I was once a lucky intern for a fabulous agent. I read so many queries, my head swam in them. However, as I write my own query for my latest book, I had a few thoughts.
First of all, a well written query should reflect the manuscript in voice, quality and tone. It should reveal that ultimate sparkle that makes the manuscript different and unique from all the thousands of queries out there. Most of all, it should create a desire, that ultimate NEED to make an agent drool and ask for reading material. This doesn't always happen. It's frustrating for writers and agents alike. For example:
As I read through queries, I often wondered if the query was written before the book, or well after the book was finished and the plot forgotten. Did the writer get a brilliant idea in writing the query and then forget to add it to the book? Many times, the book and the query were everything from slightly off kilter to completely different, only sharing character names and locations for commonality. Other times it felt as if the query was written by someone else. As in, the voice of the query was alien to the book.
And we writers wonder why agents roast our queries on a pike and use our words in voodoo effigy to inflict pain. Rejection is the ultimate revenge. I should know, I wrote several.
Think of it this way:
I graced a high-end organic grocery store today. I usually don't bother because they are grossly overpriced compared to what I can get at the regular pesticide doused store down the street. However, the Organic Mecca was touted as being so fabulous (and I am so anti about spending big bucks on food), it wouldn't hurt to go and take a look. Oh no. So wrong.
This place smells all fresh and farmish with it's homey colors and rustic decorations. Nothing about it smelled like dirty feet or bleached floors and everywhere I looked, words washed over me like a sirens call. Whole wheat, hand picked organic, gluten free, naturally cultivated... It was hypnotic. So much so that I plunked down fifty bucks for some pretty looking veggies and a seriously inflated bag of trail mix that claimed to be a "Probiotic Blend".
I came to my senses at home when I opened my fridge and was slammed with the fact that my pretty veggies looked just like the cheaper version in the crisper and the trail mix... oh the blessed trail mix! Looked everything like the other junk I buy for five bucks less.
The point? If you are going to go to the bother of being "all that" in a query, your book had better deliver. If the frustration of writing a query has stolen your voice, then think in terms of food.
Step one: Find that ultimate ingredient that makes your book unique (find YOUR "Probiotic Blend" trail mix) then...
Step two: Mix said special ingredient in with the complimenting flavors for a richer bouquet (I also bought 80% coco dark chocolate that put me in a coma just by smelling it. It HAD to be bought).
Step three: Create an environment that not only reflects your book, but sells it. Become Organic Mecca, where even the cheapest penny pincher (aka agents) will drool over your offering.
Step four: If your query is an ad for Organic Mecca, the book had better back it up 100% and be THE Organic Mecca.
And now I am going to go and munch on my intestinal friendly trail mix and work on my manuscript. I have a query to uphold!