The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

Dawson-Keila-websiteWe celebrated Keila Dawson’s good news in our 2014 Year of Success post. Today Keila is sharing her query letter that she sent to Pelican Publishing.  It brought her an offer for her book THE KING CAKE BABY which has come out this month just in time for Mardi Gras! Keila sent in the manuscript in May and it was acquired in June. Now that’s a pretty quick turnaround time! Hooray for Keila!

Keila says about her query, “Ahem, note newbie error, I addressed it to “editor”. Think I read somewhere to do that so I did! LOL!” Looks like it worked out fine. And Keila targeted her submission just right! Here’s her query:

Dear Editor,

Is it possible to have a King Cake without a King Cake Baby? No! Without the plastic baby, the pastry is just a large oval cinnamon roll.  When hidden inside the cake, the plastic baby becomes a symbol, an important part of the Mardi Gras tradition which begins on King’s Day, January 6, twelve days after Christmas and ends on Mardi Gras Day. The eagerness to discover if your piece of cake contains the King Cake Baby is as enticing as the pastry itself.

THE KING CAKE BABY is a 649-word picture book. The repetitive text follows a similar rhythm and rhyme pattern of the classic story, The Gingerbread Man. After his escape from home, the King Cake baby meets characters in his French Quarter neighborhood on his way to the Mississippi River. The colloquial lingo is easily recognizable and gives the characters special cultural significance.

I am a native of New Orleans, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Central and South Ohio Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (COSCBWI). This is my first submission.

Included at the end of the book will be an easy King Cake recipe that can be made by young children supervised by an adult. Bon Appétit!


Keila V. Dawson

TKing Cake Babyhank you Keila, for sharing you letter with us all and have a fun Mardi Gras!

You can find out more about Keila at

Follow her on Twitter @keila_dawson

9 thoughts on “The King Cake Baby – A Query Letter That Worked

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  1. Oh Keila…I didn’t know the whole story of how you queried Pelican…it just goes to show that if you’ve got a GREAT STORY, the rest of the stuff (blogging, social media, personally addressing the query letter 🙂 and all) is secondary. Not to say that these other things aren’t important…but it is the story that is the key! Awesome query letter…can I ask if you had it critiqued before you sent it out…or help in writing it? CONGRATULATIONS, dear friend…I’m so very happy for you!


  2. Thanks Kaye, Romelle and Vivian! Indeed Vivian, story comes first. When I learned it took 18 months to 2 years before the book would be released I was initially bummed. But guess what? I’m glad! It took that long for this old dog to learn about social media, and teach myself how to create a website, use Twitter, Facebook (other than personal), Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn. All of them. I sold a book on Instagram today so do not leave any rock unturned! I did not have my query letter critiqued before I sent it. I read lots about how to write a query specific to picture books and read a few samples. And after I sent it guess what I read? Don’t open a query with a question!


  3. Great letter and voice, Keila! You have me interested in your story, too. I’ve always loved the Gingerbread Man, and I’ve visited New Orleans years ago.


    1. Did you visit for Mardi Gras Tina? The book is doing very well. Just noticed it’s a #1 New Release in the Children’s Religious Holiday Books an.d a Hot New Release. The religious tag is because I mention the old woman wanted to celebrate Kings’ Day on January 6. That’s it! Not sure what books are the competition is, but everyone here seems to enjoy it very much. Thanks!


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