Saturday, August 30, 2008


Dear Query Shark:

Mollie McWigglebutt is about to be turned into a Brussels sprout by a witch. Or so she believes when she hears a strange tapping on her bedroom window late one night. Her parents say monsters don’t exist, but Mollie knows better. She’s certain a toe-eating monster lives beneath bed and steals her dirty socks for it’s its Grubby Sock Casserole. Why else would they be disappearing?

This doesn't make sense. Kids who are afraid of the dark aren't afraid of being made into vegetables. They are afraid of being bitten or eaten or chomped on much like you get chomped on here in the Shark Tank.

Will Mollie face her fear of the dark and defeat the witch, or will she be doomed to live her life as a Brussels sprout in a strange monster realm?

There's nothing distinctive here. What you need to focus on is HOW Mollie faces her fears, not that she has them. Does she hang Hindu prayer flags? Does she sacrifice virgins? Does she elect John McCain? Oh wait, she's only seven right, she can't vote.

Children (ages 7-10) reading my chapter book Things That Go Bump in the Night (3478 words) will laugh, cheer, and tingle with anticipation as they journey with Mollie on her quest to conquer her fears.

This is the sentence that says "amateur hour" to me. Don't tell me how people will react. SHOW me by writing a query letter that makes ME laugh, cheer, and tingle. I may not be 7 but I love Fancy Nancy and Olivia and cupcakes too. And so do children's book agents to whom you will direct this query when it's fixed up.

Books similar to mine are:
Julie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed by Barbara Park
Oh Bother! Someone's Afraid of the Dark! by Betty Birney
Whooos's Haunting the Teeny Tiny Ghost? by Kay Winters

You don't have to list books that are similar to yours. That's something for a non-fiction book proposal.

With the exception of the book written by Ms. Parks, the above listed book targets the younger reader.

Some older children are still afraid of the dark (like my elder son) and that's my reason for writing the book. The main character in my book depends very little on her parents, and is empowered by her own actions and decisions.

This isn't targeted to irrational seven year olds? What's the demographic? Remember kids read UP the age bracket not down. That means a ten year old does NOT want to read about a 7-year-old; s/he wants to read about a 12-year-old.

My book also contains the original Peanut Butter Song (sung to the tune of "You are my sunshine"), which was a hit with my test audience of 6-10 year-olds.

Words fail me. Please tell me you didn't include a CD.

My works have appeared in ezines, newspapers and magazines, including Sasee, Adoption Today, Story Station, Holiday Crafts 4 Kids, and

Works? Do you mean stories? Essays? Illustrations?

I am also a contributor to anthology collections such as Laughing and Learning: Adventures in Parenting, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul, and Chicken Soup for the Coffee Lover's Soul.

I also have experience promoting and organizing my own book signings.

Really? Why?

I found your agency listing through a fellow writer, who spoke highly of the company.
Thank you for considering "Things that go Bump in the Night". I have included the first five and a half pages in the body of this email.

Unless you were referred by a client or someone I actually know, having someone tell you I'm the cat's pjs is baseless flattery. While I'm not all that opposed to baseless flattery it should be accompanied by the now famous twenty dollar bill.


Anonymous said...

I don't get why saying she has organized her own book signings deserved a "Really? Why?" when she had just mentioned some work she'd had published. Were you asking why she had organized readings if she had nothing published, or why she was bothering organizing readings for such crappy work? Sounds like she's out there trying...

Janet Reid said...

The books she mentioned are anthologies that sell based on brand name recognition: Chicken Soup.

"My own book signings" sounds (to me at least) that she's talking about something else.

emeraldcite said...

Isn't this a tad short (unless it's a typo) for the 7-10 range?

My daughter is nine and she'd breeze through 3500 words in fifteen minutes. A 3500 word chapter book seems like a beginning reader ages 5-7 or so. Seven would be topping out, I'd think.

talpianna said...

Janet, you are NOT the cat's pajamas. I asked both my cats, and they agree. You aren't nearly fluffy enough.

talpianna said...

By the way, Mollie McWigglebutt sounds like the name of a character in a porn film.

Elissa M said...

No seven year old I know is going to get past the name "Mollie McWigglebutt".

Sheila said...

Elissa M. and talpianna are right. You cannot name your protagonist Molly McWigglebutt. Kids are not going to identify with that character, they are going to mock her. They might end up cheering on the monster, or witch. Or whoever she's afraid of. You kind of switch antagonists from paragraph 1 to 2.

I think cute names work better for the supporting cast. Wouldn't kids love it if a teacher was named McWigglebutt? Or a witch?

Julie Weathers said...

In lieu of the famous twenty dollar bill, would you accept twenty of the lovely gold dollars? I find them so much more attractive.

Brian Jay Jones said...

Uh, and isn't it Junie B. Jones?

Not to nitpick, of course, but that's probably something you'd want to have right when it comes to selling a kid's book....

Stephanie B said...

I was lost at the name Mollie McWigglebutt.