This morning, instead of starting chapter 6 of my current novel, I'm revising a query letter for my finished novel which I'm marketing to agents and small presses. I've used the same query template for the past couple years, and I felt like it needed to read more contemporary more to today's standards of query presentation.
For some query enlightenment I browsed over to my old friend Query Shark. Query Shark is a working agent's blog to which writers submit real query letters. QS critiques certain ones, giving the poop, the scoop, and the 411 about what she loves, hates, and needs in a query. For writers at the getting-a-book-published stage, her advice (I think it's a her) is essential.
I trolled through the critiques and came across this great piece of query writing advice from the mighty shark herself, which concisely explains what a query should do:
"I think of queries as a bit like what figure skaters used to have to do in the Olympics: compulsory figures. Skaters were required to perform a series of figures, and were judged solely on accuracy not artistry. There is a photo somewhere of a judge measuring a line in the ice with a ruler!
The resemblance of queries to compulsories is this: you have to get the basics down in the query. Your artistry shows in your pages. Yes your voice comes through in your query. Yes there is style there. But mostly you've got to communicate some basic info: what the book is about, and the stakes involved."