STATUS: Happy. It’s almost 80 degrees in Denver. Had lunch outside with the Hubby. Finished a submission. No contracts awaiting my attention since final copies need to arrive for the final vet. Three of my clients had release dates this week: Becky Motew for COUPON GIRL; Shanna Swendson for ONCE UPON STILETTOS; Ally Carter for I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU. On top of that, Jennifer O’Connell’s YA debut PLAN B is selling super well. All in all, I’m having a great day.
What song is playing on the iPod right now? BELLE from Walt Disney’s Beauty and The Beast soundtrack
Do you want to know what turns me off when reading a query letter for YA or a middle grade project? Even if you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyway. I love this blog sometimes.
Nothing will generate a quicker NO than highlighting the “educational” value of your children’s work in your query letter.
For picture books or lower level middle grade, it can make sense. The books might be geared towards education and specifically designed to be a learning tool. (As a reminder though, I don’t handle either.)
But for Harry Potter level middle-grade and especially for YA, the “educational value” is the kiss of death to a query in my book. Why?
Goodness, don’t you remember reading as a kid? I certainly didn’t pick up a novel because I thought I might “learn” something from it. Ick. I choose a novel to read because I thought the story would be wildly entertaining. And, if I happened to learn something because the writer was that good, well then, bully for me. The educational value was the absolute last thing on my mind (but boy did I incidentally learn a lot from some of my favorite novels).
Same should apply to your query letter. If you can’t sell me on a really original and engaging story (that would actually be enticing to young people), I’m not really interested and all the educational value in the world won’t change my mind.
All I’m thinking is boy, that would be dull as dirt. Who wants to read because it’s good for me? I certainly didn’t as a tween and I’m guessing that things haven’t changed all that much in the last 28 years.
Tell a good story. Highlight that in your query. If you’ve got that, I’m positive you are a strong enough writer to embed lessons worth learning in the novel because it would be a natural part of the story unfolding.