Deborah Halverson

Should My Query Letter Reveal the Ending?

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Dear Editor…

I’m writing the query letter for my picture book submission. Do I need to reveal the ending when I summarize the story, or is it okay to write “But will she succeed?” or “What to do now!”? With picture books, is it more common to leave the agent wanting to read the manuscript to find out the ending?

Sincerely,
Tease or Tell?

Dear Tease or Tell?…

Agents don’t care about spoilers. They read queries for some sense that they’ll be impressed by your storytelling and be able to sell the story. That’s what spurs them to open the manuscript you attached. If your ending will WOW and hook them, and you won’t have to summarize the whole story so that the ending makes sense in your letter, then Tell it. Any Teasing should reveal important information about the project. A generic, obvious question like “Will they succeed?” is melodramatic, which is not a way to show off your storytelling chops. A better Tease would reveal the thematic payoff when the character triumphs. A great example of handling the ending reveal is the book description of Salina Yoon’s bestselling, delightful picture book Penguin and Pinecone: “Penguin knows he must help Pinecone get back to his home, but he’s worried: How can they stay friends when they’re miles apart? Penguin and Pinecone celebrates friendships lost and found, and overcoming the odds to be with the one you love.” That pitches the takeaway: Readers will feel emotionally satisfied because the friendship endures. But the exact ending remains a surprise. Tease AND Tell in one effective swoop to send agents running to your manuscript. 

Happy writing!
The Editor

The Editor, Deborah Halverson, has been editing books for over 25 years and specializes in Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, New Adult fiction, and picture books. For her editorial guidance in making your manuscript ready for submission to agents and publishers or for self-publishing, click Editorial services.

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