Pay attention to the mechanics
If you have trouble with verb tenses or points of view or misplaced modifiers, then Google these things and read up. Or buy a couple of books. Or hire a freelance editor.
Write stories that are fresh
Suck me in with a story that is not about a character going on a quest to find a magical object. Or grab me with a story that is not about a small group of disaster survivors living in a pod, enclosed city, dome, or spaceship. Twist familiar stories and come up with something new.
Have something to say
The stories that change our lives are the ones that make us wrestle with the big questions. The ones that prod us to look more deeply than we’ve looked before. I want to sell stories that readers will remember, and readers remember stories that have given them a new view.
If your query letter says, children today need to learn __________, then the story is not for me. Yes, put in a message. Please. But if you feel the need to tell me what you’re teaching, I’m going to guess that you’ve put the lesson in with a heavy hand. And no one likes reading sermons disguised as stories.
Sally Apokedak is an associate agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency.
She’s been studying, reviewing, and marketing children’s books, as well as giving writing instruction for a dozen years. As the manager of the Kidz Book Buzz blog tour she was privileged to work with best-selling and award-winning authors such as Jeanne DuPrau, Ingrid Law, and Shannon Hale.
She is most interested in middle grade and young adult novels for children and in nonfiction, mysteries, and romance novels for children or adults.
Find out more at sally-apokedak.com
Submit to Sally at firstname.lastname@example.org