A query letter is a letter asking if you can send an editor a manuscript. If you’re including the manuscript with your letter, your letter is technically a cover letter. But the format for both letters is similar.
- Keep it short. One typewritten page maximum. In size 12 font! If your letter is longer than that, cut it.
- Use business formatting. If you don’t know what this is, Google it!
There is no single correct way to write a query or cover letter. But this example follows the standard steps, basically. It’s the general structure I use, with slight variations depending on the editor, the manuscript, etc. And–yay!–CLOVER KITTY GOES TO KITTYGARTEN will be a picture book soon!
Dear Ms. [Editor Name]:
[First paragraph: establish or remind the editor of your connection, if you have one. Did you meet them somewhere? Did you hear them speak? Do you have permission from another author who encouraged you to submit to that editor, using their name? If not, just dive in.]
Thanks for giving me a feel for the kinds of picture books you’re looking for. I’m hoping this one might be a better fit. It’s seasonal (back to school) with a very (I hope) distinctive main character.
Note: In my first query to this editor, whom I’ve never met and had no connection to, I simply opened with: “I’m a children’s writer, and I’m sending along a 200-word picture book manuscript called [TITLE].”
[Second+ paragraph: describe your manuscript.]
In KITTYGARTEN CATASTROPHE, Clover Kitty does not want to go to kittygarten, where, as Mama Kitty threatens, there will be friends and games and songs. And there are. Her class is too loud, the lights are too bright, and everyone comes too close. Her teacher, Mr. Snappytail, even claps, snaps, and sings. It is torture for a sensitive kitty. The text reflects Clover’s dramatic, alarmed perception of kittygarten, though the illustrations would feature a normal, slight chaotic but friendly kindergarten setting. Although Clover reacts with a hissy fit and quits kittygarten, she eventually learns how to cope with kittygarten on her own terms.
Clover does not have any diagnosed, stated condition, but kids with sensory processing disorders and with some conditions on the autism spectrum would recognize Clover’s feelings. I think the drama and cat puns and playful language would engage kids regardless of whether they share in Clover’s sensitivities.
[Third paragraph: introduce yourself.]
Note: In my first query to this editor, I said: I’m the author of six trade picture books (five more on the way), including the Can Be… set (A LEAF; WATER; and A ROCK) and BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS. They’ve received some nice honors, including starred reviews; Bank Street Best Books; NCTE Notables; Minnesota Book Award; Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended; and more. I actively promote my books both online and in person–I do lots of school visits and conferences. You can learn more about me and my work at www.laurasalas.com, if you’re interested. I was agented for many years with Transatlantic Literary Agency, but a couple of years ago I decided to start submitting my work on my own again.
[Fourth paragraph: let them know if the manuscript is with other editors or if it’s exclusive. Let them know how to reach you. (This was an email query, so that part was unnecessary.) Thank them!]
I’m attaching the text, and I look forward to your thoughts. It’s also out with two other editors. As always, thanks for your time!
Note: In a recent print/snail mail query, I wrote this: I’m enclosing an SASE for your reply (please recycle manuscripts), or feel free to email me at laura@[xyz].com. I look forward to hearing from you, and thanks very much for your time!
Laura Purdie Salas
Writing the World for Kids
MEET MY FAMILY! (Millbrook Press, 2018)
IF YOU WERE THE MOON (Millbrook, 2017)
BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Clarion, 2011)