Picture Book & Query Letter Critique Services

Picture Book Manuscript Critiques


You should never submit a manuscript to an agent or publisher without having your worked critiqued and then undertaking revisions. This is how we make our work shine! We become so close to our stories that we just cannot see what needs improving after a while. Another pair of eyes can do wonders!

How do you know when you are ready for critique? Have you rewritten and revised and worked hard on your manuscript and feel like you are stuck? Are you thinking your story is complete but have not gotten any feedback? Then it's probably time. For me, when I cannot see anything else I think I should change, or am even making changes back and forth to words or phrases I have previously written, I know I am ready for a critique. When I get those critiques back I always see ways to make more improvements.

Picture books in particular take more work than it feels like they should, because they are so short. Don't be fooled! While there are many different ways a manuscript can be written, there are certain criteria that publishers are looking for that make a picture book manuscript publishable. Of course, each story is different and I always keep your vision in mind, as well as the market, when giving a critique.

My picture book critiques tend to be intensive. I use track changes and include line by line notes using the comment feature to point out issues I see as I read through the manuscript. I oftentimes put in examples to help illustrate ideas or concepts to help you get your revision juices flowing. I can't help but throw in line-editing if I see a spot that needs it or a general issue that needs to be addressed. I also write notes straight onto the manuscript. At the end of the document I give a general big picture analysis. I do not just read through once, but many times, until I feel that I have given you the best critique that I can.

Beginning writers will find that I do a lot of teaching in my critiques. There are many common mistakes that I see in picture book manuscripts -- things that are definitely learned from studying, writing picture books, and taking part in the industry for an extended amount of time. I tell people things I wish I would have been told when I was starting out! I add tips or links that I think might be helpful to you in your picture book writing endeavors. 

Experienced picture book writers will find that I keep an eye toward the market when giving critiques. I make suggestions and ask questions to help you bring out your best manuscript.

All of my picture book critiques, no matter your experience, are given with an eye toward helping you create a salable manuscript. I want to see you succeed! I put in lots of time and thought on critiques. Of course, we all want to hear that our work is wonderful and ready to go, but I vow to give you an honest critique pointing out the good and the things that need work. To me, that is the best kind of critique that a writer can get!

Picture books up to 1000 words, non-rhyming critique fee is $85.00.
Higher word count manuscripts can be prorated. 
Add $15.00 for rhyming manuscripts (because they take much longer to critique.)
Picture book and query letter critique at the same time, for the same manuscript -- $120.00


Query & Cover Letter Critiques


I love query letters. Cover letters too. The difference? A query letter asks if you can send the material, while a cover letter introduces what you have sent. When you have a good base letter, you can change it up to fit your needs.

To me, writing these letters is a fun challenge. That seems to make me somewhat of an anomaly. But, it’s true. Query letters are like a puzzle that has many possible solutions. I just love piecing them together.

It is imperative to remember that your letter is a sales tool. One that you need to use to your best advantage. I can help you make sure your letter includes an enticing hook, the pertinent manuscript information, and relevant bio. Just as with my picture book critiques, I am very thorough with query letter critiques. I give line by line notes and suggestions as well as line editing if needed. If I need to ask you questions to help me give better suggestions on your letter, I will.

As with manuscripts, you can't always see the issues in your own query letter. You want to give enough information so that the gist of your story is clear to someone who has not read it. You want it to be enticing. You want your query letter to make the reader want more!

My letters for various manuscripts have gotten requests and interest from many agents and publishers. I have helped writers of all genres with their query letters. So, if you are ready for another set of eyes on that all important introduction to your work, from board book to picture book, MG, YA to Adult novel -- fiction or nonfiction, I would be happy to help.


Query letter critique fee is $40.00 
One page letter, any genre.
Picture book and query letter critique at the same time, for the same manuscript -- $120.00


Critique Request Instructions


When you are ready for a critique please email me. Indicate the type of critique you are looking for -- picture book manuscript, query letter, or both. You can put CRITIQUE REQUEST in the subject line of your email.

For picture book manuscripts please let me know the word count and whether or not the story is written in rhyme. For query letters I'd love to know the genre you are working in. If you have any questions for me, just ask. You are welcome to attach the manuscript or query as a Word or Open Office document in your email.

I bill through Paypal, which you can pay whether you have a Paypal account or not. I will email you an invoice via Paypal once I have gotten your request and we have worked out any details. I am also happy to take a check. Critiques will be started once payment is complete.

I like to have up to two weeks to complete manuscript critiques as I sometimes like to have time to think on things, but I often have them done more quickly than that. Query letter critiques will be completed in one week or less. I am happy to work with you to have your critique done by a specific date if requested. 

It is nice if you have your manuscript in a standard format. Plus you will need it that way for submitting! If you are not sure about standard picture book manuscript format, you can find instructions in my formatting post.

Critique fees are for a one time critique. If you are interested in having me critique a manuscript after you have revised, I am happy to do it at a discounted rate.

About My Experience


I've been writing picture books for a very long time. I can't even begin to count the number of critiques I have done. I’ve edited novels, both fiction and nonfiction for publishers, critiqued everything from story app concept to magazine article, MG, YA, and even the "dreaded" synopsis.

My picture book, BEDTIME MONSTER, is published by Raven Tree Press. KICK! JUMP! CHOP! THE ADVENTURES OF THE NINJABREAD MAN is scheduled to be released by Sterling Publishing in 2017. I am represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.


"Heather's critique is exactly what I needed to get me out of a state of stagnation and moving in a better direction on my children's book proposal. The constructive information she shared in my critique was conveyed with a distinct air of "been there, pitched that" experience. Heather knows what agents and publishers need from a proposal and helps writers hone in on their story's hook and refocus their pitch. I highly recommend her services and wouldn't hesitate to work with Heather on future projects." - Stacey Viera, Best Light Media

"Heather has critiqued a number of my picture book manuscripts--and I couldn't be more satisfied. Her comments are thorough and insightful and straightforward--a gift for any of us who have walked away from a critique with more questions than answers!" - Terry H., Children's Book Writer



12 comments:

  1. what do you when you had an agent for a year and they let you go because they could not find someone to edit your book for free?

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  2. Many agents work editorially with their clients to get their manuscripts in the best shape possible before submitting. Some agents don't do much editorial. You need to find the right agent that works for you and can help you get your best work out there. Just because you've had an agent before does not mean you can't submit to agents. If writing for publication is what you really want to do you have to get your work polished up and back out there!

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  3. I can't say enough about how amazing Heather's picture book critiques are. She's provided her expertise on many of my picture book manuscripts. I've never been disappointed. Her advice is very detailed and when I apply her wisdom, my stories have gone from good to great.

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  4. Thank you Brian. I always enjoy critiquing your picture books!

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  5. I apologize for asking this, but I am an art educator grades K-5 and I have written/illustrated a children's color theory book. How can I go about getting my book critiqued?

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  6. Hi Robert,
    No apologies necessary! You can email me about a critique by clicking on where it says "email me" in blue just above the information about critique prices in bold. Or you can click on "View my complete profile" in the top right sidebar on the page. There is a link to email me right under my photo. (I'd just give you my email address here but the spammers go crazy!) Then just let me know a little about your book and your word count and we can go from there.

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  7. Hello, I am a first time author with a children's book that needs a special literary agent and publisher . It is a children's book with a plush toy and packaging. Is this something that you have experience with? If not, would you know publishers that put out books with plush toys or literary agents with experience of this sort? I appreciate any help you can send my way. Thank you very much.

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    1. Agents work to sell manuscripts. Publishers publish books. In general, you need to write a great picture book manuscript, find that publisher who wants to publish the book (this can be through an agent or not), the book needs to stand on its own and do well. If these things happen, the other things may come. So, polish up that manuscript and pitch it without the extras.

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    2. Thank you for your help! I will work on it. Cheers

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  8. I've never seen this information on formatting your picture book manuscript, and I appreciate it greatly! My question is - how do you format it if you have pictures to go with it? Not illustrations, but pictures...Your advice is appreciated!

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    1. Sorry I missed this until now, Dancing Mom! Here is a post I think you will find helpful: https://subitclub.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/picture-book-dummies-for-not-dummies-with-sarah-frances-hardy-plus-a-giveaway/

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