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Agent Spotlight: Bethany Jett

Happy Saturday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!

Here in Kansas City spring has sprung. There are blossoms on trees, rabbits are bounding in meadows...and I'm increasingly desperate for summer break. We just wrapped up our Spring Break and had a lot of fun as a family. One of the things we did was visit a new children's literature museum called The Rabbit Hole. This place is AMAZING. If you're within a drive of Kansas City, I highly recommend giving them a visit. The entire space is dedicated to making kidlit come alive in an interactive, immersive, and unforgettable way. You can go into the great green room from Goodnight, Moon! There's a giant bowl full of MUSH!

As a father, picture book author, and reader of children's literature I was filled with joy and basically smiling the whole time. I probably need to do a whole blog post on this organization but until then, here are some highlights! Note what's in a certain bear's tummy from Jon Klassen's hit I Want My Hat Back.

Can you imagine if one of your picture books was brought to life for kids to step into like this?! Oh, my goodness...bucket list updated.

For all my friends out there in the query marshes, I'm excited to share another Agent Spotlight! Today we'll be chatting with Bethany Jett. Bethany is an agent with Cyle Young Literary Elite. There just might be a giveaway with this post but you'll have to read to the end to find out...

Before we jump into our interview, Dennis wanted to wish everyone a happy Easter!

I don't know what happened. The original graphic had four bunnies and then Dennis showed up. I guess when he has no rule-breaking kids to eat (or books), Dennis occasionally fancies a rabbit or two--especially if they're chocolate.

Thanks to all for continuing to support my picture book story coaching service. I've been slammed with written and Zoom critiques this March so I had to close the forms to get caught up. However, I'll be opening back up to critiques starting April 5th. I'd love to be part of your story!

And if you'd like to work with me at a cheaper price for all of April...there will also be a 25% off sale happening (and secret promo code!) that you can find in my April 5th post for Kidlit Haha Week hosted by Britanny Pomales. I had tons of fun doing a deep dive into comedy by analyzing my second picture book, This is Not a Sleepy Bear Book. I hope my thoughts help you with your own humorous picture book. Be sure to check it out!

Alright, with all of that introductory stuff out of the way, let's jump into another stellar Agent Spotlight with Bethany Jett!

Now, for the respect of everyone in the digital theater, please silence your cell phones. Secure babies, pterodactyls, and wolves.

Lights fade to black. Curtain open. Cue the spotlight. Here's Bethany!


Welcome to Picture Book Spotlight, Bethany! For those currently getting their work out there in the murky querying trenches, are you building your picture book client list? If so, what are you hoping to see? What are you hoping not to see?

Thanks so much! I’m honored to be working with some exceptionally talented PB clients (who all have a lot of amazing projects), so I’m being incredibly selective with adding to my PB list. However, I am looking for projects that are humorous and character-driven (series is a big plus!), unique takes for holidays, and I love quiet books that feel like classics.

On the other hand, I’m not looking for SEL or rhyme right now, nor am I looking for retellings or fractured fairytales in the PB space.

For our friends unfamiliar with your picture book wishlist or vibe, share three picture books you would have LOVED to represent and why you like them. 

I LOVE Stella’s Stellar Hair by author-illustrator Yesenia Moises. The illustrations are stunning and I love how the learning aspect of the story is the subplot (if you will). The back matter is fantastic. I read this book at the library and immediately ordered a copy for my home library.

The Rough Patch by author-illustrator Brian Lies squeezes my heart every single time I read it. I love how he explores grief using simple language and allowed the illustrations to carry the weight of the feelings. It’s a book that makes me cry.

Any of the Llama Llama books by author-illustrator Anna Dewdney. I love the rhyme and pacing and find them to be absolutely delightful. She was able to really nail how kids think and react in those stories. A couple of my faves are Llama Llama Red Pajama and there is one where Mama is grocery shopping and there’s a spread that makes me laugh out loud—I’m totally blanking on the title right now—and the school one. I just love them all!

Side note — I didn’t realize until I wrote the third title that they’re all author-illustrator books, but I am open to text-only picture book writers.

When you’re going through queries, what are you most eager to encounter?

I’m looking for the next high concept or big idea book. I also love when a book is close to the author’s heart from personal experience, but of course, not all books have to be!  Additionally, I like to see books with disability-inclusion (not just picture books) where the point of the story isn’t focused on the disability, but is just part of the story.

For querying, I like to see a portfolio of 3-5 picture books along with the main submission so that I can get an idea of the writer’s style and range. And I appreciate seeing that a writer is part of a critique group or has participated in contests or events where their work is being judged or reviewed. I’m an editorial agent so this tells me the writer is probably pretty comfortable with feedback and can work independently of me on their drafts.

What are some essential questions an author or illustrator should ask themselves before they submit to you?

From the writer’s perspective, I’d ask the typical questions you should ask any agent. It’s important that a writer and agent are a good fit because this is hopefully a long-term relationship. Maybe a couple of extra questions would be:

Does Bethany take text-only PBs? (I do.)

Do I write things outside of Bethany’s MSWL?  (I like to look at an author’s career and don’t want to hold them back on other projects that are outside of my sphere.)

What advice or encouragement can you offer picture book creators who are just starting out or who are about to jump into the querying trenches for the first time?

Get connected with a critique group if you’re not already, and get involved in some of the amazing PB events. Twitter/X (I can’t just drop the Twitter part!) has as an active, warm, and welcoming #kidlit community. SCBWI is also an organization I recommend.

If you had to pick humor or heart for a picture book to have more of, which one would you pick and why?

If I had to choose, I would choose heart. I love humorous stories (as I mentioned in what I’m looking for with my wishlist!) but a “heart-story” is one that you come back to time and time again.

If we could put on “Bethany Jett eyes” to look critically at our stories, what is ONE THING that you always look for that we can too?

This might be controversial, but I’m not a fan of illustration notes (*hides*). If something is vital enough to be put into an illustration note, then I ask myself, “Why wasn’t this important enough to be put into the text? Can we strengthen the story and eliminate the illustration note?”

I think it’s so important to allow the illustrator the freedom to do what they do best. That said, I’ve heard from some editors that they like it when there is art direction, so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule (and I don’t reject if I see illustration notes!).

Talk to us about art notes and pagination. What should our attitude be toward these conventions and how do they impact your reading of a picture book manuscript? 

I delved into illustration notes a little already, but when it comes to pagination, I prefer a manuscript to be laid out in spreads or pages. I like to see where the page turns are happening and how the writer is envisioning the book to be laid out. 

If I’m being completely honest, because I see so many PB manuscripts, when I receive one that isn’t formatted into spreads or pages, my first impression is that maybe this writer isn’t as knowledgeable as they could be — and of course, that’s not necessarily true—but it is my initial reaction. That said, pagination can be taught, so it’s not a deal-breaker when considering representation.

Complete the following sentence: "Bethany is an agent who…"

feels incredibly privileged to help share her clients’ words with the world.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Bethany! And if this great info wasn't enough, you're giving away a picture book manuscript critique!?

That's right. You can read. Your eyes do not deceive you! Bethany is giving away one PB manuscript critique to a lucky winner. Check out details below to see how you could win!


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✅ Share this post on social media using the hashtag: #PBSpotlight 

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Follows and tags are appreciated so I don't miss your sharing!

***The deadline for this contest is Saturday, April 6th at 9 AM CST

Winner will be contacted on Saturday, April 6th & announced on Brian's social media channels***

About Bethany Jett

Bethany Jett is a multi-award-winning traditionally-published author, ghostwriter, and marketing strategist who earned top honors in her master’s program, where she earned her MFA in Communications focusing on Marketing and PR. She co-owns Serious Writer and loves to help writers reach their audiences. She is also obsessed with planners, "The Office," and #cleanTok. Bethany is married to her college sweetheart. They served in youth ministry for several years and now live the military life while raising three sons and two fluffy Pomeranians.

For more info on what Bethany is acquiring, check out her submission details here.

Additionally, you can find Bethany on Publishers Marketplace and query her through Query Manager.


This text is only for official purposes and is entirely unimportant. You should not be reading this. It is not really for you. This final section contains no relevant biographical information about Brian Gehrlein nor does it contain any hidden easter eggs or hidden emoji codes of any kind. That would be silly. It would be absurd to include. This blog is serious. It is for serious people who are serious about picture books. Seriously. It is not supposed to be funny or absurd so it wouldn't make sense to have such silly things buried deep within the post. So stop reading. Right now. Turn back before it's too late. There are wolves ahead! Why would you keep reading after that previous sentence?! Do you even know about wolves? Do you have a head with a brain in it?! WOLVES! STOP READING RIGHT---and you're still reading. This was not how this was supposed to go. It was supposed to be a normal biography about the guy in the picture and have actual facts about him. Maybe even some links. But no. It is not. Okay, this is the point of no return. For real. There are wolves ahead! I cannot protect you any longer....sigh...the emoji code is wolves. Toss in a wolf emoji of your social media sharing of this post and you'll receive three additional entries in the giveaway raffle. I cannot, however, guarantee you won't be attacked by a wolf at some point in your life. So good luck with that.



October 19, 2021 (34)_edited.jpg
October 19, 2021 (34)_edited.jpg
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