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Meet Our September Guest Guru: Sandra Sutter of Gnome Road Publishing

This Month, we are pleased to feature Sandra Sutter of Gnome Road Publishing as our Guest Guru! As a Guest Guru, she will rate and give feedback on four (4) of our member submissions! Members may request to have Sandra as their Judge, however, assignments will be made at the discretion of the Rate Your Story Team, with the Judge's criteria in mind. And of course, a wonderful idea and a well-polished manuscript will give you a better chance!

Gnome Road Publishing is currently closed to submissions so this is a wonderful opportunity for those four lucky Rate Your Story Members to get their work seen. Submission updates for Gnome Road Publishing are posted here:

But now, for Members and Non-Members alike, here's some more about Sandra!

1. What do you LOVE about children’s books?

First, that they are not only for children. Anyone can enjoy them. And for picture books in particular, that they are one of the first encounters a child will have with art, language and culture in their lifetime. What an honor to be involved in sharing this experience with them.

2. What brought you to children’s books?

I have copies of some of my favorite books from my own childhood sitting in my office, so it is probably the experiences and memories of reading them that ultimately pulled me into writing and publishing for children as an adult. But it was also the birth of my oldest child that brought those feelings forward and challenged me to follow a new path in the KidLit world.

3. Name something you loved / enjoyed as a child?

I was the kid at recess playing on the trapeze or uneven bars, twirling and twisting around them until we were called to go in. I doubt there is a school playground today with a trapeze on it, but we had quite a few in the 80’s (you know, when there were metal merry-go-rounds and tether ball courts, too). I also loved swimming, camping and music.

4. What do you look for in a project to make it a favorite, or if you are an Editor or Agent, to add a writer to your list?

I’ve always stressed re-readability as a key factor in the projects we take on at GRP. There is a lot to be said about that, but ultimately, as an editor, it has to connect with me somehow and have promise in connecting with young readers. And . . . not be too similar to something already on our list (or in development).

5. Share a story that you love and why, or if you are an Editor or an Agent, a book you simply had to acquire).

I feel this way with every book we acquire at GRP. With such a small list, we only make offers on stories we really, really want to publish. But if you are going to twist my arm, one story that my entire team fell in love with from the moment we read it was MY PIANO by Jen Fier Jasinski (being illustrated by Anita Bagdi).

6. What is a common issue with the submissions you receive? (Or, if you are not an editor or agent, but a Rate Your Story Judge or critiquer, common issues in manuscripts that don’t work).

Although I know they are hard to write, a good query letter goes a long way. The query letter is a great place to spark my interest in reading the manuscript and helps me to learn a little about the person submitting materials. Too long and too much information --- my interest wanes. Too short and too vague - it feels impersonal or lacking in some way. I commonly see both. It can be difficult to find the right balance, but when you do, it really sets a good tone and naturally flows into reading the manuscript.

7. Our Rate Your Story 2022 Word of the Year is Professionalism. In terms of becoming a writer, what does this word mean to you?

Professionalism comes across through attitude and action. Wanting to do better, learning, giving back, being patient, showing kindness and understanding all come to mind. We all express this in different ways, but when I see an author or illustrator with these qualities, I think of professionalism.

8. Please share a Submission tip with our Members.

Please read the most current submission information you can find for a publisher or editor. And try to find out what a publisher is currently working on or has coming out in the near future to avoid sending something that is too similar.

9. Please share a Revision Tip for our Members.

Someone told me once to cut anything that doesn’t move the story forward. This has been incredibly helpful advice, particularly when a favorite phrase, sentence, character or scene is getting in the way of making a story shine and needs to be cut.

10. Name subjects you would like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box.

I love humor, STEAM themes, and unique perspectives/storytelling techniques.

11. Name subjects you would not like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box.

When we are open to submissions, I add a short paragraph about things we are not looking for at the end of the submission instructions. This can change because it usually has to do with what we’ve already acquired or published.

12. Share a fun fact about YOU!

Clowns make a lot of people happy – but not me. If one approaches, I run the other way.

Also is there anything in particular you want or don't want to give rating and

feedback on? I would rather not work on nonfiction biographies.

Note: Sandra will be available to rate and give feedback on manuscript submissions from four (4) of our Rate Your Story Members this month. Members may ask to be considered for one of the four spots with Sandra Sutter, or in the alternative, one of four spots with Rate Your Story Owner / Author Lynne Marie. Requests will be considered, but not guaranteed, as we will try to make the best matches possible based upon the criteria presented by the Guru.


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