Tuesday Debut – Presenting Amanda Henke!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut!

After a week with a picture book collective talking about how they help each other promote their debut (and subsequent) books, and a week with a debut business that can be a huge help to us as writers, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming!

I’m delighted to introduce debut picture book author Amanda Henke, and her all-kinds-of-fun picture book, NOT A BOOK ABOUT BUNNIES (which, I have to tell you, had me at the title! 😊)

Not A Book About Bunnies
written by Amanda Henke
illustrated by Anna Daviscourt
published by Starry Forest Books
February 7, 2023, fiction, ages 3-7

There are no books about the most underrated, majestic forest creature of all time … porcupines! But there are loads about bunnies. Can’t Porcupine have just this one book to herself? What is it with these attention-seeking, book-hogging carrot crunchers?!

SUSANNA: Welcome, Amanda! We’re so delighted to have you with us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

AMANDA: While I was studying at Hamline I was writing about a lot of sweet, typical picture book characters: bunnies, bears, butterflies…and I thought, hey, I should write a book that’s not about bunnies.  The title popped into my head, and I wrote about a confident underdog. I wanted to shine some light on a character who hadn’t seen a lot of love in children’s books. In the first few drafts of NABAB, Porcupine was an oyster!

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

AMANDA: I wrote the first draft in April 2018, and it will be published February 7, 2023, so nearly five years. I realize that answer is probably discouraging but I think that’s longer than a typical picture book takes. The book had a couple of months-long marinating periods during that time.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

AMANDA: Yes, a lot of revisions. I kept every version, and would check back in on older ones from time to time if I was feeling unsure. Happily, I always found I liked my more recent versions better, so the story seemed to keep evolving.

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

AMANDA: I didn’t know if it was ready, but I was proud of it and it made me laugh, so I put it on the Twitter Contest #PBPitch. Lucky for me, it got a heart ❤️

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

AMANDA: I pitched Not A Book About Bunnies on #PBPitch, and an editor Allison H. Hill, then at Page Street Kids, gave it a heart. That led to three revisions and an offer to publish, but that fell through. Later, when Allison had joined Starry Forest Books, she contacted me to see if the manuscript was still available. What a surprise! I had all but given up on it and moved on to write other manuscripts. I sent Bunnies to Allison immediately, of course!

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

AMANDA: Happily, I received a phone call which I think was more celebratory than an email. Allison and Robert called me a couple of weeks after I sent them my manuscript, and then they sent a contract over.

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

AMANDA: We went back and forth on the contract for a few weeks, just making minor adjustments here and there.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

AMANDA: I had a beer with my mom!

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

AMANDA: My contract was pretty much what I expected, yes. My advance was less than 5K, I will receive 5% royalty on hard cover, 3% on paperback, and I received 15 author copies.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

AMANDA: By the time my editor and I were working on the book at Starry Forest Books, we had undergone something like 5 or 6 rounds of revisions two years prior. So we didn’t have to do too much. We worked hard to get the ending right. Allison was very helpful with that, and I had really grown to trust her.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

text copyright Amanda Henke 2023, illustration copyright Anna Daviscourt 2023, Starry Forest Books

AMANDA: This part was so cool! I felt like my opinion was strongly valued here, and I didn’t really expect to have the opportunity to collaborate. I got to see some initial sketches, and the evolution of art along the way. I offered some suggestions where I thought they were needed, and Anna did such a great job. In my MFA program at Hamline we learned to “leave room for the illustrator to tell their side of the story,” and Anna added so much with her bright pops of color and character portrayals. I knew Anna was brilliant when I saw the first spread, which is of an adorable squirrel librarian in a little woodland library. I had no art notes for that, Anna really took it upon herself to build a world for the book, and I love it, it’s cheerful and inviting.

The only art notes I included were brief, and only when necessary to make the story clear. Like, in the attached spread I wrote Art Note: Bunny admiring from afar.

text copyright Amanda Henke 2023, illustration copyright Anna Daviscourt 2023, Starry Forest Books

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

AMANDA: I received a review from Kirkus which was a nice surprise! They had a lot of nice things to say, and some brutally honest ones 😊. But of course I totally respect what they had to say, and felt honored to be reviewed.

SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

AMANDA: I received my offer in September of 2020 and unboxed my ARCs on November 9, 2022 so just over two years.

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

AMANDA: Starry Forest Books is active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They run some cool content, they had a fun cover reveal and they also had Creator Spotlights, one for me and one for Anna. I try to put content on social media as well, but I am careful not to bombard my followers with stuff.

Starry Forest Books had really cute bookmarks made which I’ll bring to book signings and offer as a giveaway. They created some really fun activity pages including a page to color, a crossword puzzle and a word matching activity. I used a lot of big words in the book, they are highlighting that by offering this activity to clarify the definitions of those words. Words like bristly, impermeable, ferocious and porcupette. Fun!

I am also doing a blog tour, and have storytimes scheduled at some of my favorite local bookstores.

text copyright Amanda Henke 2023, illustration copyright Anna Daviscourt 2023, Starry Forest Books

SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

AMANDA: I started writing seriously in July 2017 and sold my first picture book in September 2020, so just over three years.

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?)

AMANDA: Some excellent writing advice I once heard from the brilliant Nina LaCour is to make your writing time less precious. Instead of lighting a candle and brewing a cup of tea before sitting down at your perfect desk designed for endless wordsmithing, squeeze it in when you can. Maybe write for 20 minutes while waiting in the car at the school pick up line, or record a voice memo and write it down later. This goes hand in hand with another tip of hers, “Some Words on Most Days.” This takes a lot of pressure off, and I think the quality of my writing is better when I don’t try to force myself to write for a certain number of hours a day. Take care of yourself!

Author Amanda Henke

Website: https://www.amandahenke.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandajhenke
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amanda.henke.58
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandajhenke/

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Amanda! We’re so grateful for the opportunity to learn from you, and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

Readers, if you have questions for Amanda, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Amanda’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)


We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out HERE!

32 thoughts on “Tuesday Debut – Presenting Amanda Henke!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Excellent point, Bru! 😊 It does go to show, though, what we always say about manuscripts needing to cross the right desk at the right time. In this case, it crossed the right desk, enough to be loved and remembered, but initially not at the right time. When the editor was in a new position in a different place with a different list, it was just right!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      They really do, Phyllis! Isn’t it wonderful how many different kinds of art there are to go with so many different kinds of books? Occasionally I see books where I don’t think the art and the text are a good fit (I have one of my own!) but it’s a testament to how talented editors are that so many books get it just right!

  1. kathalsey says:

    What a fun book! Ty for sharing your journey. Congrats to you and the Starry Forest Press. They seem lovely; I’ve queried them before.

      • kathalsey says:

        Hi Susanna, I had interest from Starry Forest but the ms I sent was too similar to one they were publishing, One of the editors invited me to send another ms to her, but that one didn’t garner interest. They are def. on my radar. TY.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      There are so many ways to create humor, Pat, and going at it from the perspective of something that is NOT there…and yet totally IS… is a great way to get kids laughing, and a great way for the art to complement the text!

  2. Norah says:

    I enjoyed meeting Amanda and hearing about the journey-to-publication of her book. Like you, I was sold at the title, but what you’ve shared of the insides looks and sounds pretty good too.

  3. chattytcp says:

    Congratulations! I just LOVE the title – very catchy! I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Porcupines definitely get a bad rap. I think they’re adorable 🥰

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