Longer is good too!

For the query letter: I like when the letter starts with an effective log line – it’s like a teaser to make me want to read on! I also like a short, snappy summary that gives me a feel for the style and tone of the book, as well as the basic beats. But don’t give away the ending/big reveals! Let me read the story for that.

For the sample: voice, voice, voice! I want to believe that I am reading about real, fully-developed, and interesting people right away.

What qualities make queries the LEAST effective for you?

When the query is written in the voice of the main character.

When the author assures me this is the Greatest Thing I Will Ever Read!

When the author generally neglects to follow our submission guidelines on our website.

If we had “Erin Casey goggles” to look critically at our work, what is ONE THING that you always look for that we can too?

I always look for world-building. Whether it’s a fantastical land or the character’s backyard sandbox, I want to feel equally comfortable in the world of the book. Picture books are definitely limited in word count, so I’m always impressed when someone can create “place” through imagery and our senses without becoming “tell-y” or clogging up the narrative.

Have I read Gallt & Zacker’s submissions guidelines thoroughly, and am I following them?

Have I done my research on Erin Casey and made sure that she’s legit? (I promise I am, but don’t take my word for it! Do your research!)

If this book were to be published as-is, how would I feel? (If the answer is embarrassed, horrified, uncomfortable, etc. you’re book is not ready to query. It likely won’t be published as-is, but you should be proud of the work you’re sending out and not just getting it off your plate.)

What’s something upcoming you are excited about or would like to promote?

I will be at SCBWI Oregon’s Biannual Spring Conference in May!

Please complete the following sentence: "Erin is an agent who…"

is passionate about helping every kid find a story that speaks to them, and loves puppies.

Thank you for giving us this insight into your amazing agenting world, Erin!

And thank YOU for reading, subscribing, and sharing, kidlit fam! Erin has generously offered to do a DOUBLE WHAMMY CRITIQUE! Check out the details below...

Erin is giving away...

1 Query AND

Picture Book Manuscript CRITIQUE!


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