The following is a list of dislikes and warnings I noted from panel discussions with Maggie Lehrman, Noa Wheeler, and Jill Dembowski at the SCBWI Carolinas Polishing Your Picture Book Conference this weekend.
1. No scatological humor
2. No mentioning rave reviews from kids who have heard your story
3. Do not handwrite your story or send it from one of your characters.
4. No didactic stories
5. No queries (instead, a brief cover letter and your picture book)
6. No comparing your book to Harry Potter
7. The parents who buy your picture book will hate you if it has 2,000 words (keep it closer to 500).
8. Don't discuss marketing in your letter.
9. Don't introduce too many characters at once.
10. Don't use the word child (It's an angry adult word).
11. Unless you're an illustrator, try not to include illustrator notes.
12. They are tired of grandparent stories written for grandparents.
13. If you dare to send a barnyard story, a story about a princess who wants to do something else, or a when I grow up I want to be... book it had better be fresh and great to stand out. These topics are overused.
14. No funky fonts (Times New Roman is preferred)
15. No cold calls