First-Time Picture Book Author Cover Letters, Exposed! with Peter McCleery!

Hello! It’s been a long break, but I’m happy to be back for another post for 


Today we will be interviewing the soon to be published, picture book author


Hi Peter! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! I have been very excited about this post :)
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

A: BOB AND JOSS GET LOST (HarperCollins Fall 2016) is a picture book about two mismatched best friends who get shipwrecked on a deserted island. It’s a pretty silly book with lots of funny banter and jokes galore! It reminds people of classic buddy comedies. Think Abbot and Costello, Lucy and Dezi, Hope and Crosby. There is a long tradition of these kinds of books in children’s lit. Frog and Toad, George and Martha and more recently, Elephant and Piggie. They are some of my all-time favorite books and inspired BOB AND JOSS.

And since BOB AND JOSS was a two-book deal, there will be another Bob and Joss adventure out in 2017! And, hopefully, more after that!

That is so exciting! It definitely sounds like my kind of book. I can’t wait to read it

Q: How long have you been writing books for children?

A: I wrote my first draft of a children’s book about four or five years ago. It was (drum roll please…) meh. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. I had no idea what I was doing, really. Since then I’ve managed, off and on, to patch together enough time to write and write and write and read and read and read and get better. Somewhere in there BOB AND JOSS spilled onto the page. 

Good for you for keeping at it!

Q: How many picture book manuscripts did you write and submit before BOB AND JOSS GET LOST?

A: I’ve started a lot of manuscripts. Often you need to start writing your amazingly brilliant idea before you realize it’s a terrible idea. I do that. A lot. Sometimes I go back and salvage them. Sometimes I make it all the way through a first draft. And that’s very exciting! I’ve probably written a few dozen “complete” manuscripts. Interestingly, I actually wrote BOB AND JOSS fairly early on. Then I shelved it. I wasn’t sure what it was. I liked it, but it wasn’t your “typical” picture book. So I started submitting other stories. I had about 4-5 manuscripts that I was proud enough to submit. Then I dusted off BOB AND JOSS. I really liked it. I revised and expanded it a bit. (Because you can’t pull out an old manuscript without tinkering. It’s impossible!) In fact, in the cover letter you’ll notice that I refer to it as an “Early Reader/Chapter book. “ But after discussing it with my agent we realized Bob and Joss worked best as a picture book.

I have SO many of those manuscripts!

Q: Do you hate writing cover letters as much as I do (I hate writing them about as much as I hate shoveling snow)?

A: Actually, I kind of like writing them.  It might have helped that I used to work as an advertising copywriter where I learned to keep things simple and engaging. My secret? Have fun with it. My advice would be, don’t be too uptight. Yes, be professional, but more importantly, be yourself. 

Wonderful advice We can definitely lose ourselves a bit when we try to do everything by the book.

Q: How many cover letters did you write for BOB AND JOSS GET LOST before you found the winning one?

A: Just the one. I tweaked it a bit here and personalized it there, but the meaty center is the same. 


Q: What resources did you find helpful in writing your cover letter?

A: It’s hard to find info on writing cover letters for picture books. There're lots of information about writing query letters for longer works, but a cover letter is different since it usually goes with the entire manuscript.  Let’s face it, the cover letter is not going to win over the agent or editor. It’s all about the manuscript. That said, a good cover letter can add a little “extra sauce” so that the agent or editor can see you are a pro and that you have a personality. My advice would be to have your critique group take a look at it. There are also other forums online that you can post and get feedback. SCBWI blueboards and Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 are two that come to mind.

Yes! I had a really hard time finding information myself, but luckily it seems as though the demand for information has encouraged people to provide more resources. 

Q: How many agents/publishers did you send the cover letter and manuscript to for BOB AND JOSS GET LOST before you found your agent?

A: I think I sent out BOB AND JOSS out into the world maybe four times. That’s not a lot. After I wrote it, I sent it out twice as a picture book but then shelved it for a long time. It was always one of my favorite things I had written and was a perfect reflection of who I am as a writer. One day I saw that Heather Alexander, a former editor and newly turned agent, had posted on Twitter that she was looking for “smartfunny books.” I thought BOB AND JOSS fit that description so I sent it off. A few days later I signed with Heather and Pippin Properties.

Fantastic! Keeping an eye out for the right fit is always important.

Q: Are you currently working on any additional picture book manuscripts that we should look forward to?

A: I am always working on picture book manuscripts. All of them in various stages of development. I have a few that I’m very excited to share with the world, so hopefully they’ll be on bookshelves soon! I’m also working on a middle-grade novel.  

Thank you so much for sharing your amazing and inspirational story! I can’t wait to read BOB AND JOSS GET LOST and to see what else you come up with! We will definitely keep an eye out for you in our local books stores, online, and, of course, in libraries!

And now, the for the wonderful, fantastic, amazing, stupendous…okay, okay, just remember that this cover letter has helped Peter get his agent and eventually a six figure deal with HarperCollins! Pay close attention people!

My mind just exploded. This cover letter is fantastic and also a bit different from the others we’ve seen here so far. I think that’s a good thing, as it shows that not every cover letter is the same because not every writer is the same. Not every agent is the same. Not every publisher is the same. 

Peter obviously did a great job in keeping the cover letter professional while also injecting a bit of his humorous personality, which might be a good idea if you are submitting a humorous book…

Let’s look more closely shall we? The intro is brief and professional introducing the book, word count, and genre. 
Peter then moves on to the “personal” bit which tells the agent why he is submitting to them, but doesn’t oversell or stay there too long. 

Then, he goes on to a brief intro to the book while giving examples of popular comparable works. 
His summary is fantastic. The voice is playful and allows the reader to easily imagine the wacky relationship between these two besties. 

Here is something I haven’t seen before…the addition of possible titles to follow in a SERIES with short summaries! Fabulously bold! I’ve heard you shouldn’t do this, but this really works for Peter. After reading the summary for BOB AND JOSS, I want to know that their duo will live on, and obviously so did the agent and publisher.

And lastly, here is the bit I always have trouble previous publishing credits!  This gives me hope :)

Gread job, Peter! Congratulations again, and good luck with everything!

You can follow Peter by visiting his website at or follow him on twitter @pmccleery

Well, that’s all for now. 

Thanks for reading! 

Happy writing!

And I hope you have an eggtastic Easter Sunday!!!




  1. Thanks for sharing this Peter and Carissa! I want to read those books.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I like the humor and professional tone in this cover letter

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