May 22

Your Children’s Manuscript: Synopsis to Submissions

Before you decide to submit a story to a publishing house or literary agency, you’ll need a completed and polished manuscript.

This means your manuscript will have been edited and proofed. It should be in the best possible shape it can be.

Once this is done, you’ll move on to the next phase.

The Synopsis

Your synopsis is what your story is about. According to Jane Friedman, “The synopsis must convey a book’s entire narrative arc.”

It gives the editor or agent a quick look at the entire story, including the ending.

The synopsis is a sales pitch for your book, so it needs to be engaging (grabbing) enough to motivate the editor to want to read the manuscript or at least some chapters.

You’ll need a synopsis for your query letter.

Keep in mind that a synopsis is different than a description or back cover copy. While the synopsis reveals the ending, the description does not.

The description/back cover copy is intended to motivate the reader to read/buy your book. You should not reveal the ending in the description.

The Cover Letter

You’ll most likely need a cover letter if you’re writing a picture book, as most publishing houses want the manuscript sent along with the letter.

The cover letter won’t need as many details, as a query letter because the editor can quickly read the attached or enclosed manuscript itself.

You’ll need a query letter for chapter books, middle-grade, and young adult manuscripts.

The Query Letter

The query letter is similar to the cover letter, only it’s more detailed. The synopsis will tell the editor or agent all he needs to know to decide whether he’d like to see the manuscript of some of the chapters.

More about query letters:

Book Marketing and the Query Letter

The Query and the Author Bio

See below for an example of a query letter.


  1. Study the publishing house guidelines.

It’s super-important to study the publisher’s website guidelines carefully.

Find out if they’re accepting manuscripts in your genre.

You’ll also want to know if they allow you to submit the entire manuscript. If they do, then you’ll use a cover letter.

If they only want a query letter, you’ll use a query letter without the manuscript.

The guidelines page should tell you everything you need to submit to that publishing house.

  1. Unsolicited manuscripts.

If you’re unagented, you need to be sure the publishing house you’re submitting to accepts unsolicited manuscripts.

Unfortunately, the big publishing houses don’t usually accept unsolicited manuscripts. You might consider smaller presses.

But it you’ve met an editor at a writing conference or workshop, or elsewhere and she requested your manuscript, then you have a invitation to submit.

  1. Find complementary books.

If at all possible, review a few of the publisher’s titles. If you can find one or two slightly similar to yours, mention it: I feel my story would complement ones already on your list, especially (title of book). Add it at the end of the paragraph where you’re requesting the editor to consider your manuscript.

The connection could be related to humor, school, social issues, sports, politics, friendship, family, etc. Just be sure not to make up a connection.

A good way to find out if a book is suitable for this is to read the book’s description on the publisher’s site or on Amazon.

If you can’t find any that your book will complement, leave it out.

In its place, put a brief sentence or two as to why you’re submitting to them. It may be that you love a particular title of theirs or something else.

If at all possible, try to make it personal as to why you chose their publishing house to submit to.

  1. The editor’s name you’re submitting to.

When addressing the individual you’re submitting to, try to find the actual editor’s name. You may need to contact the publishing house directly to ask for it. If you can’t find it anywhere, use “Dear Editor.”

  1. Simultaneous submissions or exclusivity.

If you’re submitting to multiple publishers at the same time, pay attention to whether they allow simultaneous submissions or require exclusivity.
If they accept simultaneous submissions, you can submit to other publishers at the same time; this should be limited to five at a time. Just be sure they each accept simultaneous submissions.

If they prefer exclusive submissions, you can only submit to that publishing house. They usually expect three months to decide on a project.

You may or may not receive a rejection letter within that time. Feel free to submit to other publishers after three months if you don’t receive one.

Either way, add a last line before “Sincerely,” mentioning whether it’s simultaneous or exclusive.

EXAMPLE: This manuscript is a simultaneous submission.

  1. The SASE.

If you’re using regular mail to submit your manuscript, include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (SASE). The publisher’s site will advise whether to submit by email or regular mail.

  1. Submitting via email.

If submitting email, pay attention to whether the publisher wants the query letter and manuscript attached to the email or in the body of the email.

  1. Tools to use.

If you’re a children’s writer, it’d be a good idea to get the most recent edition of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.


Author name
Phone number


Publishing House name
Address or Email (depending on how you’re submitting)

Dear, Editor’s Name,

At twelve years old, Wang wants to be rich, powerful, and famous. He’s done working in the wheat fields with his father. He believes becoming an Eternal will allow him to get what he wants, so he journeys to the Lao Mountains to find them. Becoming an Eternal apprentice is hard work with no benefits, so he decides to leave, but only after learning how to ‘walk through walls.’ With his new magic, he is intent on stealing from the wealthy. About to enter a rich man’s home, he stops. The lessons he learned as an apprentice flood over him. He journeys back to the Lao Mountains the next day to finish his apprenticeship.

Set in 16th century China, WALKING THROUGH WALLS is a 10,000-word chapter book based on an ancient Chinese tale. It is filled with magic, adventure, and subtle lessons on being a good citizen and a good friend.

I would like to submit my manuscript for your consideration. According to your guidelines, I’ve attached the first three chapters. I feel this book would complement other titles on your list, especially, XXXXX.

I’m a children’s author and ghostwriter with clients worldwide. I have three traditionally published children’s books and two self-published books. I have an established author/writer website, and I’m an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Karen Cioffi
I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach. I can help turn your story into a book you’ll be proud to be author of, one that’s publishable and marketable.

Contact me at: Or, you can give me a call at 834---347---6700

Or, if you’d rather do-it-yourself, check out my book, How to Write a Children’s Fiction Book.
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Nov 19

10 Tips to Writing a Query Letter

Tips on writing your storyI have a client who is heading down the traditional publishing road. Since one of the most important elements of this process is the query letter, I have some tips on what to do and what to include.

1. Before you even think of writing your query letter, make sure you have a good story. Make sure you have all the needed elements.

2. Next, if you haven’t already, determine your target audience. Be specific when including it in the query. If you’re a children’s writer, this information will include the intended age group of the reader.

Along with this, you’ll want to establish that there is a need or desire for this particular topic.

3. Tell the agent or publisher the ONE thing that your book will bring to readers or help readers accomplish. This is the number one purpose of the query letter. What does your book have that readers will want?

Will it make them laugh? Will it help them better understand their own relationships? Will it give them an escape from reality? Will it make them cry? Will it subtly teach them something?

Even if your book has multiple benefits or purposes, find that one that reigns them all. That’s the one you want to focus on.

4. In marketing there is something known as the UPS (Unique Selling Point). Include in the query what makes your book unique. There may be thousands of books on raising a child, so what makes yours publishing-worthy? Why would the publisher or agent want to take a risk on your book?

Briefly explain why the reader will want to choose your book over another on a similar topic?

This information will go in the Bio paragraph.

5. If you have expert status in the area you’re writing, let the publishers know. I work with child psychologists and therapists and they have a unique position as an author for books in that area. They have expertise in their field and can provide helpful information whether through fiction or nonfiction books.

Publishers and agents will want to know if your occupation, hobby, or other is relevant to the book. It could possible help tip the contract scale in the author’s favor.

This information will go in the Bio paragraph.

6. If you’re on social media and have a substantial following, you’ll want to mention it. Publishers like the idea of an author having 50,000 or 100,000 followers. It offers built-in audience.

You would also want to mention any other effective marketing strategies you’re sure will help sell your books.

Publishers want authors who can help self their own books.

This too goes in the Bio paragraph.

7. This has been said over and over, but it’s worth mentioning again, read the publishers’ guidelines and follow them carefully.

Every agent and publisher is different. How they want the query letter will differ.

Some may want the basics of the book, title, genre, word count, target audience/word count. Other’s may want to know why you chose them.

Do your research.

You also want to make sure the publisher of agent accepts the type of manuscript you’ve written.

Note: Be sure to include the basics of the book somewhere in the query.

8. The latest format for the query is to have your contact information at the end, under your signature.

It’s a good idea to include the URL to your blog or website in your contact information. Publishers and agents like to know what the author has an online presence.

You will also want to include whether you’re submitting exclusively to that particular agent or publisher or whether you’re submitting to multiple agents or publishers (simultaneous submission).

Keep in mind that if you’re submitting exclusively, you can’t submit that manuscript to anyone else until you hear back from that submission.

9. Keep it tight. Your query should fit on one page, if at all possible.

Editors and agents are super busy. Make your query easy to read.

10. As with anything you write, proof your work.

Let's talk about your children's writing project

Whether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

May 20

The Query and the Author Bio

Writing the Query LetterI read an interesting article by Robert Lee Brewer, senior content editor at the Writer’s Digest writing community. It talked about the author bio in your query and book proposals.

According to Brewer, the bio “is a part of the query that has more potential to harm a pitch than to help.” (1)

Okay, if you weren’t scared of the query letter before, you probably are now!

Well, don’t fret too much, here is a list of Dos and Don’ts to watch out for:

1. Even if your pen name is different than your legal (check cashing and income tax) name, include your pen name in your bio (your byline).

To simply this, the name on your manuscript is the one you put in the query.

Brewer advises that it cuts down on confusion and possible author name errors.

2. Know before you submit the query what name will be your byline.

For example, my pen name is my maiden name. It is not my legal name. But all my online writing and books are under my pen name. So, that’s the name I would use for my bio in a query or book proposal.

This is the same for a pseudonym. Use the name you’re writing under for the book you’re querying.

If there’s interest in your manuscript, they’ll be plenty of time to discuss the details.

3. If you have relevant publication credits, include them. They must be relevant to the book you’re pitching though.

For example, you might be a kindergarten teacher and write tips for a local newspaper or magazine dealing with handling that age group. If you’re submitting a picture book geared toward the same age group, that’s relevant to the book you’re pitching.

If you’re a fitness trainer and writer for an online fitness magazine, you would mention it if your book is relevant to fitness.

4. You don’t want to include insignificant publication credits.

Brewer mentions an example of having a poem published in your high school magazine. While you and your family may be proud of that fact, the publisher will not be.

5. If you have relevant experience in regard to the manuscript you’re pitching, include it. Keep in mind it must be professional experience.

We can go back to the kindergarten teacher. If the story is about that age group, her occupation is definitely relevant to the book.

If you were an Olympic finalist or even on the Olympic team and you’re writing a story on achieving goals, your professional experience is relevant to the book.

6. Don’t mention that this is your first manuscript and you’re new to writing.

But what if you don’t have any credits or professional background relevant to the story you’re pitching?

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner suggests, “If you’re a member of a writers’ organization such as SCBWI, ACFW or ASJA, you can mention it.” (2) You can also mention and should mention if you have a degree in literature or writing.

That’s what I did when I first submitted queries and didn’t have any relevant publications or professional experience. I mentioned the writing organizations I was affiliated with at the time.

7. You can include information about your marketing reach, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social networks where you have LOTS of followers. If you have 10,000 or more connections of this kind, that can be significant.

Agents and publishers like to know an author, even a new author, can help sell his books.

8. Don’t include self-praise: “My book is the greatest thing since the Bible.” And, don’t mention that you think your children’s book will be great as a Disney movie.

The acquisitions editor or agent will determine for herself whether your story is worth her time, effort, and money.

9. Keep it short and sweet. Gardner mentions 50 words or less for a fiction story and longer for nonfiction. For the nonfiction you want to convey your qualifications in this instance.

10. Always be professional and thank the agent or editor for his or her time and consideration.

Brewer says, “When in doubt, leave it out.”

For more about the author bio and the query letter, check out the referenced articles:


Children's ghostwriterWhether you need rewriting or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box.

Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your book in publishable shape today!

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