The most important job your query can do is make me want to read your book. Sure, I make it sound easy, but here’s something I see way too much of that’s easy to fix:
It’s not that I mind a book with a lot of emotional turmoil and internal drama. As Stephen King so rightly pointed out in On Writing, our lives don’t have plots. I’m looking for women’s fiction, and this is a genre that tends to be more focused on emotional journeys and family stories.
Too often, I see queries that I end up passing on because they don’t tell me about any particular, life-shaping events that happen in the book. Our lives might not have plots, but your book needs something that at least resembles one. Queries will say things like, “Jane Smith realizes that she has to forgive her mother in the end.” The problem with this is that emotional development doesn’t equal plot. A book isn’t much fun to read when people are just sitting around talking. (I’ve seen a fair number of mysteries in the slush that open this way as well.) Your book doesn’t have to have an Eat Pray Love level of travel or high-stakes international escapades, but as the agent reading your query, I want to see something that will excite me, something that will make me want to invest time and emotion in your characters.
As you edit your query, check the verbs that explain the crux of your plot: If they’re ones that happen while a person is sitting down (realizes, sees, falls in love, understands), that’s not as exciting to read about. Let me know how the main character has to put him/herself on the line in order for the plot to happen. We all have to leave our houses sometime. Show me how that happens, and how it affects your main character.