Happy Thursday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!
Ah, Picture Book Spotlight. The serious picture book blog for serious kidlit creators. That's right, there is absolutely nothing funny about this post, so wipe that smile off your face. Get serious, people! My new vision for this site is that it will be a place where happiness goes to die. It will be like a black hole of joy. And my bios at the end of every post will be actual, dry bios...with actual facts about me. Get ready for all the facts. They're so...factual. Gross.
Today, we have an Agent Spotlight with Lisa Amstutz, associate agent of Storm Literary Agency. This agency is pretty snazzy if I do say so myself...speaking of which...yours truly is the featured Author Spotlight this month! Say WHAT!?
And now for a THIRD shameless plug!
My debut picture book, The Book of Rules, illustrated by Tom Knight, releases in just a few months! We have just about 4 months left before the rule-following commences...lest we be eaten by Dennis. Avoid being eaten by following rule number one: Pre-Order The Book of Rules.
Well done. Isn't it nice not being eaten? I think so too.
At any rate, let's move on and jump right into our Agent Spotlight with Lisa Amstutz! She does have a giveaway paired with this post, so be sure to read to the end.
Hmm. I’d have to say my laptop, a big cup of tea, and my planner.
What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator or pantry?
Why Storm Literary Agency?
I’ve known Vicki Selvaggio (Agent/Partner at Storm) for many years, and have always been impressed with her talent and dedication to helping writers succeed. The whole team here at Storm is incredibly kind and supportive. I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful group of colleagues!
You bring a lot to the table with your varied background in kidlit. Share a brief overview of your experiences prior to becoming an agent and share a little bit about why your background will be an asset to your future clients.
My background is in science, but about 15 years ago I decided to give writing a shot. I wrote for the local paper and a variety of magazines before I sold my first book. As my writing career grew, I began editing for individuals as well as for several publishing companies. I also served as ARA and in other board roles for SCBWI: Ohio North. I believe my editorial skills will be an asset to my clients, and I will continue to build on the industry connections I made as an author, editor, and ARA.
When you think about building your client list, what are you most excited to see? What are your absolute priorities in terms of genre/audience/style/kind of stories, etc.?
I’m looking for writers who are serious about their craft and career. I am currently open to nonfiction for all ages as well as picture book and middle grade fiction. I love stories that uplift and inform.
I’m not a good fit for anything dark, dystopian, or graphic, and I don’t represent YA or adult fiction except on a case-by-case basis for existing clients. If those make up a significant portion of your projects, another agent would likely be a better fit for you.
You were on the SCBWI Board for Ohio North between 2011-2020. I'd love to hear more about that! Make the pitch for why serious authors and illustrators should pursue membership with SCBWI--what’s the number one reason to join?!
SCBWI offers tons of resources, learning opportunities, industry connections, etc., but for me the most valuable part by far is the generous and welcoming SCBWI community. Through SCBWI, I found a mentor, critique partners, an agent, and so many wonderful writing friends. They have encouraged me along the way and helped me grow as a writer and as a person. If you haven’t connected with your local chapter, I encourage you to check it out!
What is your best advice on how to really grab your attention with an effective query letter--what should our biggest priority be for crafting a query letter that glows?
I like to see some personalization so it doesn’t feel like a mass email. Why do you think we would be a good fit? Tell me about your story and about you. I’m looking for strong, marketable manuscripts, but I also want to feel like we’d make a good team. Those are both important factors in my decision-making process.
If you decide to pass on a project do you encourage authors and illustrators to resubmit after significant revision? If so, how much time is appropriate before a resubmission?
I may ask an author to revise and resubmit if I like the story but feel it needs more work. Otherwise, authors are welcome to resubmit if they’ve made significant revisions, but I do ask that you wait 30 days (or until I open again to submissions). Take your time to really rework the story and get feedback on it before you send another version.
Am I looking for an editorial agent? Do I have several polished manuscripts ready to submit if requested? Am I serious about building a writing career and already taking steps in that direction?
If we could put on “Lisa Amstutz eyes” to look critically at our stories, what is ONE THING that you always look for that we can too?
A hook. If I saw it on the shelf at a bookstore, would it catch my eye? If not, what does it need to make it stand out?
…works collaboratively with her clients to bring wonderful books into the world.
Thank you so much for sharing your agenting world with us, Lisa!
And thank YOU, kidlit fam for stopping by and reading this little interview. Say, how about a giveaway...OKAY! Lisa has graciously offered to give a query critique to one lucky winner! To enter the raffle giveaway, scroll below for details!
NOTE: (updated 6/11/21) While Lisa is currently closed for queries, she will open back up once she is ready to receive more. There are currently no specifics on her timeline--thanks for practicing patience! Please watch her agency website and follow her on Twitter for updates.
TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:
✅ Retweet this post on Twitter
✅ Subscribe to Picture Book Spotlight
✅ Share our Facebook post
✅ Subscribe to Picture Book Spotlight
***The deadline for this contest is Thursday, June 17th at 9AM CST
The winner will be contacted on Thursday, June 17th and announced on Twitter and Facebook***
About Lisa Amstutz
Lisa Amstutz, Associate Literary Agent
(Storm Literary Agency)
Lisa fell in love with reading at an early age, devouring stacks of books from the library each week. While she never stopped reading, she earned degrees in Biology and Environmental Science and worked as a lab technician, outdoor educator, and small-scale farmer before returning to her first love: books.
With sixteen years of experience as an author and freelance editor, Lisa comes to Storm Literary Agency as an Associate Literary Agent. She has written more than 140 books for the educational and trade markets as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles. As an editor and mentor, she worked with writers to shape and polish their manuscripts, many of which went on to land agents or book contracts. She also edited materials for several publishing companies.
From 2011–2020, Lisa served on the board of SCBWI: Ohio North in various roles, including Assistant Regional Advisor. She also volunteered as a judge at Rate Your Story and was one of the founders of the annual NF Fest challenge. Now, she looks forward to helping clients achieve success as an agent.
Lisa lives with her family on a small farm. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, nature photography, scrapbooking and, of course, reading.
Favorite authors include Sy Montgomery, Louise Penny, Alexander McCall Smith, Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Madeleine L’Engle, and Agatha Christie. In the kidlit realm, some favorites are Candace Fleming, Melissa Sweet, Andrea Davis Pinckney, Cynthia Rylant, Ezra Jack Keats, Kenneth Grahame, E.B. White, Andrew Clements, and Beatrix Potter.
Please follow Lisa’s submission guidelines.
As a small baby, Brian Gehrlein was found in an abandoned paper mill. He's not sure how he got there but he is sure you shouldn't ask about his mysterious origin story. Many supervillains have an emotional scar or a dark, enigmatic past...Brian is no different. He doesn't like talking about being found as an infant in an abandoned paper mill so seriously...don't ask. Forget about the paper mill. FORGET ABOUT IT. As a supervillain, Brian has been working diligently in his secret lair toward his personal goals for weeks on end. Some of his personal goals are: holding his breath for 2 minutes, eating an entire mango in one sitting, taking over the world, and becoming a certified strength trainer. It's really important for Brian to help others attain their wellness goals and to also help individuals discover their inner-super-strength. Sometimes he helps people work out the old-fashioned way. You know, lifting metallic weights over several months until they slowly gain muscle density. Recently though, he has come to realize that introducing a super-strength serum into the protein shakes of his clients saves time. He also has found that having dozens of followers with super-strength just might help him achieve his goal of taking over the world. At the very least, he has more company in his secret lair and that comes in handy when he's trying to hold his breath in the shark tank. Everyone needs a cheer squad, am I right? Maybe they can help him eat an entire mango in one sitting. So far he can eat 75% of a mango before his tummy feels full. Time will tell if he will accomplish all the things. It's nice to accomplish things. Wow, are you still reading this? I applaud you. You can probably guess what the secret emoji code will be. Yes, that's right. A mango. If you include a mango emoji in your retweet of this post, you will earn 3 raffle entries. If you ask Brian about his dark and twisted origin story of being found in an abandoned paper mill, not only will you receive negative raffle entries, but you will suddenly find YOURSELF in an abandoned paper mill. So...yeah...probably don't ask.