How to Write a Query Letter for Email Submissions
So, you’ve written a masterpiece children’s book and you want to send a book submission to a children’s publisher? Awesome, congrats. But do you know how to write an email submission or email query letter? Or did you plan on just winging it? Well, if you’re JK Rowling, maybe you can wing it. But for the rest of us, here are a few tips for writing an email query letter for a children’s book.
Any author who has been doing this long enough probably has a routine they follow for this, but there are a few things you should do before even writing that query email.
1. Make sure the publisher you’re interested in even accepts email submissions. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. Check out their website and follow their submission guidelines to the proverbial letter. I can’t stress this enough. Publishers/editors are inundated with submissions and will often not waste time reading a manuscript if the author wasn’t able to follow simple steps before hand.
2. Be really sure you’re book is ready. Have you edited it, then had someone else look it over, or better yet, had a professional edit it? Don’t send a manuscript before it’s ready!
3. Read their submission guidelines! If you can’t find them, email them and politely ask for them. And do your homework. It is important to make sure your book fits with the publisher you are querying. Have a look at their published books, review their guidelines. Often times a publisher will clearly state what genres they are looking for.
Now, for the query, itself.
1. The subject line of the email query – Their guidelines may ask for something specific. If not, it is a good idea to let them know it is a submission. I usually use the format:
Submission: Awesome Title of My Book or Query: Awesome Title blah, blah, blah…
2. The Salutation (greeting) – Within their guidelines, most publishers will let you know to whom the submission should be addressed. Often times, it is the editorial or submissions department, other times it is a specific person. If at all possible, it is best to address someone by name, but it’s not always easy to do so.
Dear Mr. Roboto (or Ms.),
Sometimes, they don’t tell you who to address in the salutation. In this case, I opt for a simple:
For whom it concerns, or For whom it may concern,
The important thing is to politely always address SOMEONE.
3. The Email Body – If you’ve had personal contact or discussions with this publisher/editor/agent at a conference or other event, this is the time to bring it up. Mention where you met/talked to them and segue into your book. Many people format their title in many different ways. Some use all caps, some use italics, some use bold or bold and italics. Some even put the title in quotation marks. Personally, I capitalize the 1st letter letter on each important word and use italics. Either way, I use the opening paragraph to announce my intentions for the email, list the word count, genre and any personal associations I’ve made, if any.
“I am submitting for your consideration a **** (insert word count here) word picture book titled SOME AWESOME BOOK. This book is written for kids aged 4-10, as well as any kids who know what it’s like to please their parents, no matter the cost.”
We met at the such and such conference in Atlanta last month, where I spoke to you about a book I was working on. I have finished it and would like to submit it for your consideration. It is a ***** word YA novel titled “Zombie Chickens from Space“.
Both examples are obviously generic, but make mention of the title, word count and genre (picture book, YA novel) and the 2nd also mentions the personal connection made at a conference. The 1st example also notes the intended audience, which is often requested by the publisher. Remember to always give them what they ask for; not more, not less.
After that opening paragraph, it’s time to describe, briefly, what your book is about. Try to be concise, using no more than a few lines. It’s good practice to mention the main character and what their issue is. But don’t over explain the book or give a chapter by chapter outline. Unless they ask for it in their all important submission guidelines. A query should be no more than 1 page, each paragraph no more than a few lines each.
Next comes the author bio paragraph. Most publishers I’ve seen ask for a short bio. Even if they don’t, include one anyway. Again, short and concise, no more than a few sentences. Who you are, what’s your background (if it’s relevant) and any publishing experience you’ve had.
4. The Closing – Be quick and to the point, but polite and professional. I usually simply say:
“Thank you for your time. I look forward to your reply.”
Or something similar is all that is needed. And close with the traditional:
Whatever your pen name is
5. The Signature – Ah, the all important signature block. If you are not taking advantage of this while submitting email queries and manuscripts, you should start. Some people use their email client’s signature function to add in the relevant details automatically at the end of every email. Others prefer to add it in manually, as needed. Either way, it will go under your name. List important contact details such as email, phone, author website, social accounts and mailing address. Mine looks something like this:Jason JG Carnrike ***-***-**** jasonjgcarnrike@*****.com jasoncarnrike.com twitter.com/jasonjgcarnrike facebook.com/jasonjgcarnrike
Now that the hard part is done, you just need to attach your manuscript. Many publishers allow you to submit your manuscript, or part of it, with the query email. Do what their guidelines ask. They may want the whole manuscript or they may just want a few sample chapters (if yours has chapters). If it’s a picture book without chapters, I usually send the whole book. If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to ask. They will either want it attached as a word document, usually a doc or pdf, or pasted into the body of the email. If they don’t specify which they prefer, again, ask them. But most allow attachments, unless specifically stated otherwise.
Finally, make sure your query is just as ready for submission as your book is. You’ve put great effort (I hope) into your story, don’t blow it on a poorly constructed submission email. Proofread, fix any mistakes, then proofread again. A publisher/editor will not take you seriously if the 1st thing they read from you is poor grammar and misspelled words.
This is not meant to be an end all be all for email query letters. It is meant to be more of a guide to get you started and help you along the way. I’ve used this format, with slight variations, for a few years now. I developed it through tons of research online, through books, and mostly through trial and error. Lots and lots of error. And while I’m no Dr. Seuss yet, this format has helped me land multiple publishing contracts, and hopefully more to come.
Now with a little research and some tweaking of your own, you should be well on your way to a decent email query letter.