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The Adventures of Max & Sydney: The Magical Piano (Children's Picture Book)


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#1 nmiller

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 01:00 AM

This is my first book and first query letter. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Attention Ms. Agent:

Beyond the ivory keys and the shiny black lacquer of Grandma’s brand new piano lives an exciting world of music, undiscovered until now.

The Adventures of Max & Sydney: the Magical Piano, is a picture book about Max, an inquisitive 5-year-old African-American boy and his apprehensive 6-year-old sister Sydney as they discover a whole new world of music beyond the keys of their Grandma’s brand new shiny black piano. This story embodies a world of imagination, encouragement and accomplishment.

Visiting Grandma was a Sunday favorite. This particular Sunday was no traditional Sunday for Max and Sydney. While playing a friendly game of hide-and-seek, Max discovers his Grandma’s brand new shiny black piano to be the perfect hiding place from his older sister Sydney. While searching for Max, Sydney too is enamored by her Grandma’s new musical edition and to her surprise, Max is nestled inside. As he always seems to do, Max begs Sydney to join him in his crazy shenanigans and she, as usual, reluctantly does. They find themselves in trouble as the top of the piano suddenly closes them inside; however to their amazement; Grandma’s new piano was much more than a shiny black musical instrument sitting in the living room in which they weren’t allowed to play. They’re magically on stage of a concert hall filled with funny looking musical instruments. They meet an interesting musician who encourages them to play the funny named instruments like the Trombone, Tuba, and Flute. Finally, they took the spotlight and put on a concert for their special guests. They played their last note and took their final bow. No encore here, it’s time for Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies!

I have a BS in Business Management and I am currently a stay at home mom of one.
I would greatly appreciate your consideration for representation.

Sincerely,

#2 Taurean Watkins

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 07:38 AM

Okay, I think the bones are here in what you have, but there are missteps and some missing info that shouldn't be. To best show you what I mean, first read the version I came with and then I'll point out where things get hairy in your original version-




Dear Ms. Agent:

Beyond the ivory keys and the shiny black lacquer of Grandma’s brand new piano lives an exciting world of music, undiscovered until now…

Visiting Grandma is always a Sunday favorite for Sydney, and her little brother, Max. While playing hide-and-seek, Max hides inside Grandma's Piano. When Sydney hears giggling and strange plucking sounds from inside the piano, realizes that Max is stuck, and can't get out!
Ever the big sister, Sydney comes to his rescue, only for the top of the piano to fall, trapping them inside. They soon realize Grandma’s new piano was much more than a shiny black musical treasure in the living room they weren’t allowed to play with. It's magic.

Sydney and Max stage of a concert hall filled with funny looking musical instruments. An eccentric musician encourages them to play the funny named instruments. A not-for-dogs Trombone, the can't-get-wet-inner-tube Tuba, and a not-the-Flu-Flute. After many mistakes and mishaps along the way, Sydney and Max take the stage and put on a concert for their special guests. They played their last note and took their final bow. No encore here, it’s time for Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies!

The Adventures of Max & Sydney: the Magical Piano, is a picture book


Thank you for representation.

Sincerely,


This is my first book and first query letter. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Attention Ms. Agent:(I find saying "Attenion" sounds too forceful, but it might just be me. Just be sure you spell the agent or editor's name correctly)


Beyond the ivory keys and the shiny black lacquer of Grandma’s brand new piano lives an exciting world of music, undiscovered until now.(Great hook, at least I think so, good job for starting the intrigue)

The Adventures of Max & Sydney: the Magical Piano, is a picture book about Max, an inquisitive 5-year-old African-American boy and his apprehensive 6-year-old sister Sydney as they discover a whole new world of music beyond the keys of their Grandma’s brand new shiny black piano. This story embodies a world of imagination, encouragement and accomplishment.

Visiting Grandma was a Sunday favorite. This particular Sunday was no traditional Sunday for Max and Sydney. While playing a friendly game of hide-and-seek, Max discovers his Grandma’s brand new shiny black piano to be the perfect hiding place from his older sister Sydney. While searching for Max, Sydney too is enamored by her Grandma’s new musical edition and to her surprise, Max is nestled inside.


As he always seems to do, Max begs Sydney to join him in his crazy shenanigans and she, as usual, reluctantly does. They find themselves in trouble as the top of the piano suddenly closes them inside; however to their amazement; Grandma’s new piano was much more than a shiny black musical instrument sitting in the living room in which they weren’t allowed to play.

(The major problem here especially, is the POV (Point of view) confusion. It's important to have your query (And synopsis in a longer book with chapters) be in third person, present tense, to show of the action in the story, even in a story told in the past tense.

Another issue is not knowing who the viewpoint character is. Is it Max or Sydney? I did my version with Sydney as the viewpoint character, based on how I thought you meant to convey the story, kind of a reverse Charlie and Lola with the girl being the older one, and the boy being the curious, sometimes troublesome one. Another example of this dynamic is Rosemary Wells Max and Ruby series, though I know your Max is a bit older, I get that feel from your story, if that's wrong I apologize in advance.)




They’re magically on stage of a concert hall filled with funny looking musical instruments. They meet an interesting musician who encourages them to play the funny named instruments like the Trombone, Tuba, and Flute. Finally, they took the spotlight and put on a concert for their special guests. They played their last note and took their final bow. No encore here, it’s time for Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies!

I have a BS in Business Management and I am currently a stay at home mom of one. (See notes below...)

I would greatly appreciate your consideration for representation.

Sincerely,(Your name, obviously)



(Two problems here. First off, I'm not sure how integral it is that brother and sister be African-American, but if it is, I'd leave it out of the query, and once you get an agent, express to him or her that the editor should make note of that when picking the illustrator. Just to clarify to avoid confusion from beginners on this point who read this, you should only do this if there's something in the book that's not mentioned in the text that's important the illustrator know to avoid confusion on how certain scenes happen.

A good example is Jane O'Conner's Fancy Nancy. Nancy is a girl who loves finding the fanciness in everyday things. But it's a "DIY" kind of fancy as the author's said in interviews I've heard her in. It's hard to describe-

Look at the cover for the first book-


Also, watch this interview with the writer and illustrator here-

These should help show you what I mean.

You also need to say how long the book is, and though most agents and editors who are open to pb submissions let you send the whole manuscript right off, there are some who only want the query first, and it's just good practice.

Especially if you deviate a bit from the 32 page standard format, which is hard to sell in general, but especially (Though no less annoying) for new writers with no prior good sales records to back you up.

Also, I'd take out the last paragraph since it's not relevant to what your querying. I hope I don't sound mean when I say that, but I've had this advice shoved down my throat to the point of wanting to reach into the screen and strangle them. :blush:

Anyway, I hope I've helped a little, and above all know I think you have a promising story, it just needs to be shown off better.

All the best,
Taurean

#3 JMB

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 10:17 AM

You should check out Agent Mary Kole's website. This is what she says about picture book queries: "No need to write an elaborate letter. Just present the main characters, the main problem, and the resolution, then work in a hook, and sign off like you normally would with a novel query. After that, just paste the picture book manuscript.http://kidlit.com/tag/picturebook/

#4 Cat Woods

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 10:49 AM

JMB is correct. When I've queried my picture books, I usually have very short letters. I always feel there is no point in trying to hook an agent using 300 words when the manuscript itself only comes in at 500.

Better to set the stage and let the manuscript speak for itself.

If this were my query, I'd post the details (Query: TITLE, picture book) in the subject line of my email and shoot off something like this, but in your voice with your details:

Dear (Agent Name):

Beyond the ivory keys and the shiny black lacquer of Grandma’s new piano lives an exciting world of music, undiscovered until now.

In just XXX words, Max and Sydney encounter an eccentric musician, perform in a concert hall and return to Grandma's before the chocolate chip cookies make it out of the oven.

Per your submission guidelines, I have included the manuscript in the body of this email. I appreciate your time and consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

PB are so short that it's almost easier for an agent/editor to read the manuscript first. So my philosophy is to get them to the manuscript in as few words as possible. Why give them a chance to reject a good story because we flubbed the query with too many words, too much detail and not enough hook?

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#5 Taurean Watkins

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 11:33 AM

I agree, Cat. But I know some agents insist on the query first, even with picture books. There's someone I wanted to submit my picture book to but they want a query first and don't say it's okay to send the manuscript if it's a picture book.

I get what you mean though. Because these texts are so short you don't want to give the wrong impression that you're bloated when you're not.

It's times like this I wish agent guidelines on queries were a little more clear.

#6 Cat Woods

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 12:42 PM

Taurean,

Yes, not all agents are willing to accept PB manuscripts in the body, though most still do. I was tweaking this query with an eye to the ones that would allow it.

I always find that picture book query letters that have to stand alone are the single most difficult letter to write.

We have to condense the already condensed and it seems that in the process, we end up with far too many details and a convoluted query. :sad: At least I seem to...

Best luck and definitely check agent guidelines to see if they accept the manuscript in the body. With luck, you'll find that many do.

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#7 Taurean Watkins

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 01:05 PM

Cat, I know many agents do specify you can send the pb manuscript without querying first. You're right that it's harder, but I figure some agents do that as a test to weed out some of the junk that would otherwise come through if the flood gates were open without that query filter.

I see it as an (Almost fun :humph: ) challenge. The agent in particular I was thinking of was someone I queried Gabriel (Novel, not picture book) to last year and he was my top pick as someone I think I'd click with. I'd read a bit about him beforehand, and read a couple of the books he's represented.

He gave me my first and so far only non-form rejection. He liked it, but not enough to offer me representation.

It hurt a bit at the time, but I had no regrets as I did the best I could at the time, and followed the guidelines I as given. Over a year since then I can now see that my hard work up to the point was close to reaching my goal, but not close enough.

This time I'm going into querying as a stinger writer, with stronger stories because of it.

I recently queried him about my picture book and I hope this makes a better impression, and maybe if I'm taken on as a client, I can try Gabriel again and see if the changes I made gives it a second chance.

Of course, I'm going going to other agents as well, so we'll see how it goes.

#8 nmiller

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 07:12 PM

Thanks a lot for all of your help. You've given me some great tips and things to think about.

#9 Pat Megahey

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 10:24 PM

Sounds like a fun story. I'm a kindergarten teacher, and this book seems like it would appealto my kids. I agree that your query should be short and sweet. Best of luck. Pat




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