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Last updated on May 10, 2024

Query Letter For Picture Books: Example & Template

So you want to land a book deal for your picture book and see it in the hands of children everywhere? You’ll first need to win the interest of a literary agent — and for that, you’ll need to write the perfect picture book query letter.

In this post, we discuss what a query letter should include, including a practical example and tips from top children's book editors.

How to write a query letter for a children's book:

1. Start with a strong hook

Like query letters for novels, your aim is to grab the agent's attention right away. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point, or you may quickly lose them.

With that in mind, use your first sentence as a hook to present the story’s premise and core theme. Simply highlight what makes your book interesting (or unique); you don’t have to introduce the entire plot or themes.

Here’s our example: 

Dear Ms. Sutherland,

In my picture book Moving With Kevin (450 words), a reluctant alien kid leaves his cherished home when his family relocates to a new planet. 

After a formal salutation, it quickly introduces the book title, genre, and word count to give agents a clear idea of its marketability. Next, it presents the core theme of the story (moving to a new home) and highlights what makes it intriguing (it’s set in space!). 

You can follow a similar template, though, of course, there isn’t just one way to go about it. Some authors personalize this section to the agent (we'll discuss this more later). Overall, the goal of the first sentence and hook is to make the agent read your synopsis…

2. Delight them with your story

In the second paragraph, focus on pitching your book's story by highlighting the main character's arc. For example:

Kevin doesn’t want to leave his home and friends on Azure and move to a new planet for his mom’s work, but he has no choice. Arriving on Lumina, he’s disoriented by the orange landscapes and begs his parents to go back to Azure. But then he meets Mika, a lovely neighbor who shows him the wonders of Lumina. Kevin chooses to stay and he begins to see the thrill of new beginnings.

Kevin moves from resisting change to accepting it. The transformation is shaped by his internal conflict (grief and confusion) and external conflict (the unfamiliar orange landscapes). But also by Mika, a secondary character, who plays a crucial role in his growth. 

The synopsis emphasizes the main character’s arc while touching on all the other supporting story elements. You may be tempted to include other details about the setting or other characters, but that may only distract the agent. 

For example, after the first sentence, we could have added:

As he reluctantly prepares to leave, Kevin gathers keepsakes一a photo of his school friends and a tiny blue asteroid rock.

That certainly adds some color, but it dilutes the synopsis, and the agent doesn't necessarily need (or want) to know about it.

Editor Tracy Gold, who helped us refine our sample query, stresses the importance of keeping your letter short. “Picture book queries should be much shorter and simpler than queries for full-length novels. When I worked for a literary agent and went through her queries, I would almost always read the picture book itself, because they are so short. Your biggest job with a picture book query is to "get it out of the way" of the agent getting to read the book itself.”

Top tip: download our free template to help you write your own.

FREE RESOURCE

FREE RESOURCE

Children's Book Query Letter Template

Learn how to grab a literary agent’s attention with our free template.

The next paragraph is all about the book’s market potential…

3. Compare it to similar picture books

Even if your book is wonderfully written, picture book agents are going to read it with one question in mind: will this book sell? Your query letter should convince them that the answer is yes.

In this regard, you’ll want to mention a few comp titles 一 books similar to yours that have already been successfully published. If you're pitching directly to a publisher, try to reference books from their catalog, otherwise just mention other popular titles. 

Moreover, if your story could expand into a series or if you’re already working on the next installment, be sure to mention it, as it could make your project more appealing to agents and publishers. 

When I worked as a travel journalist, my family often moved for work, so stories like Audrey Penn's A Kiss Goodbye and Moving to the Neighborhood by Alexandra Cassel helped my children cope with moving. In my book, I gave the same concept a fun, intergalactic twist! I am also developing a series that follows Kevin's adventures, including Traveling with Kevin which explores the educational joys of travel.

Besides mentioning a few comp titles, our example also offers context on why the theme is meaningful to the author (it helped her children cope with moving) and highlights how her book stands out (she gave it a fun, intergalactic twist). 

The next paragraph is all about why you are the right person to write this book. 

4. Show off your author credentials

At this point, you’ll want to include a short author bio that highlights your experience and background. This could include previous work as an author, involvement in educational roles (e.g. if you’re a parent or a teacher), or participation in writing communities. You can also include a few personal details, like where you live or what are your hobbies 一 as long as you keep it short and sweet!

Overall, you want to show agents your dedication to the craft, understanding of the industry, and engagement in the literary community. But also pitch why your life experience makes you the right person to write this book. Since we already mentioned that the author worked as a travel journalist and often relocated with her family for work in the previous paragraph, there is no need to repeat it here 一 but you get the idea.

My feature stories were published in Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler. I was a finalist in CANSCAIP’s Writing for Children Competition of 2022 and I am an active member of the SCBWI Midsouth network. I live in Nashville, Tennessee with my husband and two children. 

This sample paragraph shows the author’s publishing background and experience in the travel industry, as well as her first, important steps toward making her voice heard in the literary world. It also paints a quick picture of her family life in the US.

It’s time to wrap things up…

5. Wrap it up in under 250 words

The final section of your picture book query letter should consist of a polite and formal sign-off. You can also mention if you're submitting to multiple agents or publishers at the same time, though most of them will assume so. 

Below you can find the text for Moving With Kevin

Please note that this is a simultaneous submission.

Thank you for your time,

Celia Bishop

If your entire query letter is more than 250 words, try tightening up some sections and make the letter more succinct and impactful. As Tracy Gold said, the goal is to usher the agent through to the manuscript as soon as possible.

The query letter is typically pasted directly into the body of the email, while the manuscript is attached as a separate file (or pasted below the query). Most publishers will want to pair new authors with their own illustrators, but if you intend to illustrate this book, you can attach samples and your portfolio via Google Drive or Dropbox.

Generally, it's best to avoid sending a dummy version of your book (a mockup showing how each page will look) as it may give agents the impression that you consider your book 'finished' and that you might be resistant to further developing the project after they've acquired it.

Picture book query letter example

Here is our picture book query letter example in full. You can download it and share it with fellow children’s book authors who may be pitching their stories soon. 

Picture book query letter example

6. Personalize and refine your letter

Your picture book will be a better match for some agents than others. Alongside marketability, an agent will also look at fit. Are they the right person to represent your book? Is it the kind of book that they want to take on?

To find an agent, you can check out our directory of picture book agents to see who's currently accepting submissions. Then look at their website, Twitter, and Manuscript Wish List to figure out who's particularly interested in picture books like yours. 

Doing your independent research will help you personalize your letter 一 and that can make a difference. For children’s book editor Anna Prendella, specificity helps to make the agent care about your picture book:

"In your query, make sure the agent knows you've researched them. Name-drop authors or books they've represented that you admire, and pitch your book as a perfect match for their specific taste or manuscript wishlist. They'll notice that you're paying attention, and they'll pay attention back."

Some authors include their personalization at the beginning of the query. So, for example, you may start your query with:  

Dear Ms. Sutherland,

I am querying you because I read on Twitter that you love children’s books set in space. In Moving With Kevin

Moreover, make sure that you get the name and gender of your agent right. There’s no quicker way to get off on the wrong foot than to address your query to “Ms. Rapunzel” when the agent’s name is actually “Mr. Rumpelstilskin”.

If you want to be sure that your letter reads professional and hits all the right notes, you can bring an editor on board… 

Get a professional query letter review

If you follow all of the steps above, you should have a strong query letter that’ll impress children's book literary agents. That said, a lot is riding on your picture book query letter, so it’s understandable if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process. 

If you’d like to guarantee that your query letter is hitting the mark, consider getting a professional query letter review. Many of the professional editors on Reedsy have been acquisition editors and literary agents. Their understanding of query letters and insight into the process may mean the difference between a publishing deal and empty air to show for your hard work.

Agents and editors are on Reedsy

Meet experts who know what makes a query stand out.

Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

Most of all, don’t panic if you don’t immediately hear back from an agent. Good things take time. If you're patient and your query letter is firing on all cylinders, then chances are that you will find the right agent to represent your picture book before long.


If you want to convince agents and publishers that you're serious about your craft, make sure you look at the final post in the guide, which is all about formatting your children's book manuscript.

2 responses

Des says:

06/08/2020 – 03:08

Hi! should the query letter be the body of an email or an attachment?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

26/08/2020 – 11:30

If you're submitting by email, it should be in the body of the email itself. Most professionals are wary of attachments from people they've never heard before (virus risk).

Comments are currently closed.

Reedsy | Children's Query Letter Review | 2024-04

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