Thursday, February 9, 2012

#218

Dear Query Shark,

What would happen if you and your child had a train set that could magically shrink you down to size?

You will be killed and eaten by the QueryBunny if you open your query with a rhetorical question. There's nothing like a rhetorical question to make the QueryBunny reach for the picnic hamper.





The QueryBunny and her picnic hamper filled with Hapless Writer Salads.


In our picture book, THE MAGIC TRAIN, Jorgen and his donut-loving daddy shrink to become the engineer and brakeman of the Magic Train. They zoom, clank, puff, and roar upstairs, downstairs, through all the bedrooms, and even into the garage. They encounter sleeping dolls, an erupting volcano, delicious crumbs in the kitchen, and a problem that can only be solved with a chocolate donut.

This is one of the best paragraphs I've seen about a picture book. I love the energetic words: Zoom! Clank! Puff! Roar! (it sounds like morning coffee at the Reef) I love the humor.

THE MAGIC TRAIN is a 620 words picture book that is a joy to read aloud to a train-loving 3-7 year old.


You''ve shown me that.  You don't need to tell me again.

We have included in this email the manuscript** and a picture book dummy featuring page layout and illustrations by Illustrious Illustrator. II's artwork has been published in  This place and That place Magazines. He held a children’s book design fellowship at Publisher. Illustrious illustrator also worked as an assistant to Uber-Illustrator the award-winning illustrator of Fabulous Book.




We believe that the unique voice and distinctive illustration style of this book would be a good fit for the Query Shark Literary Agency. THE MAGIC TRAIN will appeal to parents and children who also enjoy Dinosaur Train, Shark vs. Train and other books inspired by playtime make-believe worlds.

I assume that if you query me, you think we're a good fit. You don't need to tell me again. 

Although we hope you would consider our text and illustrations as a package, we understand and respect your preference to select illustrations. We are willing to have the manuscript and artwork considered separately.


We are submitting the manuscript and illustrated dummy to multiple publishers and agents simultaneously.

NO! NO! NO!   Do not submit to publishers while you submit to agents.  This handicaps your future agent in ways you do not want to imagine.  If a publisher turns you down pre-agent-snag, it's hard for the agent to go back and say "yanno, you made a terrible mistake saying no to this."  Query agents first.

Thank you for your consideration,



**Notice that ALL the text of the book is included in the query.  That's the right thing to do. 


This is an excellent example of a query for a picture book. 
Polish it up, and you're good to go.

29 comments:

Amethyst Greye Alexander said...

The bunny! Why is that bunny not a television superstar already?

The query was very good, but it won me over at "crumbs".

Gabrielle Prendergast said...

Wow. That IS a good picture book query. However, my feeling has always been that's it's better to query publishers directly with picture books. Are agents generally interested in them? I've heard no. Thoughts?

Danny Phelan said...

It sounds a bit like the middle-grade novel MEASLE AND THE WRATHMONK, by Ian Ogilvy.

Rosalyn said...

I love the query bunny!

Also, thanks for including this query! So often, the examples I see for strong queries are for high-stakes, suspenseful stories, so it's illuminating to see how to craft a successful query for something that's fun rather than dramatic.

RachelMaryBean said...

Thanks for sharing this one! I love seeing a good picture book query. It's very helpful. :)

Becca Christiansen said...

This sounds like an awesome picture book, if the art and text are as great as the query. I would totally buy it -- and I don't even have kids :P

Sarah said...

Loved having a good example of picture book query!

Still, I cannot be the only one who thought the Query Bunny would be more along the lines of the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

M. Dunham said...

I was excited about the book, until the picture loaded. That is a freaking ADORABLE bunny.

Ahem, but seriously. If this gets published, I want to get it. It sounds wonderful.

Thank you for showing us a different type, but equally interesting query. I'm surprised how much I can learn about queries when they're a completely different book type.

laurathewise said...

Wow, this is a really good one overall. :) The mistakes seem glaring once you point them out, but they're the sort of mistakes that are understandable.

...the very cuteness of that bunny is absolutely terrifying.

Deniselle said...

I love children's books. At the end of the post, I was disappointed I didn't get to read this book!

I love the description of "donut-loving Daddy", I can just picture a happy fat daddy with a smile on his face.

This sounded so endearing. I'm smiling like a fool now.

Theresa Milstein said...

A think a lot of problems can only be solved with a chocolate doughnut.

Sounds like a fun book, which comes out in the query.

Rachel6 said...

The erupting volcano and delicious crumbs side-by-side were possibly the most intriguing part. A volcano in their house??

And I suppose the fact that I jump straight to asking about the story just shows how much I like the query. :)

Li said...

Well, I must say that I'm captivated by the bunny and the contents of his basket.

Hazel Keats said...

I find it highly unfair (but adorable) that picture books get the Query Bunny and YA gets the Shark. Hmm...something in between the Bunny and Shark. May I suggest:

Barkley - The cuddly Golden Retriever yet sassy adolescent with a fetch yourself attitude.

Yea, this is me procrastinating.

jjdebenedictis said...

How am I supposed to discuss the query coherently now? The Query Bunny smashed my brain with her Cute-by-four.

Steven J. Wangsness said...

Dear QueryShark, What would happen if an otherwise really good query opened with a crappy rhetorical question?

Karen said...

This sounds like a wonderful picture book. I would absolutely buy it to read and show to my grandkids.

Colin Smith said...

I agree with other commenters: it's great to see a very different kind of query (i.e., picture book as opposed to YA or Adult) thrown to The Shark. As usual, your comments nail the problems precisely, Janet. And the story summary is excellent. Good job, Writer!

Linda said...

This query is so cute, and that bunny is adorable! I didn't know much about picture book queries before this, so I enjoyed reading this post and learning something new :)

bzyglowi said...

I admit, I REALLY want to know what problem can only be solved by a chocolate donut.

Also, as an illustrator myself, I am pleasantly surprised to find an author who realizes that a publisher will very possibly want to pick the illustrations themselves rather than go with the ones supplied (even if the illustrator is established as this one clearly is). I cannot count how many times I say I do children's illustration and people are like "Oh! I've written a children's book that needs illustration before I can submit it..." Glad to see some people DO do the research.

Marina J. Lostetter said...

Hmm, I must have missed something when I researched picture book submissions. I thought they required cover letters (like short stories) instead of queries. After all, the guidelines almost always ask for the full text. And when a query is roughly half the length of the book, why would an agent or publisher waste time reading a description when they can just read the accompanying manuscript?

Cassandra said...

Yikes. I wish this post had gone up a couple of months ago. I attended a conference recently. The editors from three big publishing houses invited conference attendees to submit, and -- gulp -- I did. I am really hoping that isn't going to kill me in the agent search process.

Christine Tripp said...

Marina, I hear you and have thought the same thing for a long while. Why a query, when the whole manuscript is attached and, perhaps, takes less time to read then the query itself?
Then I realized, often BECAUSE a PB manuscript will have very little to sometimes no text, and relies so heavily on the Illustration to tell much of the story, without a query, the manuscript may not make sense?

Christine Henderson said...

I'm not surprised that a query for a PB included the full text as they are so short. What I am surprised about is that the agent had no comment on the length of the text over 600 words as I get slammed in critiques for anything over 500 words!

Lauri Meyers said...

ALL my query drafts start with a rhetorical question. I swear I read that was good for picture books. I better stay out of the ocean until I make some edits.

Paul Ellis said...

Nothing but mad love for the Query Bunny ... well, mad love and fear ...

angela robbins said...

How can something so cute be so cruel?
Oh, crap, I hope that wasn't a rhetorical question...

tomalanbrosz said...

@Cassandra: Nathan Bransford has this to say about querying publishers and agents:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/09/submitting-to-editors-without-agent.html

The conference situation seems to be an exception to the general rule.

Daniel said...

I finally realized that Illustrious Illustrator was not a real thing/person, but I still can't decide if Dinosaur Train and Shark vs. Train are real picture books.