Posted by: nancyisanders | April 2, 2019

Author Interview: Lisa Amstutz

Meet Author Lisa Amstutz
Website: Lisa J. Amstutz: Author, Editor, Ecologist

Lisa Amstutz is the author of more than 100 children’s books, including Applesauce Day (2017) and Finding a Dove for Gramps (2018).

Lisa specializes in topics related to science and sustainability. Her work has also appeared in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers. Lisa serves as a volunteer judge at Rate Your Story and as assistant regional advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio. Her background includes a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Ecology/Environmental Science.

When she’s not writing, you may find Lisa hiking in the woods or enjoying a cup of tea and a good book. She lives with her family on a small-scale farm, in Ohio. Lisa is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.

lisa FindingaDoveforGramps_CVR
Featured Book:
Finding a Dove for Gramps
by Lisa J. Amstutz
Art by Maria Luisa Do Gravio

A boy and his mom continue the family tradition of participating in the annual bird count. Since Gramps went South for the winter, the boy hopes to spot Gramps’s favorite bird for him…a dove! But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will he be able to spot one? This heart-warming family story about nature celebrates a holiday census that was first started in 1900 and happens every year.

As a fun surprise, we have a guest post by Lisa today on one of the strategies she uses to land so many book contracts. Thanks, Lisa, for sharing with us an inside peek on your successful career as a children’s writer!

Just Pitch It!
By Lisa Amstutz

While some types of books need to be submitted as full manuscripts…picture books and novels, for example…many nonfiction books can be sold as a proposal. Magazines often request proposals for nonfiction articles as well.

This model can be an advantage for editors, as they can help to shape the piece before you write it. And of course it’s a boon for the writer, as it takes much less time to write a proposal than a whole manuscript.

However, writing a good proposal does take time. Most publishers want a cover letter, bio, list of comparable titles, and a synopsis or outline along with several sample chapters. Some add other requirements to this list.

After writing several proposals only to be told that they were too similar to an existing book, I decided to try taking Nancy’s advice: taking a step back and pitching some ideas first to gauge an editor’s interest, especially when targeting an existing series. That way, if they already have something in the pipeline or simply aren’t interested, you haven’t wasted a lot of time writing a proposal.

I started by studying Chicago Review Press’s online catalog. I came up with several topics that could fit into one of their existing series, then I emailed the series editor to see if she’d have interest in seeing a proposal for any of them. After a phone chat, I wrote up a proposal for the one she seemed most interested in, and ended up getting a contract for Amazing Amphibians, which will be published in 2019.

When I found myself rooming with Nancy at a retreat last spring, I got to thank her for her advice in person. This is definitely a technique I’ll be trying again in the future!

Thanks again for sharing, Lisa! It was so exciting to meet you AND be your roomie at the retreat. Best wishes with your writing!


  1. Congratulations, Lisa, on all your successes!! I agree with you that Nancy gives excellent advice.

  2. Great tip, Lisa. Thanks!

  3. Nancy helped me too. She’s a real treasure! Can’t wait to see Amazing Amphibians.

  4. You are prolific, Lisa! And what a gentle book to share with young readers. Congrats!

  5. Thanks for the great suggestions.
    As a yearly participant in the Christmas Bird Count, I’m looking forward to reading Finding a Dove for Gramps.

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