Dear FULL NAME:
This may very from agent to agent, because after all, agents are human beings, but it would be most professional, in a cold query email, to refer to the agent as Ms. LAST NAME or Mr. LAST NAME. If they reply to you at some point and sign it with just their first name, it's fine to start referring to them by their first name, but until then, use Mr. or Ms.
Below is Good Guy Meets Schmoosh, my 500-word picture book for your consideration.
What does this mean? Are you trying to point out that the entire text of the book is included below? If so, mention that below, not here (and be sure to adhere to submission guidelines for the agency, to make sure they allow the entire text to be included). If not, and this is just some sort of introductory line to your query, skip it.
I would recommend you use this space, however, to introduce why you're querying that specific agent. Obviously you can't include it here, because this is a generic letter, but if you are querying a particular agent because of a specific book or author they have represented, or because you met them at a conference, or because you read a blog post of theirs you liked, be sure to mention that.
Okay, so much of this is actually pretty good. I realize that PBs are very compact by way of plot, and leave little room for things like characterization, but you've actually got some good stuff going here, both in terms of the mom, and in terms of Guy. I would probably only recommend (and keep in mind, as I said in our emails, that my expertise, if you can call it that, with query letters really lies more int he realm of YA and MG novel length works, so I could easily be wrong about the "rules" for Picture Books), that in general, story is story, and when it comes to queries, there are three things which are the most important (actually only two, but I'll get to that).
CHARACTER. When we read, all of us who are human at least, we want to be entertained, sure, but mostly we want to care. Give us someone to care about, and we will follow you anywhere. So, with that being said, the most important thing any query letter can do is introduce us to a complex, sympathetic, interesting character (protagonist) that we can immediately begin to care about and root for right away. You have Guy here, and with his reaction to the stray on the street I do like him, but get that Save the Cat moment (or some other likable moment) introduced in the query right away. In other words, do away with "Consistent Moral Behavior," and come up with something better. Something more specific, more vivid, and more interesting (but unlike the moment with the stray, this is something from his backstory, something that makes him GOOD Guy, rather than just Guy). Obviously this won't be something actually from the book, since this is a 500 word PB, but it can be something very basic, as long as its not vague. Vagueness is the number one aspect that can make a good story into a poor query.
CONFLICT. When you take a character the reader cares about, and throw them into some conflict, that's when it becomes a story. The character must overcome something in order to make their narrative interesting. You've clearly got that here, with the decision between purchasing a pet store puppy and saving a stray from the street who needs a home, and I actually think you nail it quite well here. It's simple, it's straightforward, it's the kind of decision many many people have faced.
CHOICE. In a query for a novel length work, it's relatively standard to wrap up with what's known as a sadistic choice [Fair Warning that's a link to a TV Tropes article. You've been warned]. I don't know that that's really a requirement for Picture Books, but you've actually got one built in here already. At least, it's implied. You might consider laying it out specifically, the difficult choice Guy must make between an adorable Poky Little Puppy, and and good family-less dog named Schmoosh who truly needs his love, and what some of the implications of that choice are, but I would also say if you left it how you have it now it's not bad.
Each year, of the 7.5 million animals that even make it into rescue shelters, 2.7 million are euthanized. A stigma of poor upbringing and therefore danger and illness is often associated with rescuing a homeless animal. Families often opt to buy puppies or kittens from breeders instead. Good Guy Meets Schmoosh aims to kick this reputation to the curb.
This is mostly good. I would do a little research on the phrase "kicked to the curb," though. I'm not sure it fits that well with the aesthetic of the rest of this letter.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a first time author. Agents sign them every day. If you have excellent and extensive writing credentials, and dozens of magazine article and short story credits to your name, that's great. But if you don't, don't worry about it. No biography, no matter how good it is, is going to sell a bad story. If you're a first time author, let your story speak for itself.
Colleen M. Fackler
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