It's kind of strange, I think, having to summarize a 500 word book in a 250 word query, but I understand that's how things work, and it's kind of fun. Well, it's fun to read queries. I'm not sure it's very fun to write them.
Anyway, today's is Jenny's Picture Book query again, this time with my thoughts, in red.
Meshach has been through the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath and lived to tell about it. Meshach and his buddies Shadrach and Abednego were taken from Jerusalem to be slaves to the king of Babylon. They trusted God and proved their worth to the king and became officials. How did Meshach feel about being taken as a slave? What will happen when they refuse to bow to the king’s gold statue?
This is difficult for me to critique, because I don't know the rules regarding PB queries, so I'm just going to treat it as a normal query.
If this were a normal query it would start out pretty well with that first line, it's a great image, and even though it's probably literal and metaphorical, it makes for a pretty good hook. However, after that first sentence, this query begins to descend into synopsis territory in a kind of "this happened, and then that happened" manner. Since it's a PB, that's probably not that bad. I would be very careful about rhetorical questions, though, and not only because Nathan Bransford says to be.
The reason rhetorical questions rarely work is that you never want an agent or editor to ask themselves a question that's been written in your query, and then not have the answer, or worse, not care what it is.
Meshach’s Story is a 500 word, illustrated story based on Daniel chapters one and three. Told from Meshach’s point of view, preschoolers and grade schoolers experience Meshach’s reaction to this familiar Bible story. Throughout the story, the importance of loving and trusting God and His care for us are emphasized.
This is fine. It's all telling, no showing, but I'm sure that's okay with a PB, and besides, this is kind of just the housekeeping section.
Some Bible story books currently in bookstores are compilations such as My Everyday Bible Story Collection (Stephens Groups 2008) and Bible Heroes (Little Golden Books 2004) which provide a brief summary of several stories but cannot be expanded without a rewrite. Others highlight a particular story and can be part of a series of books but are written in third person such as Jonah and the Big Fish (Spirit Press 2006), Bible Classics: Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors (Bluewood Books 2000), Stories from the Bible: Noah’s Ark (Paragon Publishing 2004), and Arch Books: Baby Jesus Visits the Temple (Concordia Publishing 2001). However, Meshach’s Story is written as a first person account, making the story come more alive to young children and is one of several Bible stories that I have developed in first person.
Hmm. This is debatable, and I will probably have to defer to my more experienced friends, but I could see this getting you into trouble. On the one hand, it makes it clear that you know your market, which can't be a bad thing, but the problem here is that you're trying to talk an agent or editor into working with you. You don't want to sound like you're telling them how to do their job.
It's their job to be experts in the business and the market; your job is to write a great book.
I realize that in this day and age authors have to do more than just write, but I'm not sure you want to put this this way in a query.
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and I am a former preschool teacher. Currently I write a variety of scripts for my church.
Would your publishing company be interested in publishing Meshach’s Story? I can have a copy ready for you by May 9, 2011.
For novels you don't query until the manuscript is finished, and hopefully has made it through several rounds of revisions with the assistance of a critique group. I know that non-fiction is different, and can be submitted before completion. I'm not sure about Picture Books.
What do you all think? This was one of the hardest queries I've ever critiqued, and I'm not sure I'll be much help, but I know a few of you know more about this than I do, so hopefully together we can get this thing to shine!