Tip: When Jeff says "agent", substitute "publisher". Then query us the right way.
First impressions are so important to a literary agent, especially when they receive hundreds of query letters a day. They're on auto-pilot and can click delete faster than you can blink an eye.
You've got to grab them and you've got to be cautious not to give them any reason to click delete.
I still can't believe I have to even mention this because to most, it seems so obvious but you'd be surprised how many query letters I see that have this fatal mistake:
"Dear Agent" or worse yet, "To whom it may concern ..."
Um, hello! Would you be interested in reading a letter that didn't address you by your name? It's bad enough to get those spam emails using our full legal name, but how much worse when they say, "Dear Friend" or something even more impersonal.
Literary agents (and publishers) are people first, and agents (or publishers) second. Treat them like a human being and they'll treat you like a human being.
Yes, they know you're querying other agents. They're not stupid, but they don't want to hear about it. It's kind of like when you're first dating someone. You know you're not exclusive yet but you don't want to hear them talk about the passionate hot steamy sex they had with someone else the night before. No, and the same goes for an agent. They want to be treated as special.
If you can make your query letter as personalized as possible, starting with using their name (not "Dear Agent") you'll be that much closer to landing an agent.
If you would like to see an example of query letters that worked, visit: http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com
Jeff Rivera is the founder of http://www.HowtoWriteaQueryLetter.com. He and his works have been featured or mentioned in Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, Mediabistro, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer, NPR and many other media outlets.