It is incredible how everything you dream about depends on a one page letter. You could write the greatest novel ever but if your query stinks, no one will ever read your novel.
What Is It?
The sole purpose of the query is to “hook” the agent into requesting the first three chapters or better yet, the entire manuscript. If it takes you longer than a page to get your point across as to why they should read your book, then you are doing something wrong.
Agents are inundated with queries: hundreds come through their inbox everyday. They want you to get to the point. Every word counts and there is no room for being superfluous.
The query letter to an agent should be divided into three parts.
The first part is the hook. It is one sentence and it tells what your book is about. If you cannot come up with a one sentence hook about your book, then you need to go back to the drawing board.
The second paragraph will mention the title, the genre and the word count followed by a brief description of your book. This is basically the blurb, or what you would see on the back cover of a book. It should mention some kind of conflict.
Finally the third paragraph will list all of your publishing history from magazine articles, to previous books published to your blog to contests won. Include it all, it counts. Where possible, post links to where you can be found on the web (makes it easy for the agent to find you).
The Importance of Research
Do not forget to research the website of the agent you are querying. Follow their directions explicitly. Spell their name right. Check that they are accepting submissions at the time that you are querying. Make sure they represent the genre you are writing in. Do they want snail mail or email queries? Proofread for spelling and grammatical errors; the last thing you want is your query rejected due to grammar mistakes and misspellings. The thought is that if the query is riddled with mistakes, then so will the manuscript.
Here are some links to queries that opened the doors for their writers:
If you follow the basic directions, do your research, proofread your letter and study winning query letters, there is no reason why you cannot write one yourself. You are a writer after all.