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A Checklist for Querying Picture Books

No matter what type of book you’re querying, it’s a TON of work to put together a query package. There are a lot of factors to consider when trying to find the right agent for your manuscript, but when it comes to picture books, there’s even more to consider.

I’ve been deep in the query trenches for several of my picture books texts this year. It’s a rollercoaster of excitement and disappointment, especially since I keep thinking that I’ve found the right agent to pitch, only to realize as I’m putting the email together that I missed an important detail that makes them not…pitchable (for lack of a better word). I wasted a lot of time digging deeper into the profile of an agent who wasn’t even open to queries, or my type of manuscript.

To save myself some time (and heartache), I created this handy checklist to make sure I’ve checked all the boxes before I start putting together the query package. Now, I’m sharing it with you so you can do the same.

Does the agency accept unsolicited queries?
Many literary agents are independent contractors, but they still work for a agency and are subject to the rules of that agency. Before doing an agent level search, check the submission page of the agency they work for to see if the agency even accepts unsolicited queries. I start with my List of Literary Agencies Around the World, click on them one at a time, and check their submission page before I start researching the agents that work there.

Does the agency generally represent children’s literature and/or picture books?
Even if an individual agent is open to picture book queries, you may not get very far if the agency overall does not generally represent kidlit. The agent may like your book, but usually they have to convince their agency it’s worth investing time and energy in getting it published. If the agency doesn’t seem to have recently found a home for any picture books or other kidlit, it may not be worth your time querying any of their agents (even if the website doesn’t directly state they don’t rep those books).

Do any of the agents at the agency represent picture books?
Even if an agent represent children’s literature, they may not represent picture books. Picture books are a very niche category of literature because of their format and illustrations. Many (even most) agents that represent children’s literature do not represent picture books. I try not to query any agent that doesn’t specifically state they are looking for picture books, or whose list of represented titles do not include picture books, because more often than not, I’ll be wasting my time.

Is the agent open to submissions? 
This may seem like an obvious question with a simple answer, but it’s actually the most tricky answer to find. Even if the agent’s profile on the agency website doesn’t state they are closed to queries, they may still be closed to queries.

Agents don’t generally have much control over the content on their agency’s website. Instead, many agents have their own website apart from the agency, and they post the most up-to-date information about themselves there.

Other agents are very active on Twitter and will update followers there instead. Look at the agent’s pinned post on Twitter, or read their username or bio to see if they’ve indicated their open or closed status there.

Agents with a Manuscript Wish List or Publisher’s Marketplace profile may have a open or closed status indicated there, but these profiles are sometimes out of date, so it’s best to rely on the agent’s website or social media updates. The latter are more likely to have been updated recently.

If the agent’s open/closed statuses don’t align between sites, be sure to check the date of the post to see which was posted most recently.

Finally, if the agent or agency uses Query Tracker to accept submissions, make sure to visit their Query Tracker page because often that’s where the status will be posted. You’ll follow the link ready to query only to find that the agent isn’t included in the dropdown menu of available agents on the agency page, or a large “_____ is currently closed to queries” at the top of the agent’s Query Tracker page.

Does the agent accept queries from only author/illustrators?
Sometimes, an agent accepts picture books, but only from author/illustrators. If you’re submitting a picture book text without illustrations, or illustrations without text, make sure the agent accepts this type of submission.

Is the agent looking for picture book manuscripts covering your topic or in your style?
Sometimes, agents are looking for a really specific type of picture book manuscript, and yours is simply not the right fit. Check the agent’s website and Twitter feed for these instructions. For example, they may only be looking for picture book biographies, or they may not be looking for picture books with animal protagonists. A couple extra minutes of research may save you a lot of time putting together a query package for an agent that’s just going to say no.

Is your manuscript a good fit for the agent’s manuscript wish list?
An agent’s manuscript wish list (MSWL) is a list of specific topics or styles they are itching to represent. An agent’s MSWL may be posted on their website, on the Manuscript Wish List website, and/or on Twitter (using the #MSWL hashtag). While it’s not always a must to check an agent’s MSWL before you query, some agents are only open to queries for manuscripts that fit their MSWL. Keep a close eye on agent MSWL’s because your manuscript may be just what they’re looking for.

Pitch a Book, Win an Edit

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED


The time has come: Pitch a Book, Win an Edit has arrived! I’ve tried to predict and answer all your below:

What is Pitch a Book, Win an Edit? Pitch a Book, Win an Edit is a contest where everybody wins, but only one person gets the grand prize. Writers pitch their completed manuscript to me the same way they would to an agent/publisher, and I will pick the submission I think has the most potential. That writer will win a developmental edit of their full manuscript!

Everyone else, while they won’t receive the free edit, will receive a response explaining why I did not pick their submission. So, even if you don’t win the grand prize, you will receive feedback that will hopefully help you improve your concept or query for future submissions.

How do I submit? Email your query to winanedit@gmail.com before June 28, 2019 at 11:59 pm EST. Manuscripts in any genre or age group, and of any length, are welcomed. Your email must include:

  • subject line I want to win an edit for Title by Author Name (Insert your manuscript title and your author name. Any emails without the appropriate subject line will be deleted without opening).
  • a query letter with:
    • a personalized opening (e.g. Dear Jessica, Attention Ms. Trudel)
    • metadata (age group, genre, and wordcount)
    • 1-2 paragraph plot/character summary
    • short author bio
  • the first 3000 words of your manuscript (pasted in the body of the email)

Absolutely no attachments. Each author may submit only once to this contest. If you do not follow the submission instructions, your submission will be rejected. Read and re-read the submission guidelines before you click send.

What will you do with my submission? After reading your query letter and the first 3000 words of your manuscript, I may want to see more of your manuscript or see a synopsis of your book. If so, I will email you to request additional materials. Make sure your full manuscript and book synopsis are ready to go.

On the other hand, I may not feel your submission is the winning submission. If so, I’ll email you back right away briefly explaining why you did not win. It could be that you didn’t follow the submission instructions, or it could be that I don’t feel your manuscript is ready for developmental editing. Please remember, my comments are meant to help you improve your story concept or querying skills. My words are not a personal attack, though I know it can feel like I’m attacking your book baby.

When will the winner be announced? The winner will be announced this summer, though I can’t be sure when as it will depend on how many submissions I receive. I reserve the right to close the contest to new entries at any time if I receive more submissions than I can handle.

What do I do if I don’t receive a response to my submission? All submissions will be responded to prior to the announcement of the winner, so if you have not received a response by the time the winner is announced, your submission either did not have the appropriate subject line (and thus was deleted without opening), or I did not receive it. Please check your email sent folder to verify that you did in fact send your entry prior to the deadline, and that the subject line followed the submission guidelines. Feel free to reply to your original sent email if you think I missed your entry or deleted it unfairly.

When will the winning manuscript be edited? The developmental edit will be completed in or by Fall 2019 depending on the length of the winning manuscript and the complexity of the edits.

What’s in this for you? An editor’s career flourishes after their name is attached to a successful, published book. The goal is for me to choose an author/manuscript that I believe has the most potential to not just be published, but become a bestseller. No, I’m not phishing for book ideas to steal: I have enough book ideas of my own that I will never have a chance to write.

What if I have questions not answered here? If you have questions, do not email the contest address as any email sent to that address without the correct subject line will be deleted. Please email jessicatrudelwrites@gmail.com with any questions related to this contest. You may also ask me on Twitter if you prefer. My handle is @reallitbulbs.

“Jessica Trudel recently provided me with a structural edit of my first novel. I am extremely impressed with her professional and in-depth feedback. An hour long face chat today after receiving the written report was invaluable. Jessica is easy to chat to and her feedback and ideas are fantastic. I can highly recommend her editing services.” – Sal Gallaher

List of literary agencies now features 50 more

The List of Literary Agencies Around the World now includes 350 agencies, a collation of sources including Twitter, QueryTracker, Publisher’s Marketplace, ManuscriptWishList, and the Writer’s Market books. It is a very helpful resource for anyone querying. Every agency listed includes a link directly to their website, to aid writers in identifying the agent or agents that are the right fit for their manuscript. Click here to get started!

TwitterLit Advice Issue 3: What You Shouldn’t Put in Your Query

Victoria Loder, Agent with The Rights Factory recently started a new series of tweets called Things Not to Include in Your Query. It’s pretty informative and funny, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do.

That got me thinking: there must be a lot of #TwitterLit advice from agents, publishers, and the like about what things you shouldn’t put in your query.

There doesn’t seem to be a single popular hashtag that specifically addresses query dont’s. #querynonos and #querynono have both been used in the past. You can also search #querytip, #subtip, and #pubtip for general do’s and dont’s about querying.

Let’s get down to it. The list of what you shouldn’t put in your query is virtually endless, but here are the most common mistakes writers seem to be making:

 

Generalized openings:

 

Ignoring submission guidelines:

 

Bashing yourself or other writers, genres, agents, etc.

 

Pitching more than one book in a single query:

 

Lying

 

Rhetorical questions:

 

Missing Stakes: