I'm nearing completion on a memoir-in-blog-form, which, with a little work, could easily be reworked into a book manuscript. I've contacted one agency so far; I'm waiting to hear from them before I approach others.
The submission guidelines for the agency I've already approached request just a short paragraph summarizing the subject of the proposed book. However, I've been looking at sample queries, and I've noticed that many of them provide a detailed, blow-by-blow account of the plot, beginning to end.
For future reference, do you suggest a brief overview, or a detailed plot description? The memoir I've been working on is very much a story, rather than a "this-is-what's-happened-in-my-life-so-far" kind of thing, and I could easily provide the entire plot, but it strikes me that that's overkill in an initial query letter.
What are your thoughts? Does it simply depend on who you're querying?
I don't know what sample queries you were looking at, but in general, a blow-by-blow account of the plot is a terrible thing to do in a query. The object of the summation of the book is to entice the agent the same way a book jacket summary would entice the reader - and book jacket summaries don't summarize the plot. They just make it sound like something you would want to read.
The best thing to focus on in that 1-3 paragraph summation is the conflict of the book (known as the "hook"), because it's conflict that makes books interesting, in fiction anyway. An example of this would be: "A factory worker wakes up one morning to discover he has transformed into a bug." I don't know how to go on summarizing that because it's been a while since I read Kafka, and I'm pretty sure he dies at the end, but the point is - guy turns into bug. Okay. That's interesting. You don't see that every day. Now tell me where you're going to go with it - in terms of making the book interesting.