Wednesday, October 31, 2012

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! And a Query Critique for Linda!


It's Halloween, so what better than a query critique for a picture book about a guy who keeps trying to be like someone else?

Our query today comes from Linda, who has never done this before, so everyone be nice to her in the comments, okay? She's one brave lady.

Here's the query:

Dear [Agent]:
Purvis is a pig with a problem.  He is just too small and nobody will play with him; all he wants is to grow! One day, Purvis happens to meet a wise, old farm cat, who tells Purvis that "size does not matter" and he can be whoever he wants to be.  Purvis decides he wants to be just like the cat!  Purvis then meets other farm animals and Purvis wants to be just like each of them!  Then, finally, Purvis finds himself with a baby brother who thinks Purvis is just the greatest and he wants to be just like Purvis!  Perhaps Purvis is okay just how he is -- and to his surprise he finds that he has grown after all!
PURVIS--NOT SMALL AT ALL, at approximately 1400 words, is a read-aloud picture book in verse which should appeal to children aged 3 to 8 and is about the common childhood concerns of feeling different, unable to fit in; about trying to figure out who in the world to be.  I am writing to you because of your representation of author-illustrators, your experience working with stories in rhyme, and your taste for picture book stories with traditional, universal themes.  I hope that you will have an interest in my story.
  
You will find the entire text of the manuscript pasted below. I have also provided a link to my illustrations and a complete 32-page dummy.  There are samples of other projects I am working on in the same location.  I have created full illustrations for this manuscript and am attaching three samples hereto.  Although I hope you will consider my text and illustrations as a complete package, I do respect your option to select illustrations separately. 
This is a simultaneous submission.  Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,

And here's my feedback in red:

Dear [Agent]:
Purvis is a pig with a problem.  He is just too small and nobody will play with him; all he wants is to grow! One day, Purvis happens to meet a wise, old farm cat, who tells Purvis that "size does not matter" and he can be whoever he wants to be.  Purvis decides he wants to be just like the cat!  Purvis then meets other farm animals and Purvis wants to be just like each of them!  Then, finally, Purvis finds himself with a baby brother who thinks Purvis is just the greatest and he wants to be just like Purvis!  Perhaps Purvis is okay just how he is -- and to his surprise he finds that he has grown after all!

I like the way you introduce Purvis and his problem here, but the rest of the paragraph is too long for a picture book query. This is a common mistake: people often use this paragraph to summarize the whole manuscript, while really the point is to give a taste of the story and entice the agent to read more. Think of what you would read on the back of the book in the store, and aim for that - just a couple of short sentences. Let the flavor of your book - the style of writing - seep into this portion of the query. And please don't tell us how it ends. ;-) Let the reader be surprised!
PURVIS--NOT SMALL AT ALL, at approximately 1400 words, Current trends are towards manuscripts that are 500 words or less - just a thing to be aware of. is a read-aloud redundant; all PBs are meant to be read aloud picture book in verse Good for you for stating this outright. which should appeal to children aged 3 to 8 and is about the common childhood concerns of feeling different, unable to fit in; about trying to figure out who in the world to be. You have a punctuation error in here. ALSO: you might want to add a line in here about how this book will fit into the marketplace - name three books whose fans will also like this book. If you can show that you know how to market your work, it will make it easier for an agent to sell. I am writing to you because of your representation of you represent author-illustrators, your  you have experience working with stories in rhyme, and your taste for you like/have a taste for/etc. picture book stories with traditional, universal themes. Great! I hope that you will have an interest in my story.
  
You will find the entire text of the manuscript pasted below. I have also provided a link to my illustrations and a complete 32-page dummy.  There are samples of other projects I am working on in the same location.  I have created full illustrations for this manuscript and am attaching three samples hereto.  Although I hope you will consider my text and illustrations as a complete package, I do respect your option to select illustrations separately. This whole paragraph is excellent.
This is a simultaneous submission.  Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,

Overall, I'm impressed with this query. Linda gets most of the main points in here, which is excellent for a first query. With some work on trimming and refining in the first paragraph, this should be an excellent query.

Have different feedback? Have ideas on how Linda can refine her first paragraph? Chip in in the comments!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

5 comments:

  1. First of all I adore the story line I really do.

    I would start Purvis is just too small etc. and through that first para combining two sentences into one until it's like a book blurb.
    Great analysis, Ishta!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your ideas, Catherine!

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  2. Wonderful query and analysis. I just wanted to pass on an advice I got from editors: editors and agents WANT to know how the book ends. This is the difference to the blurb on the back cover of the book. Other than that I agree with Ishta. Great story idea! I'm intrigued.

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    1. The publishing world is full of conflicting advice - I've heard both things, but more often I've heard not to give it away.

      You're right to point out that it's important to know that there are some agents out there who like to know the ending. And there can be a compromise: you can say, for example, that Purvis goes around wanting to be like everyone he sees, until he finds someone who wants to be just like him. This way, we get the gist, without the details.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  3. I'm late, but think you did a great job, Ishta.

    Shorten the pitch and also the length of the story and it'll wow them.

    Sounds like a cute story and after some revisions will be a great query.

    Good Luck, Linda :)

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