I’ve got some monstrously good news! Today I’m featuring debut picture book author Margaret Chiu Greanias, who has graciously agreed to share her successful query letter for Maximillian Villainous (Running Press Kids, 2018). This query helped her hook an agent, which led to this book’s sale.
Though Maximillian Villainous isn’t out until August, you can click here to preorder it now wherever books are sold.
Without further ado, let’s break down Margaret’s query.
Dear Super Agent:
I am querying you because [this is where Margaret personalized the query based upon her agent research]. I think you would enjoy my picture book manuscript, MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS.
Maximillian Villainous is unlike anyone in his family. While his villainous family members commit crimes like stealing Santa’s sleigh and swiping Mother Nature’s powers, Max is more focused on helping their victims. When Max brings home a bunny… well, everyone knows villains (especially the infamous Villainous’) do not own bunnies. Max must convince his disapproving parents that he and the bunny make a devious duo or remain an outcast in his own family forever.
My 512-word humorous, character-driven picture book, MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS, explores the universal themes of staying true to oneself as well as wanting a pet. Fans of The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell will also enjoy this book. I have yet to find a picture book about a villain (who is not a villain) who wants a pet.
I am a member of SCBWI and co-founded a 360-member Facebook group that studies successful debut picture books. In addition, I participate in critique groups, online writing challenges like PiBoIdMo and local writing events. I have other completed picture book manuscripts available upon request.
I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you!
Sincerely, Margaret Chiu Greanias
Here are my thoughts on what made this query so successful.
“The hook:” In Margaret’s pitch she gives a very clear sense of who Max is (an outsider), before launching into the inciting incident (bringing home a bunny). We learn what Max must accomplish (convince his parents to let him keep the bunny) and what’s at stake if he can’t achieve his goal (remaining an outcast).
“The book:” Margaret gives us all the nitty gritty details including word count and category. She also gives the book’s theme. She could have added the theme to the hook paragraph, but it also fits just fine here. Finally, she’s provided a well-known (but not overly famous) current comp title, which gives a sense of her take on this monsterly story.
“The cook:” Since this is Margaret’s debut book, she doesn’t have publishing credits to share, but that’s just fine. Instead of padding her last paragraph with extraneous information, she includes membership in a professional group (SCBWI), as well as craft-focused groups. These show her commitment to her craft. She also includes her establishment of the Debut Picture Book group, which shows she’s got a platform and connections within the industry.
The takeaway: It’s no surprise an agent scooped up Margaret and her book. For more information about basic query letter format, see Heather’s post here.
Thanks for sharing, Margaret!
Margaret’s favorite childhood memories include catching minnows and frogs in the “bayou” with her two older brothers, tooling around the neighborhood on her banana-seat bike, and reading piles of picture books at the cool, cool library during the hot Texas summer. Her debut picture book, MAXIMILLIAN VILLAINOUS, will be published in August 2018 by Running Press Kids, an imprint of Perseus Books, a Hachette Book Group company. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies.