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Tracy C. Gold

AUTHOR, EDITOR, TEACHER

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.

Best,

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 work as an editor and have helped many authors with their picture books and query letters—feel free to reach out at tracycgold@gmail.com. If you’re feeling like you want to read more on this topic, take a look at this post from Reedsy with another example of a picture book query letter (I helped with the post and do a lot of editing work via Reedsy!).

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. I also have an on-demand course, “Writing and Publishing Picture Books: A Quick and Fun Beginner’s Guide,” which goes into far more detail than any blog post. 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

21 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

  3. Lilly says:

    Are children’s books primarily what used to be called chapter book? Are Picture books mostly pictures and less written content?

    I sent a question regarding query letters for children’s books to a children’s book author who stated that he was happy to help but then received a reply stating that he didn’t do picture books and to please kindly find someone else to seek for my assistance. I have to admit that I was a bit miffed. I have a finished manuscript but now I’m not sure if it’s a picture book or a children’s book.

    • Hi Lilly,
      Picture books are normally under 1,000 words and every page is fully illustrated. Chapter books are longer and encompass a very wide variety because they range from being for kids just learning to read to kids who are also reading full novels. For a longer picture book, sometimes it’s confusing which category it should aim for. Sometimes much longer picture books are published as well (normally for non-fiction). You can feel free to reach out to me at tracycgold@gmail.com with more details!

      Tracy

  4. Peggy says:

    Is the general approach the same for narrative non-fiction books?

    • Hi Peggy,

      Yes, this approach would be the same for a narrative non-fiction picture book. If you’re talking about a longer book, though, like for adults, you would follow query guidelines for novels/memoirs and you may also need a book proposal.

  5. […] you learn better by example, check out these sample query letters by Tracy C. Gold, Rajani LaRocca,  and Jodi […]

  6. tom scheibal says:

    Hi Tracy,
    I have illustrated a wordless children book and
    I am a fairly accomplish artest.
    Would I send copies of all illustrations to the agent?

    • Hi Tom,
      I am not super experienced with books like that, but I would say that you could probably send either a dummy or the full illustrations (if the illustrations are done you might as well send them, but no need to do full illustrations in the future). You may also want to consider finding an agent who specializes in representing illustrators rather than writers, particularly if you’d be open to illustrating other people’s books; the landscape is different for illustrators and I’m not as well versed in it.

      Tracy

  7. April says:

    Hello,
    What would be your suggestion for an author bio section for an author who has no real “expertise” other than being a mother who loves to write?

    • That’s fine! Many writers don’t have “expertise” before they get their first book out into the world. If you have a day job or a fun hobby, you could include that for kicks. But keep it short!

  8. Hi Tracy,

    I have a bit of a dum question but, is the Query letter the same as the Email Text, or should it be a separate attached file to the email?
    I’m an Children’s book illustrator traveling to Bologna this year and will look after publishers for my stories there and after the fair.
    Thank you so much for posting this, is really helpful

    Eva

  9. Nick Austin says:

    Hi Tracy – great advice thank you – how do you deal with sending a large file by email? I am putting together a submission but even 5 example pages is 20mb and I’m wondering if agents generally eschew embedded links, to say a dropbox file, for security reasons?

    Nick

    • Hi Nick,

      I haven’t personally sent out large illustrations so I’m not sure what’s most common (hopefully submission guidelines will help!). Yes, you want to avoid large attachments. Dropbox links are pretty commonly used in the industry but I would also recommend having a more public display of your illustrations so agents know you’re legit (social media or a website). You may also be able to save your files in a more low-res way to send them out for querying. Make sure you label well!

  10. Emma says:

    Hey if I am submitting via email what should I put in the subject?
    If I’m only submitting to one publisher do I just leave off simultaneous submission?

    Should I include all of my contact information in the attached manuscript if I’m doing an email submission?

    • Hi Emma,
      Many agents/publishers have specific guidelines for the subject line. If not, keep it simple.

      Something like:
      Submission: YOUR BOOK’S TITLE

      Yes, leave off simultaneous submission if it’s not. Indeed, many publishers/agents will assume it’s simultaneous, so it’s not absolutely necessary to include that unless they specifically ask you to.

      In an email signature, I normally include my website, phone number, and social media links. Physical addresses are becoming less relevant in the publishing world so I wouldn’t worry about that. (Of course, your eventual publisher will need your physical address for tax info if nothing else!).

  11. Thank you. I’m a professional artist that also likes to write and I don’t know how to present myself, but you have given me some very helpful information.
    ☮️ Pamela Pooma Bruno

  12. Sophia Micciche says:

    Hi Tracy,

    Two of my books are in two languages and also are completely formatted with my own illustrations. Should I include both languages and the illustrations/formatting?

    • Hi Sophia, I would follow the instructions on submission guidelines for author/illustrators and probably choose just one to send (the language of the person you’re submitting it to). A text-only version is a good idea to have for any agents/publishers who don’t want you to send them illustrations.

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