Today's SeCrit is going to be a little different. Instead of critiquing a user-submitted query, we're going to break apart one of our own successful queries and attempt to help you see how and why it worked. Below is Stefanie Gaither's original query, which had about a 2/3 request rate and resulted in multiple offers.
Okay, here we go!
[This first paragraph was pretty standard across all the queries Stef sent. Short, sweet, and to the point. A lot of people will make a big deal about bending over backwards to get really specific in the personalization and show that you've spent hours and hours
stalking researching the agent. Which you should research, definitely. But if you've targeted your queries well enough (that is, you know it's definitely something the agent will want to read) then it should speak for itself--no elaborate declarations of love or personalizations necessary. In short: stop stressing over this. Story is most important.]
[This is the "hook" paragraph. Its purpose is to make the agent/editor sit up and pay attention, the same way the first line in the manuscript should do. Notice all of the things just these two sentences establish: character(s), the fact that this is sci-fi (as implied by the "replacement" bit), world-building and voice-- the non-nonchalant bit about the cards was a way of using voice to show that, in Cate and Violet's world, this "replacing" is commonplace. You have only so many words to work with in a query, so they should ALL count, and pull double-duty whenever possible. Actually, that's just a good rule of well-paced writing in general.]
[This paragraph builds on the intrigue established in the hook. At this point, you've (hopefully) already caught the reader's attention, so you can afford to elaborate a bit without worrying about losing them. If Stef had started with this paragraph, it probably would not have been as effective. This paragraph is important in its own right, though, because in sci-fi, worldbuilding is incredibly important-- so your query should demonstrate some level of it. Notice that it stays central to the characters, though, and includes only the worldbuilding necessary for developing the hook. There is a ton of other cool sci-fish stuff in the book, of course, but the query isn't the place to discuss that.]
[This last paragraph is purposefully vague, hinting at a bigger story and more complications to come.]