I'm a member of a few FB writers' groups that offer help and assistance on querying and writing queries. In most of them, at least once or twice a week, aspiring writers will ask:
"Will you please take a look at my query and see if it's OK?"
And almost always, unless the writer has done the following super-simple (but time-consuming) step, the answer is unequivocally: "No."
Is is NOT your opportunity to tell the agent you were inspired by your grandparents or a dream or while choking on a half-cooked hard ravioli at your favorite Italian restaurant.
It is NOT your opportunity to tell the agent this is your first book, you really, really would appreciate it if they'd read it before the mortgage payment is due, because...you're in a hurry.
This is advert copy, folks. Keep it simple, short, to the point and never, ever, not for one instant, forget you're selling your novel. Period. Give enough detail to interest an agent in the first pages you've attached to Query Manager or pasted below your query email. That's it.
You have to attract the attention of an agent who's email box is vomiting queries. If your query does that, then rest assured you'll sink or swim based on your pages, instead of your query.
The next most common question is, "How do I find an agent to query?"
Sign up for Query Tracker (same folks who run Query Manager). Beware: You can get lost in data analysis on this site. It's great for finding agents and having an idea of who responds quickly or never (as in "silence is a rejection"). And, of course, for keeping track of your submissions, if you can't or don't want to create an Excel spreadsheet to do it for yourself.
Then I found a truly useful site, someone who'd done the data analysis for about 600 agents: Carissa Taylor. LOVE THIS SITE! She'll even walk you through how to find agents with far more links and suggestions than I have the patience to replicate here. She's also got 500 agents' Twit handles for you to stalk (no, not really, just query-stalking). Nice, eh?
And as always, do some -- a bit, just a modicum -- of research before you shoot off that query email. Visit each agency's web site, figure out what's required for submission guidelines and who's open to submissions.
Also great for that "personalization" line in your query is The Official Manuscript Wish List. Here you can find out what agents are really looking for, but again, you can get lost on this site, so use it judiciously. Sometimes, if what you've written is rather obscure, or you haven't been able to find comparable titles, it may be best to just look for agents who represent works in your genre and go from there.
Got more querying tips? Favorite sites that help? Share them and leave a comment!