Tag Archives: Helpful sites

How to Write a Picture Book Query

1195237_old_lettersIn my role as co-admin for the query critique forum on 12 x 12, I recently wrote a post on writing a picture book query. 12 x 12 is closed to new memberships for 2016 (they will reopen again in January 2017), but I wanted share the post here, too, because while there is a lot of information out there on writing regular query letters, information on writing a picture book query is much harder to come by.

At the end of the post you’ll find some tips from professionals and some helpful resources.

Remember, agents/editors can differ in what they expect/want from a query letter (or cover letter), so please always check submission guidelines.

How to Write a Picture Book Query – The Basics

The Layout of a Picture Book Query

When writing a query letter for a picture book you will basically have three main paragraphs, plus your sign-off.

  1. Intro
  • Make sure you specifically address the agent you are querying (use Mr. or Ms. [last name]). DOUBLE CHECK you have spelled their name correctly.
  • Personalise to the agent. Why are you querying this agent with this story? Show you have done your research.
  • You can also include here the TITLE of your story (in all-caps), the word count and the age-range. Age-range is super important, as it shows you know your target audience. Some people include word count and age-range after the pitch and that’s okay, too.
  1. The pitch.
  • This is where you pitch your story. Think of it like a book jacket blurb—you want to entice the agent to read your story.
  • Keep it short (this is a point universally agreed upon by agents—picture book queries should be short and simple). Try to aim for three sentences for the pitch. Five sentences at the very maximum!
  • In a picture book query you should aim to tell your story in a nutshell, including the ending. You don’t have to give everything away—you can still keep a bit of mystery. There’s no need to tell how your characters get to that point—you still want to leave the agent/editor intrigued.
  • Here’s a helpful template to help boil down your plot: “When [catalyst of your story happens], [main character] [takes this action], however [these things happen to prevent character reaching their goal]. In the end [this happens/main character discovers this].”
  • It’s important to convey the tone and voice of your story in the query (this DOES NOT mean telling it in your character’s POV). Eg: Is your story funny? Make sure you convey that humour in the query.
  • After the pitch, you might include any comparative texts or mention any relevant information/market research (eg: if it has crossover appeal or there’s a gap in the market or it has content/back matter appropriate for classroom use).

3. Bio

  • Include any publishing credits or awards if you have any. (If you don’t, that’s okay!)
  • You can also include any relevant tertiary degrees or professions (eg: you’re writing a book on dinosaurs and you’re a palaeontologist).
  • Include if you are a member of SCBWI or 12 x 12 or any other significant/relevant associations.
  1. Sign off.
  • Let them know if you have other titles available to view upon their request. (No need to include specific titles, just a generic “I have several other completed titles available upon request” is all you need.)
  • Thank them for their time and consideration.
  • Don’t forget to include your contact details under your sign off. (In emails, contact details go after your signature, rather than at the top as is usual in snail mail.)

TIP: Be sure to read your query aloud! Not only will this help you catch any spelling/grammar mistakes, but it allows you to hear how it sounds.

Tips from Professionals

From agent Mary Kole of kidlit.com

  • Create an image in the agent’s mind.
  • “Even if you’re only writing the text, give me at least one concrete image to walk away from the query with… Describe a scene for me in a sentence that’ll give me a mental picture.”
  • Channel the voice of your book.
  • Keep it short and simple.
  • “Present the main characters, the main problem, and the resolution, then work in a hook.”

From picture book authors, and hosts of PB Lit Chat, Kathryn Apel and Karen Collum

  • Capture the heart and tone of your story.
  • Use a small section of text from your book. (eg: a line or phrase) This doesn’t mean quote a section of your story, but rather work the wording into your story description. Use the same fun words or slip in some of the imagery.
  • Keep it short.
  • Give the whole story in a nutshell, including the ending.

From agent Janet Reid of Query Shark

  • “You should not describe how you want the book laid out or offer illustrations (generally).” This means, don’t include page breaks in your manuscript or send a dummy or tell them you already have an illustrator lined up or include illustrations (unless, of course, YOU are an author/illustrator).
  • “Who is your audience? Who will buy this book?” ie: what age range is the book aimed at. Would this appeal to the parent of a child of this age range.
  • “Give me confidence that you’ve done research on how the industry works.”

From Emma Walton Hamilton (aka The Query Whisperer)

  • Make the agent feel as though you’ve done your homework.
  • Focus on the theme (this refers to the essence of your story).
  • Make it intriguing without giving away the whole
  • Be succinct. Two to three sentences for your pitch paragraph.
  • “Craft your sentences artfully—so that the query conveys both the strength of your writing skills and the spirit of your manuscript.”
  • Conclude with what your character learns in the end.

From agent Danielle Smith of Foreword Literary

  • Be concise—tell me what I need to know.

From agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary

  • Keep it short—you should be able to tell the plot in three to five sentences.
  • Know where your picture book belongs in the market.

As you can see there’s some recurring themes here:

**KEEP IT SHORT!**

**Know your audience/do your research.**

**Bring the tone/voice/theme/imagery/heart of your story into the query.**

 

Helpful Links/Sources:

Picture Book Queries on kidlit.com

Query Shark

How to Query a Picture Book on mariavicente.com

Picture Book Query Letters by Emma Walton Hamilton (from Write on Con 2011)

Writing a Picture Book Query on johartauthor.com

You might also like to check out Julie Hedlund (12 x 12 founder) and Emma Walton Hamilton’s course: The Complete Picture Book Submissions System (though it costs to do the course, even when it’s closed you can pick up a FREE 7-Step Submissions Checklist, which has some helpful hints on crafting your query).

If you become a member of 12 x 12 you not only get access to the query critique forum, but you also get access to webinars from agents, editors and other professionals that sometimes focus specifically on writing picture book queries (there’s one coming up this month for members ‘Cracking the Picture Book Query’). Registration opens to new members in January and February.

 

Please feel free to share below any useful resources/links you have come across in relation to PB query writing. Or perhaps you’ve received or heard advice from agents/editors at conferences, etc. you can share.

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Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts

I love Grammarly because even grammar nerds like me sometimes need a second pair of eyes.

Full disclosure: This blog post was sponsored by Grammarly (hence the line above), but I loved using their site so much I wanted to include them on my post.

Grammarly

When I first went into the site I wondered what made it different to Word’s grammar checker, but after testing it out I realised it offers so much more. For a start, it gives a much more detailed explanation of the grammar rules than Word does, as well as examples of incorrect and correct usage (as with Word you need to sometimes use your own judgement). It covers punctuation, spelling, adverb use, split infinitives, redundant words and so much more. It’s quite comprehensive. I loved that it even picked up on common/overused words (e.g.: big) and offered suggestions for alternatives. They offer a free 7-day trial if you want to check it out for yourself.

10 Social Media Tips for Authors Marketing is an important part of being an author, whether you want to self publish or go the traditional publishing route. This post outlines tips for authors on building an effective social media platform.

Plotting a Novel This way of plotting is similar to the way I plot. Author Laurie Faria Stolarz provides a clear list of points to think about to plan out the plot of your novel. It’s simple to follow and covers all the key points. A great post to bookmark and refer back to when you’re in the planning stages of writing.

Helpful Blog Posts – May 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I’ve come across some great posts this past month. Don’t forget you can check out the masterlist (click the tab at the top of the page) for a comprehensive list of helpful writing topics.

Agent Tips – From Querying to Accepting an Offer

A comprehensive post covering each stage on the journey to acquiring an agent, including how to set out your query letter, what to do if your manuscript is requested, what to do if you receive an offer and how to handle multiple offers.

Understand the Key Book Publishing Paths

Not sure if you want to go the traditional publishing route or self publish? This infographic looks at the various book publishing paths, including the values of each and any warnings.

Copyright for Authors

Ever wondered how copyright applies to your writing, including your unpublished writing? This post explains it.

31 Ways to Find New Readers, Outside Your Network

Though this post is aimed specifically at Indie authors, it is just as relevant for those who are traditionally published. Lots of suggestions on how to reach readers beyond your usual social media circles.

What Are the Real Costs of Self-Publishing? Wrong Question

A great post for those looking at self-publishing and how best to budget to produce a profitable product.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – February & March 2012

I only have a few links to share in this combined post. Don’t forget you can find more links in the masterlist.

How Not to Write a Rhyming Picture Book

Children’s author Juliet Clare Bell shares her 7 top tips on how not to write a rhyming picture book.

How Not to Turn Readers Against You as an Author of Series Books

This post looks at what can turn a reader off wanting to read the next book in a series (and what will make them want to read the next one).

How to Give Good Critique

A great list of tips to keep in mind when critiquing fellow writers’ work.

Questions You Might Be Asked When Offered Representation

Literary agent Mary Kole gives insight into the questions you might be asked by an agent if he/she calls to offer representation and why the agent is asking them.

20 Tips for Writing the Perfect Horror Short Story

A dark fiction writer gives a comprehensive list of tips for making your horror story more effective.

How to Avoid 10 Common Conference Mistakes that Most Writers Make

10 conference organisers share the major mistakes they see writers making at conferences and how to avoid making them.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts January 2011

Time for the first ‘Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts’ post of the the year. I’ve collected a lot of great picture book links through the 12 x 12 challenge Facebook group, but I also have a few links in other areas of writing, too.

Writing (General)

Some Advice to New or Aspiring Authors

Some great advice and tips for writers new to the writing/publishing journey.

How to Make a Boring Character Interesting

This post outlines the various reasons your character could be coming across as boring or flat and offers some solutions to make your character more interesting.

Five Tips for Revising Your Novel

Literary Agent Courtney Miller-Callihan gives five tips that look at your novel as a whole when doing revisions, including a tip on character names and another on dialogue tags.

What Will Make an Agent ‘Gong’ Your Query

Thirteen reasons why an agent will stop reading your query–things to avoid when writing query letters.

Grandma Mary Can’t Market Your Book

Whether you intend to self publish or go the traditional publishing route, authors need to consider marketing. This post gives 7 steps to building a marketing plan and reaching out to your readership. It even includes a nifty chart you can use.

When to Quit Querying and Self-Publish

This post does a great job of presenting the various aspects you need to consider if you’re thinking about self-publishing after having little success with querying. It takes a very honest look at the possible reasons your work may be getting rejected and whether self-publishing is a viable alternative and also gives the honest facts about what it takes to self-publish. I love how honest, balanced and unbiased this post is in regards to self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.

Writing for Children

9 Factors That Make a Picture Book Successful

If you are a picture book writer this is a post well worth reading. These are nine important elements to writing an effective picture book.

The 6 Most Common Mistakes Made by Aspiring Children’s Book Authors

6 common mistakes this editor sees made by picture book authors and some advice on how to avoid them.

For All Picture Book Writers, Read This

Links to a four-part interview with Vice President and Editorial Director of HarperCollins Children’s Books and a three-part interview with Golden Books/Random House Editorial Director. Lots of great little nuggets of advice for picture book writers in both interviews.

Picture Book Tips from Successful Agents

Children’s book author and editor Tamson Weston consulted with agents on what makes a picture book successful and shared the top five tips for making your submission stand out.

Writing Easy Readers – Or How To Get 2nd Graders to Love You

5 quick tips for appealing to early readers as shared by an author of children’s chapter books.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts November and December 2011

I missed posting last month’s helpful writing links post in the craziness of NaNoWriMo, so this month you get the best writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the last two months.

Writing

Write Like Jane Austen

I was going to put this website under ‘Just for Fun’, but it is actually quite a helpful writing tool for anyone writing historical/period pieces. Just type in a modern word and it will tell you the equivalent word Jane Austen would have used.

Need a Jump? Four Ways to Fix a Stalled Story

This isn’t about writer’s block. This is for when you know where you want your story to go and you have your plan, but the story just won’t write. The scene you’re writing feels boring and lifeless. Something just isn’t working. This post can help you pinpoint why your story has stalled and how to fix it so you can get momentum going again.

Writing Fantasy Genre Stereotypes Part One: Your Heroine is Too Beautiful and Part Two: Writing the Opposite Gender

This two-part series looks at gender stereotypes in fantasy writing and how to avoid them. In particular, it looks at how in fantasy female characters are often stereotyped as either a sex object or a man in women’s clothing (or often both combined). Part one deals with visual stereotyping in the fantasy genre and part two deals with women who act like men and men who act like women (particularly aimed at women writing male characters or men writing female characters).

10 Ways to Create a Plot Twist

Plot twists are a great way to keep your story exciting, but it’s all about finding the right moment and right scenario to introduce the twist. This post provides ten ways for adding a plot twist into your story.

25 Reasons Readers Will Quit Reading Your Story

As writers we want our readers to keep reading until they turn the very last page. If we don’t want readers to close our book half way through, or, even worse, after the first page, this list provides tips on what to avoid in your novel to ensure your readers will keep turning pages. A great checklist for revision.

Revising

Polishing Till it Shines

A great checklist of things to look out for when revising to make your manuscript as good as it can possibly be before submitting.

Self Publishing

11 Self Publishing Strategies for Success

A lot of authors now look to self publishing as an alternative to traditional publishing, but it is by no means an easy road. This post offers some strategies to help ensure your self publishing journey is a success.

So You’re Thinking About Self Publishing

A round up of helpful sites for those thinking about self publishing.

Social Media

8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content

Not getting many reads on your blog? This post offers some simple solutions to help get your blog posts noticed (and shared).

How to Write a Popular Writing Blog

Tips for what makes a blog popular (a post for writers who blog).

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year!

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts October 2011

As it’s October, there will be a special NaNoWriMo section of links for those who will be participating in NaNoWriMo in a few days time. But first, a round up of the other helpful sites and blog posts from the last month:

Writing

Five Fun and Easy Ways to Lengthen Word Count

While some writers write long novels that ultimately need to be trimmed, if you’re anything like me and tend to write spare, sometimes you may find you fall short in the word count department. I have this problem with my current WIP and I found this post to be quite helpful. It suggests ways to lengthen your word count without adding unnecessary fluff or padding.

Your Formula for a Kick-A** Young Adult Heroine

These tips are drawn from a panel of authors who all have kick-butt heroines in their novels.

Revising

Editing Your MS in 30 Days or Less

Some tips from author Elana Johnson on how to edit your novel in a month. While the tips in the post are probably easier to achieve for those of us who don’t have children, they are invaluable tips none-the-less and can still help with editing your novel in a shorter amount of time.

The Twelve Steps I Followed to Format “My Cheeky Angel” for Kindle Direct Publishing

Although this post is primarily directed towards self-publishing authors, there are some valuable formatting tips for all writers to follow before submitting to agents/publishers to make your novel stand out as polished and professional.

10 Proofreading Tips to Ensure Your Self-Published Works are Flawless

This is another post that, although it’s written for self-publishers, can just as easily be used by all writers. A great checklist to keep in mind when revising.

Picture Books

Only One Published Book? Aaack!

What picture book writers can do on library/school visits if they only have one published book.

Do You Want to Write Books for Children?

This post covers some common misconceptions and mistakes made by picture book writers and how you can fix/avoid them.

Marketing

Tips on Marketing Your Novel

Literary agent Natalie Fischer shares her best tips on marketing your novel, from the pre-sale phase (before you even sign a publisher) right through to the book release. Perfect for any writer at any stage of the process.

Eleven Deadly Sins of Online Promotion for Writers

Another one for writers in any stage of the process, including those who are seeking to attract an agent. 11 things you should never do when you’re promoting your writing online.

NaNoWriMo!

9 Ways to Prepare for the National Novel Writing Month

This would have to be the BEST post I’ve ever come across on preparing for NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t talk about outlines, but rather how to prepare yourself mentally and organise yourself and your life in preparation. It outlines 9 areas you may not have considered in the lead up to NaNoWriMo and provides questions to ask yourself to help get yourself prepared. It was written by 5-time NaNoWriMo-er and awesome writer/editor/publisher, Jodi Cleghorn.

5 tips for NaNoWriMo Success

Five quick tips for helping you achieve your NaNoWriMo goal.

NaNoWriMo Starts Right Here right Now

Some advice from a past NaNowriMo winners on how to get past the NaNoWriMo finish line.

My NaNoWriMo 2011 Tips

Some tips for succeeding at NaNoWriMo from a two-time NaNoWriMo winner. (I personally think the 1st tip is an especially important one to remember.)

For those who are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, good luck!

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Post August/September 2011

As I didn’t post a Helpful Writing Sites post last month I’m combining my compilation of helpful links from both August and September into one post.

Writing

Identifying Your Fantasy Novel’s Subgenre

When querying your fantasy novel it’s best to be specific about your novel’s subgenre. This post gives a brief outline of each of the fantasy subgenres.

The Big Ol’ Genre Glossary

Taking it a step further than the above post, this post outlines all the various genres and their subgenres. A handy list to have when wanting to check which genre/subgenre your novel falls under.

En Dash vs. Em Dash

Not sure what the difference between them is? This posts helps clear it up.

There is a Learning Curve to Creating Ebooks

For those interested in self-publishing and creating your own ebooks, this post recommends two free programs you can use to convert your MS into ebook format.

Five Telltale Signs of an Amateur Writer

An acquiring editor tells how she can reject an MS in 8 seconds and lists the five telltale signs of an amateur writer.

10 Words Editors Hate

Be careful about using these ten words in your MS, as they may very well send your work to the ‘Do Not Publish’ pile. Some may surprise you.

Eight Reasons I Hate Your Book

There seem to be a few negative posts around lately, but helpful, none-the-less. In fact, I found this one to be VERY helpful. Freelance editor and agent intern, Cassandra Marshall, shares eight of the most annoying (and totally fixable) things she comes across in manuscripts. It helped me realise one of the biggest downfalls of my current WIP, it might help you with yours too.

10 Tips for Writing a Short Story

Short story writer, Amanda Lohrey, shares her tips for writing a first-rate short story.

Getting Your Children’s Book Published

A checklist of things you need to do when preparing to send your MS to publishers, specifically for children’s writers.

Besides Using Google, How Can I do Research For My Book?

Sometimes it can be hard to navigate Google to find the information you’re looking for. How can you be sure the information is accurate? This post has some great (and easy) tips on how to find accurate sources of information for your research.

14 Dos and Don’ts for Introducing Your Protagonist

Author Anne R. Allen gives a list of fourteen great points to take into consideration when introducing your story’s protagonist.

Querying/Submitting

Wherein I Answer an Awkward Question

A few months ago I wrote a post called Writers Beware. This post gives the same warning and similar advice to my post, but takes it a step further with some great information about vanity presses pretending to be traditional publishers.

The Biggest Submission Mistakes

Writers Relief interviewed a range of editors to find out what they considered to be the biggest submission mistakes.

Proper Manuscript Format

I’ve bookmarked this page. The post itself is presented as the manuscript would be formatted giving a visual example to go along with the explanation of how a manuscript should be properly formatted. This is especially helpful if a publisher/editor/agent does not have specific submission guidelines for manuscript format or requests standard manuscript format.

Motivation

You’re Kind of a Big Deal

Advice from an author who recently sold her book, and the long journey it took her to get there. She gives hope to those of us who are still hoping to get there some day.

Social Media

The Facebook Author Page: 10 Status Updates to Embrace, 10 to Avoid

Author and Novel Publicity president, Emlyn Chand, outlines the difference between Facebook page status updates that will engage and win you fans (and thus lead to book sales) and status updates that will annoy and drive away fans. In her words, “When it comes to self-promotion, less is more. If you promote yourself graciously, book sales will follow.”

5 Points to Ponder on Pottermore (for Writers)

A look at how writers can use J.K. Rowlings new Pottermore site as an example for creating an engaging website (even if you don’t have Ms. Rowlings budget).

Five Ways Authors Can Promote Books on Facebook

Tips for using your Facebook profile/page to promote your book (in a subtle way).

Book Promotion

Creating Effective Presentations for Schools

Some great tips from picture book author Tania McCartney on doing schools visits to promote your book, including how to keep your audience’s attention, taking age into account and what sort of content to include.

Just for Fun

A Day in the Life of a Writing Mum

If you’re a writing mum like me, I’m sure you will relate!

And one last link, because I just have to share…

You may have noticed a shiny new book cover on the sidebar of my blog for a soon-to-released anthology titled Eighty Nine (which includes my story ‘Eighteen for Life’). It’s a speculative fiction anthology embracing the year that was nineteen eighty nine. One of my fellow authors, Devin Watson, has created this little teaser trailer: Eighty Nine Book teaser trailer.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts July 2011

It’s been a quiet month here on the blog (due to my family being hit by some nasty illnesses), but I have still been collecting helpful writing sites and blog posts during July to share with you.

Writing

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far

A guest post by author Sydney Salter on seven things she’s learned on her writing journey so far. She has some great advice on rejection and criticism of your work.

How to Write with Kids at Home

As a mum with two young children at home I know how difficult it can be to find five minutes quiet time to get some writing done. This writer/mum offers some tips on keeping the kids occupied so you can write.

4 Writing Crutches That Insult a Reader’s Intelligence

Some great reminders for writers on writing crutches and how to avoid them. (Are you guilty of using too many adverbs or telling instead of showing?)

What Makes for a Great Thriller

Some tips from two thriller authors on the essential elements of a thriller.

Pitching/Queries

Why Pitches Fail

Three reasons why pitches fail.

Self-Publishing

Three Reasons to Self-Publish (and a big one not to!)

Advice for anyone considering self-publishing.

Social Media

What Social Media Stats Should You Include in Your Book Proposal

A look at blog stats agents and publishers deem relevant.

6 Secrets to Writing a Killer Author Bio

On our blogs, Twitter, guest posts, interviews, etc. it’s important to have an author bio. This post gives tips on writing an effective bio.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make on their Websites

The five most common (and easily fixed) mistakes writers make on their website.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts June 2011

It’s time for my monthly round up of helpful writing sites and blog posts. All links will be added to the masterlist (link at top of blog).

Writing

Tips for Writing Picture Books

5 great tips for writers of picture books.

3 Signs You’re Writing a Condemned Novel

How to recognise problems in your manuscript and how to decide whether they are fixable or whether the novel needs to be put aside.

Have You Ever Heard the One About “Was”?

I’ll admit to being wary of using the word ‘was’ in my writing, though I’ve now come to be a little more accepting of it. Author Emma Darwin makes some good points about why ‘was’ isn’t as bad as a lot of writers are led to believe. She tells how often it isn’t the word ‘was’ that’s the problem and goes on to outline the underlying problems that are often blamed on ‘was’.

The Courage Not to Publish

While it takes courage for a writer to put his/her work out there to get published, this article talks about having the courage to realise your work may not be publishable and to hold back from publishing. It specifically targets writers who either think their writing doesn’t need fixing because they think an editor will sort it out, or those who want to self-publish after being rejected by traditional publishers.

Commonly Confused Words

You know those tricky words, like ‘lie’ and ‘lay’? This post clears up some of the confusion with commonly misused words.

The Truth About Passive Protagonists

This post outlines when it’s ok to have a passive protagonist and when it’s not.

The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You’ll Ever See That Fits on One Page

A listing of everything you need to know about your story before you can successfully finish it. Written in the form of questions, the list covers the four parts of the story structure.

Social Media

5 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog More Visually Appealing to Readers

Tips for creating a blog with an appealing look and feel and how to avoid a poorly designed blog.

THE Facebook Cheat Sheet: 21 Sneaky Tactics to Generate a Buzz on Facebook

21 Tactics for getting people to ‘like’ your Facebook page.

The 6 P’s of YA Social Media

6 points YA writers should keep in mind to use Social Media effectively.

Just for Fun

The Seven Stages of Receiving Critique on a Manuscript

A funny (and true) evaluation of the stages a writer goes through after receiving a manuscript critique.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Based on the periodic table of elements, this table covers different aspects of storytelling, such as character archetypes and plot devices. A couple of my favourites: NEO (The Chosen One) and LOL (Evil laugh).