Writing a children’s picture book query letter seems like it should be easy – but it’s not. It’s hard. And it stops so many writers in their tracks.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s how to write a picture book query letter:
Write a picture book query letter by researching agents, following submission guidelines, starting with a hook, introducing characters, explaining the plot, showing your voice, and including the full manuscript. Keep your picture book pitch concise, personalized, and proofread.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to write a children’s book query letter.
What Is a Picture Book Query Letter? (Quick Overview)
A query letter for a children’s picture book is a one-page letter that introduces your manuscript to literary agents or publishers.
The goal is to convince them to request your full manuscript or to offer representation or publication. The letter should be concise, engaging, and demonstrate that you understand the target audience for your book.
When writing a query letter for a children’s picture book, there are a few basic parts that you should include:
- Greeting. Begin your letter with a personalized salutation to the agent or publisher you are addressing.
- Hook. Grab the reader’s attention with a catchy hook that summarizes the main premise of your story.
- Synopsis. Provide a brief synopsis of your story that includes the main characters, plot, and conflict.
- Target audience. Mention the intended age range for your book and any unique features that make it stand out in the market.
- Author bio. Include a brief author bio that highlights any relevant experience or credentials.
- Closing. Thank the agent or publisher for their time and consideration and offer to provide additional materials or answer any questions they may have.
- Manuscript. Paste the entire manuscript in the email or otherwise include the entire manuscript in your submission.
By following these basic parts and keeping your query letter concise and engaging, you can increase your chances of getting your children’s picture book noticed by literary agents or publishers.
11 Easy Steps: How To Write a Picture Book Query Letter
As someone who has been writing and studying query letters for 20 years, I know how important it is to craft a compelling query letter that captures the attention of literary agents and publishers.
In this section, I will outline the 11 easy steps to writing a successful query letter for a children’s picture book.
Step 1: Research Literary Agents and Publishers Who Represent Children’s Picture Books
Research is crucial when it comes to finding the right agent or publisher for your children’s picture book.
Look for professionals who are currently accepting submissions and specialize in your genre. You can find agents and publishers through various online directories or by attending writing conferences.
It’s also a good idea to research the current market trends and similar books in your genre.
This will help you to pitch your book more effectively and demonstrate that you understand your audience. Knowing your competition will also help you to position your book in the market and show how it stands out.
Consider the unique elements of your story and how it can provide something new or different to readers.
Step 2: Follow Submission Guidelines
Following submission guidelines is a vital step in the querying process.
Literary agents and publishers receive countless submissions every day, so it’s easy for them to dismiss a query letter that does not meet the minimum standards.
Don’t make it easy to get rejected.
A professional query letter that adheres to the submission guidelines shows that you are respectful of the agent or publisher’s time and are willing to follow instructions.
Step 3: Start with a Hook
The hook is a compelling, attention-grabbing statement that highlights the main conflict or premise of your story.
Use active verbs and descriptive language to make the hook exciting and memorable.
The hook should be concise and to the point, so the reader can quickly grasp the essence of your story. Avoid being too vague or generic, as this can fail to pique the reader’s interest.
Instead, focus on the unique and exciting elements of your story that set it apart from others in the genre.
For more about hooks, I wrote a good article with 50+ examples of different hooks for different genres. You can find a link to the article listed at the end of this blog post.
Step 4: Introduce Your Characters
In this section of your query letter, you will introduce your main characters and explain why readers will care about them.
It’s important to keep the descriptions brief and focused on the unique qualities or traits that make them interesting. Use descriptive language to create vivid mental images of your characters and make them come alive on the page.
It’s also important to consider the age range of your target audience and make sure that your characters are relatable to them.
For younger children’s picture books, characters should be simple and easy to understand, while for older children’s picture books, characters can be more complex and nuanced.
Make sure to mention any unique or memorable characteristics that set your characters apart from others in the genre.
Step 5: Explain the Plot
You also want to explain the plot of your story in a concise and engaging manner.
Make sure to highlight the main conflict and the stakes involved. Use active verbs and descriptive language to bring the story to life and make it exciting and engaging for the reader.
It’s important to keep the description focused on the main conflict and not get bogged down in unnecessary details.
Avoid giving away the entire plot and focus on the most exciting and memorable moments.
Make sure that the plot is age-appropriate for your target audience and consider how it will resonate with them.
Step 6: Show Your Voice
Your query letter is an opportunity to showcase your writing voice and style.
Use your query letter as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to write engaging, age-appropriate prose that resonates with children and parents alike.
Use descriptive language, active verbs, and concise sentences to create a clear and engaging narrative.
It’s important to be authentic and true to your writing style while also making sure that it’s appropriate for the target audience. Consider the age range of your target audience and make sure that your writing style is appropriate for them.
Avoid using complex language or sentence structures that may be difficult for children to understand.
Step 7: Include Relevant Information
Include relevant information about your writing experience or credentials that might help convince the agent or publisher to take a closer look at your manuscript.
This can include any writing awards or honors you have received, publications in literary journals, or relevant degrees or certifications.
It’s important to be concise and only include information that is directly relevant to your writing and the children’s book market.
Avoid including irrelevant or extraneous information that may distract from your query letter’s main message.
Step 8: Personalize Your Query Letter
You should also make sure that your query letter is personalized for each agent or publisher.
Do your research and address the person by name rather than using a generic greeting. Explain why you think they would be a good fit for your manuscript and what specific aspects of their work or agency appeal to you.
This shows that you have done your homework and are serious about your writing.
Step 9: Keep It Concise
You want to make sure that your query letter is easy to read and gets straight to the point.
Avoid going into too much detail about the plot or characters and focus on the most important aspects of your story. Keep your query letter to between 150 to 300 words.
It’s important to be clear and concise in your writing while still maintaining a sense of excitement and engagement.
Step 10: Close with a Soft Call to Action
Close your query letter with a call to action, such as requesting a full manuscript or offering representation.
Be polite and professional, and thank the agent or publisher for their time and consideration. Avoid being pushy or aggressive, as this can be off-putting.
It’s important to provide a clear and concise call to action that is easy for the agent or publisher to understand.
It’s important to provide your contact details, such as your email address and phone number, to make it easy for agents or publishers to reach out to you.
Step 11: Proofread and Revise
Proofreading and revising your query letter is absolutely crucial to ensure that it is error-free and reads smoothly.
Consider having a critique partner or writing group member read your query letter and offer feedback before sending it out. Look for typos, grammatical errors, and awkward phrasing that can detract from your message.
It’s important to take the time to revise and polish your query letter before submission.
This small step can make a big impact on your rate of success.
Check out this good video about how to write a picture book query letter:
Children’s Book Query Letter Examples
Here are three sample picture book pitch examples:
Query Letter #1: The Magical Garden
Dear [Agent’s Name],
I am seeking representation for my children’s picture book, THE MAGICAL GARDEN, which is 500 words in length. This story is about a young girl named Lilly who discovers a secret garden hidden behind her house. As she explores the garden, she meets a group of friendly animals who teach her about the magic of nature and the importance of caring for the environment.
I believe that THE MAGICAL GARDEN would be a great fit for your list, as I noticed that you represent several successful picture books with nature themes. The story is geared toward children ages 4-8 and is told in an engaging and accessible way.
I have a degree in environmental studies and have written several articles on the importance of environmental conservation. I believe that this book has the potential to educate children about the natural world while also entertaining them with a fun and imaginative story.
Thank you for considering THE MAGICAL GARDEN. I have included the full manuscript below for your review.
Query Letter #2: The Adventures of Super Bunny
Dear [Agent’s Name],
I am writing to seek representation for my children’s picture book, THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER BUNNY, which is 700 words in length. This story is about a bunny named Benny who discovers that he has superpowers and decides to become a superhero. Along the way, he faces various challenges and villains but ultimately triumphs through his bravery and determination.
I believe that THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER BUNNY would be a great fit for your list, as I noticed that you represent several successful picture books with themes of empowerment and self-confidence. The story is geared toward children ages 3-7 and features engaging illustrations that bring the characters to life.
I have included the full manuscript of 600 words and sample illustrations below for your consideration.
Query Letter #3: The Night Before Halloween
Dear [Agent’s Name],
I am seeking representation for my children’s picture book, THE NIGHT BEFORE HALLOWEEN. This story is about a group of kids who are getting ready for Halloween night and imagining all the spooky creatures and ghosts they might encounter. However, when they actually go out trick-or-treating, they discover that the scariest thing of all is something unexpected.
The story is geared toward children ages 3-6 and features vibrant illustrations that capture the excitement and fun of Halloween.
Thank you for considering “The Night Before Halloween.” I have included the full manuscript and sample illustrations below for your review.
How Do You Write a Good Query Letter for a Picture Book?
Writing a query letter for a children’s picture book can be a challenging task.
The difference between an okay query letter and a good or great query letter can make all the difference in getting an agent or publisher interested in your manuscript. An okay query letter may simply introduce the plot and characters, while a good or great query letter will make your story stand out and leave a lasting impression.
Here is a chart that contrasts an okay versus good query letter for a children’s picture book:
|Ok Query Letter||Good Query Letter|
|Introduces the plot, setting, and characters||Grabs the reader’s attention with a hook or unique premise|
|Provides a brief story summary||Uses active verbs and descriptive language|
|Mentions the target age range and word count||Demonstrates the author’s voice and style|
|May mention the author’s credentials or publishing history||Shows the author’s knowledge of the market|
|Writes a generic greeting||Personalizes the query|
|May not follow all of the submission guidelines||Follow every single submission guideline|
|May not include the full manuscript||Includes the full manuscript|
How to Submit a Picture Book to an Agent
Submitting a picture book properly is an essential step in getting your book published.
Nowadays, most agents prefer email submissions, but it is always important to check the agent’s submission guidelines before sending your query letter and manuscript.
Here are some best practices for submitting a picture book to an agent via email:
- Follow the submission guidelines. I can’t state this enough. Make sure you follow the agent’s submission guidelines carefully. Most agents prefer the query letter and full manuscript pasted into the body of the email, rather than sent as an attachment.
- Double-check your formatting. Before sending your email, double-check the formatting to ensure that it is easy to read and looks professional. To achieve optimal results, I suggest that you choose a font that is legible and straightforward, such as Times New Roman or Arial. Additionally, ensure that the spacing is consistent throughout your email.
- Craft a subject line that captures attention. Your email subject line is the initial point of contact with the agent, so it’s vital to make it concise and attention-grabbing. Use a short and catchy phrase that summarizes the content of your email, such as “Picture Book Query: The Magical Garden.”
- Keep the email concise. Keep your email concise and to the point. Include a brief introduction and mention any personal connections or reasons why you think the agent would be a good fit for your book. Then, paste your query letter and full manuscript into the body of the email.
- Be polite and professional. Remember to be polite and professional in your email. Thank the agent for their time and consideration and offer to answer any questions they may have.
By following these best practices, you can increase your chances of getting your picture book noticed by a literary agent and ultimately published.
My Favorite Tools for Writing Children’s Picture Book Query Letters
There are many tools available to help simplify the process.
Here are some of my favorite tools for writing query letters for children’s picture books:
- Jasper AI Writer. Jasper AI Writer is an artificial intelligence tool that helps authors generate high-quality content quickly and easily. With Jasper AI Writer, you can generate query letter templates, refine your language, and get inspiration for your story all in one platform.
- Canva. Canva is a design tool that allows you to create professional-looking graphics and illustrations without any design experience. You can use Canva to create eye-catching visuals for your story, including book covers, author bios, and marketing materials.
- DALL-E. DALL-E is an artificial intelligence tool developed by OpenAI that can generate unique illustrations based on text descriptions. You can use DALL-E to create custom illustrations for your children’s picture book.
- Query Letter Swipe File. This resource provides hundreds of proven words, phrases, and templates for crafting successful fiction query letters that will result in requests for your full manuscript and offers of representation. With full copy-and-paste query letter templates included, this book streamlines the query letter writing process and practically writes the letter for you.
By using these tools, you can streamline the process of writing a children’s picture book query letter and create professional-looking content that will stand out to literary agents and publishers.
Final Thoughts: How to Write a Picture Book Query Letter
There are a ton of techniques and principles that go into writing an epic children’s picture book pitch that gets manuscript requests and offers of representation.
Check out the list of curated query letter articles below: