I recently decided to make a long delayed return to a genre where I had early publishing success, upper-level picture books. Given that I now have school-aged children, I have a number of stories that I made up for bedtimes that are ripe for being turned into books. In particular, I have three that I am particularly happy with, and that I've made progress at turning into manuscripts.

I know that you would never try to sell more than one novel at once, but what about picture books? When I'm ready for queries again, should I query just one, or all three at once? If I'm only querying one, is it an advantage to mention the others? (Given how long it's been since I published in the field, I want to make it clear it's not going to be another fifteen year gap between books.)

2 Answers 2


Someone already answered this question online. Link: http://writersrelief.com/2010/01/11/query-letters-when-not-to-talk-about-multiple-books-including-sequels-a-series-and-other-projects/

Books designed to be part of a series. Certain books are by their very nature meant to be part of a series—such as some fantasy and mystery novels. But always keep in mind that before your agent can sell a second or third book, she or he has to sell a first book. So focus on book one, and then casually mention that the book could be (or is being) developed into a series (to make it clear that you’re not going to put the cart before the horse by pitching second and third books before the first one has proven that it is viable).

Manuscripts you wrote a long time ago. Many new writers who do not have writing credits tend to include phrases in their bios such as “I have written five books.” This leads the agent to wonder: five published books (if so, why didn’t the writer mention the publisher?), five self-published books (if so, what is the writer trying to hide?), or five books that are sitting under a bed somewhere (if so, will the writer try to pawn off those stale old manuscripts on the agent who takes that writer on?). If the writer is deliberately vague about the “five books,” the agent will generally assume the writer is an amateur. Rather than mention that you’ve written five books that you were not able to publish traditionally, it may be better not to mention them at all. Focus on building up your bio with publication credits in the literary magazine market or by demonstrating a commitment to the craft.

Self-published books. For more on the question of whether or not to mention a self-published book in your bio, read Self-Publishing: When (Not) To Include Your Self-Published Book In Your Cover Or Query Letter Bio. For more information on how to get an agent for a self-published book, read After Self-Publishing: How To Find An Agent And A Publisher For Your Self-Published Book.

Spin-offs. Some writers will indicate that they are already in the process of spinning their single title book into an alternate venture—perhaps developing the story of the secondary characters, or perhaps taking the story to the next level with a prequel. Again, be sure you’re only pitching one book at a time. If you’ve already completed your spin-off projects, it may be better to hold off on mentioning that those projects are already complete until you and the agent are in serious talks.

Other unrelated books or genres. If you’re writing a romance novel and you want an agent to work with you on another project (a thriller), it’s best to focus on one project at a time. The query letter is not necessarily the place to mention multiple projects. If an agent shows interest in one of your projects and you feel you can develop a rapport, then that’s the time to mention your other ventures. But until that point, try not to overwhelm him or her.

The moral of the story: an agent can only represent one of your books at a time. Generally, if you are entering a new relationship with an agent, you don’t want to overwhelm him or her by suggesting he or she represent previous projects, future projects, or side projects. A good query letter pitches one book only—and perhaps in certain circumstances, it may casually allude to other projects (if the writer is careful in his or her allusions). And if an agent asks if you have any other projects in the works, then feel free to share. But in general, play it safe by focusing largely on one book in your pitch.

My opinion is that whether the story is a "novel" or "picture book" really does not matter. A picture book is a story with pictures for children. A novel is a long story for people of any age. They all come in book form, and they all have to be marketed as books.

In the English language, short story, novella, novel seem to be distinct categories. In the Chinese language, there is the 小说, which is divided into three categories by length: 短篇小说 (short, equivalent to short story), 中篇小说 (medium, equivalent to novella), 长篇小说 (long, equivalent to novel). If you are just writing a 小说, then the exact length is irrelevant, unless you want it to be relevant. It can be of any length. The size of the 小说 is measured in Chinese characters.

With that said, a "novel" and a "picture book" are not really on the same plane. A novel seems to refer to the length of a story, while a picture book seems to refer to the physical object the story comes in. It is possible to create a very long picture book based on a novel or a short picture book about the color green.

Assuming that you are attempting to sell 3 children's stories in the form of picture books, and that these 3 stories are independent stories that will be published in quick succession, and that these books are not too much for the literary agent to handle (because a literary agent may find marketing one book too much), you may mention all stories in the query letter. However, I wouldn't be too ambitious with 3 books. You may have 3 books, but how do you know that they will sell? You don't. Given that you haven't published anything in a long time, you may be a bit rusty in this field. So, to play it safe, you may just want to mention only one book in the query letter. If the first picture book becomes a best-seller, then you may mention the other two in the same query letter next time.


I think it depends on the specific style/genre as well as your relationship with the publisher or agent.

There are formal queries and then there are chats you have with someone in a position to get your work to publication.

In the comic book field, pitching more than one piece is more common, even to someone you don't know. At least my spouse does it. For anthologies and other work where they want something that fits into a very particular theme, but it's not clear to him as an author which of his works fit, he will offer more than one story idea. If they like one, they'll ask for him to flesh it out and/or include sample art.

For standalone books, you can throw the idea out there as part of a different chat, if you have one. "And by the way, I'm working on..." If you have a relationship with anyone at your old publisher, that is where I would start (and even if you don't know anyone still there).

With a formal query, because they're short, because they can be published in quick succession (or even together if that happens to work), I would either put all the books in the same query or focus on one then quickly mention the other two. I agree with you that letting them know that an investment in you could go beyond one book is a good idea.

I'm assuming that, because of the low page numbers and the fact that the text is short (because of the heavy amount of art), that there will be some overlap between how the children's picture book industry and the comic book industry handle things.

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