Tracy C. Gold


How to Write a Picture Book Query Letter (Template and Example) 

on April 27, 2023

I have great news about picture book query letters: they can be extremely short and simple! Many authors agonize over query letters for novels and memoirs because they are key in convincing an agent to read a whole book. Picture books, on the other hand, are so short that agents are likely to at least skim the whole book as long as the query letter is half-decent. Back when I was an agent intern going through query letters, that’s certainly what I did.

Of course, you should still carefully compose a solid query letter, but much of the advice you’ll find online about query letters is geared toward longer books. So, here’s my take on writing a picture book query letter (with an example of my own successful letter).

Keep in mind that traditional publishers find the illustrators for their books. You only need to submit the manuscript and there’s no need to mention an illustrator. If you’re an author/illustrator, read to the bottom for some tips just for you!

Follow the basic template you’d use for any book: the hook, the book, and the cook. 

  • “The hook” is your elevator pitch—how would you describe the book in 30 seconds to intrigue someone? 
  • “The book” is your longer description of the book—if you need it—and how that book fits into the market. As you’ll see in my example below, I only used “the hook” to describe my book on its own, and the next paragraph was describing my book in relation to other published books. I didn’t want to say my own book was the next “Goodnight Moon” or “Go the F*ck to Sleep,” but I knew my book was in conversation with those books, so I found a way to work them in. In addition, I included titles published by Familius to show that my book would be a good fit for them. When you’re writing to an agent and not directly to a publisher, it’s much harder to find books they’ve worked on. I would not even try to look this up, but rather just use any relevant book that has been published in the last few years. 
  • “The cook” is your bio. Keep this very short and sweet. If you have relevant expertise, include it—for example, if you teach kids how to sail, and your book is about a sailboat, or you’re a shark researcher writing about sharks, definitely say so. 

Note: for novels and memoirs, you’ll hear that you should not give away the ending in the query letter. For a picture book, I would 100% give away the ending. Reading a longer book is an immersive experience and you might need the suspense to keep agents turning the page. Yes, some picture books rely on suspense, too, but the agent/editor is going to see the ending in about two minutes once they skim your manuscript, so you might as well get them surprised/chuckling about the ending in the query.

After your query, unless the submission guidelines say otherwise, I would recommend pasting your book below your query and attaching it. Say so in your email, and include the courtesy line “This is a simultaneous submission” if you’re writing to more than one agent or publisher. If you’re writing to agents, you can add something like “I would be happy to send along other picture books if you’re interested,” as agents generally like to see multiple picture books before signing a new client.

Picture Book Query Letter Example

Below is my successful query for “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” (affiliate link). 

In hindsight, I also would have included the word count in the first line (“Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” is an 89-word picture book showing…). It didn’t count against me, though, as Familius wrote back in a week and said they wanted to publish my book! Woohoo! (Note—it doesn’t normally happen that quickly!)

Dear Familius editors,

“Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” is a picture book showing the entire family and house getting ready to go to bed–even though the baby’s not sleepy at all!

As the parent of a toddler, I know the value of books that help woo a baby to sleep, from the classic “Goodnight Moon” to the popular baby shower gag gift “Go the F*ck to Sleep.” With spare text, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” acknowledges parents’ frustration but is certainly meant to be read to babies at bedtime, like Familius titles “At the Stroke of Goodnight” and “Goodnight Whispers.”

I am a writer, teacher, editor, and mom living in Baltimore, Maryland. My writing has been published in YARN, Youth Imagination, The Stoneslide Corrective, and several other magazines. I am the social media and membership coordinator for my region of SCBWI. I am active on Instagram (@tracycgold) and Twitter (@tracycgold).

I have attached the book and pasted it below.

This is a simultaneous submission.


Tracy Gold

What if I Illustrate My Own Books?

You must be very talented! Different agents and publishers have different guidelines for this situation, so make sure you check their websites. You generally do not need a fully illustrated book. If in doubt send the following elements:

  • A query letter as above. I would add a sentence saying “I have included sample illustrations and a dummy for the book, but I am open to having a different illustrator.” (If that is true, of course!)
  • The text alone pasted below the query and/or attached
  • A picture book “dummy” with sketches of the entire layout of the book (here’s a good guideline for making those!)
  • A few full color sample illustrations for the book
  • A link to your online portfolio of illustrations (some guidelines here)

Make sure the files you are sending aren’t too large. This is a benefit of not sending a full book of color illustrations (as well as the time you’ll save by not illustrating the whole book before querying!).

Keep an open mind about who will illustrate your book. I have accomplished author/illustrator friends who sometimes have other illustrators illustrate their books. This can be because a publisher wants a more famous illustrator, or because the book’s tone is a better match for a different illustrator.

On the flip side, sometimes an agent or publisher may not like the text of whatever you’re submitting, but may want to hire you to illustrate a different project. Having a good online portfolio can open up those opportunities.

In Conclusion

That’s it! If those post helps you find your agent or publisher, I’d love to hear about it. If you would like more help, I do help authors edit their picture books and query letters—feel free to reach out at tracycgold@gmail.com.

I also have a post about etiquette for querying literary agents and one called “I Wrote a Picture Book. Now What?” which covers some basics about the picture book writing and publishing process. If you’re into rhyme, check out my on-demand class “How to Write Rhyming Picture Books.” Have any other questions? Let me know in the comments. Maybe I’ll write a post about them! 

open old book on a rustic wooden table

3 Responses to “How to Write a Picture Book Query Letter (Template and Example) ”

  1. thank you so much!!!

  2. Jackie Brady says:

    Hi Tracy,
    I love your website post on writing a picture book query letter.
    My picture book “Hugo and Hamlet” is finished and I need to figure out the nuts and bolts of publishing. I did join SCBWI. Thank you for this excellent information! Jackie

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