The first part of any book proposal (or submission for that matter) is the cover letter.  A query letter is also, in many ways, identical to the cover letter.  Basically, these are incredibly important things to be able to write.  Also, you’re going to be writing quite a few of these over your professional career, so you might as well learn how to write them now.

Of course, I talked extensively about cover letters during the picture book submission process back in January.  To review that post where I talk in detail about cover letters (electronic, query, or otherwise), click here.  Today though, we are going to quickly review the parts, and then do a little practice.

Again, the parts of a cover/query letter are:

  1. Introduction
    Where you explain how you know the editor/agent and why you are submitting/querying.
  2. 1-2 paragraph pitch
    Where you sell the book.
  3. Series Pitch
    Where you define and explain the series.
  4. Biography
    Pertinent information about yourself.
  5. Conclusion
    Thanks for allowing to submit/Ask politely to send the manuscript.

Again, for more detailed explanations, go here.

By far, in my opinion, the most important part of the letter is the 1-2 paragraph pitch.  You really have to make the book sound intriguing, yet not give away everything.  You don’t want to rid the book of it’s suspense.  You need to try to convey the voice of your writing, but still keep everything in a short 1-2 paragraphs.

Since I consider this section so important, I thought that for the rest of today and tomorrow we could practice writing these.  If you haven’t already, join the Facebook Buried in the Slush Pile Page.  Click on the discussion link in the left hand box.  I’ve already started a One Paragraph Summary discussion thread.  To post your own one paragraph summary of the book you’re building your book proposal for, click “reply to topic.”  Although in the cover letter you can take 1-2 paragraphs, for this exercise, try to limit yourself to only one paragraph.

After that, look at other people’s summaries and offer them feedback.  You can do this by hitting reply just under their paragraph.  And if you don’t want to post a paragraph right now, still feel free to offer feedback to others.  I’m sure everyone will appreciate it.

Of course, that being said, let’s remember some critique rules while we’re at it.  Positive comments are always encouraged, but of course negative comments are necessary for growth.  When posting a negative comment like “This summary doesn’t work for me” always follow it with an explanation.  Was the plot arc unclear?  Could you not tell from the paragraph which character was the protagonist and which the antagonist? Things like that.  And at no time is flaming or general “this sucks”, “your writing is terrible”, “find a new pasttime” allowed.  Those types of comments are absolutely prohibited.  The children’s writing community is about fostering new writers and supporting one another.  It is not about bolstering your own ego while tearing someone else’s down.  Let’s continue that tradition.

In the past I’ve allowed people to critique one another’s work on this blog without incident.  Let’s keep in that way.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
%d bloggers like this: