Agent Spotlight: Shari Maurer
The words you are reading are not a figment of your imagination. They are not symptomatic of the collective fever dream that is 2020...No, this is not a drill. This is...Picture Book Spotlight.
Picture Book Spotlight. The serious picture book blog for serious kidlit writers and artists. If you think something is funny about picture books or about this blog or about Brian's face or if you are smiling for ANY reason, please exit the blog now. Because this is clearly not for you. This is serious stuff, people...
Can you imagine if that was the real tone of the blog? Yeah, nope. In ACTUAL seriousness, it is my unbridled joy to write stories and content for this blog with unapologetic levity and heart. No matter what.
First things first: some announcements.
Shortly after announcing my debut, THE BOOK OF RULES, Charlotte Offsay reached out to see if I would be interested in joining her 2021 debut book group.
If you have a book coming out, a debut group can be a good way to partner with others who also have a book coming out to help each other navigate marketing, promoting, and collectively shouting about each other's books to the digital, and otherwise real world. I knew a little about groups like this prior to signing with FSG, so I was eager to join. Also it felt super authory so that was cool.🤓
Together...we are the Picture Book Scribblers! This adorable (clickable) banner below was made by the fabulous Annelouise Mahoney. Click on the banner to see our nifty website or give us a follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. Our first book of the group to come out is by Lisa Katzenberger! Her book came out TODAY!!! There are some really fabulous kidlit creators with debuts coming out in the next year so stay tuned!
Next, as many of you know, this week is #KidlitZombieWeek. This Twitter-based revision celebration was accidentally inspired by myself (oops?). Back in February, I wrote about the odd circumstances behind my debut in a post called, Breaking All the Rules, and it sparked an idea in some kidlit friends. Surely there were other authors and illustrators who had books that were "dead" and maybe needed a second (or 37th) look...
So Kaitlyn Sanchez, Jolene Gutiérrez, Sarah Heaton, Sarah Meade, Kristin Wauson, and Mike Irvine put their heads (and brains) together to conceptualize and organize this week's fun. There are hundreds of people participating, unearthing their long-lost manuscripts, shedding new light on them to see if hearts...can beat again. Join the fun! There are some truly zombtastic giveaways happening in conjunction with the event. They even have a nifty little website...check it out!
On a personal note, I've been working on lots of stories (currently on sub again for book #2), running around with my 18-month-old son, and squeezing in time for a Masters in Education with an emphasis in Reading from Arkansas State University. I'm learning tons and I can't wait to share it all with students this fall.
But enough about me!
And now on to our feature presentation: An Agent Spotlight with Shari Maurer!
Shari Maurer is an agent with The Stringer Literary Agency. If you haven't added her to your list of agents to query, amend that egregious error immediately! Shari is doing a giveaway with this post, but make sure to read to the end of the interview before scrolling to the giveaway info like an uncivilized wolf. Don't be a wolf. Wolves can't read...you can.
Laptop, Kindle and NYC Metrocard.
Why did you become a literary agent, and why picture books?
I became an agent because I love the idea of being able to facilitate and encourage writers’ careers. I want to be able to connect fabulous books to the right editors.
Describe your ideal client/agent dynamic or relationship.
Collaborative. I love talking through my clients’ ideas with them and I want to be their greatest cheerleader. I won’t take on a project if I can’t picture myself gushing about it to an editor over coffee.
I’m not in love with anthropomorphized animal books.
What types of things often make you inclined to reject a project? Are there any patterns you’ve noticed with the projects you pass on?
A book can be amazingly well-written and absorbing, but if there are too many similar ones, I know it’ll be a hard sell. I just had to pass on something recently that I loved, but didn’t think it could stand out.
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 someone has significantly revised (and that means more than just changing a few things), they are welcome to resubmit, regardless of the time-frame. However, it’s important that the first paragraph of their query letter says that it’s been significantly revised, otherwise I will treat it like a duplicate and automatically reject it.
I’m surprised by how many query letters are a two-sentence description of the book and nothing more. I like a query that grabs me in with a great blurb and then tells me a little about the writer—why are you the best one to tell this story? If there’s a strong query, I go into reading the sample pages with a lot more excitement and expectation.
If we had “Shari Maurer goggles” to look critically at our work, what is ONE THING that you always look for that we can too?
Make sure you have a great first line and draw me in from the start.
What advice do you have for authors and illustrators in the query trenches?
They should understand that a rejection doesn’t mean that their book isn’t good, it just means it wasn’t right for me. I read strong queries every day that are extremely well-written, but for whatever reason, I know I’m not the right person to advocate for them.
Used to be a writer and knows what it’s like to wait breathlessly for an answer, to send your “babies” out into the world to be judged by others, and to struggle for hours to find just the right word or phrase to convey a thought.
Thank you so much for sharing your time and agenting world with us, Shari!
And thank YOU, kidlit fam for reading and being generally awesome human beings. As a thank you for reading this Agent Spotlight, Shari will be doing a query critique giveaway! See details below for more information on entering the giveaway!
Don't forget to participate in #KidlitZombieWeek and give Picture Book Scribblers a follow!
Query Critique by
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