What I always wished I could see would be query letter examples of books that 'made it' - you know, show me Stephen King's query letter for 'Carrie,' show me Alcott's query letter for 'Little Women,' show me a query letter for any of Oprah's books (which may or may not have deserved to make it, but that's neither here nor there). It's instructive because of what the authors leave out, much more than what they put in, you know? For all I know there's a website that does this, or a book of published ones, but I've never heard of any. If you have, would love to see it! Thanks!
I like your blog--thanks for sharing your insights. Here's my question: you say you put aside 5% in the "maybe" stack. There's so much info out there to warn the clueless, but very little for those people who are almost there, but not quite. I'm thinking of the ones getting full requests, getting comments back, yet ultimately end up with a pass. Could you explain a little about the line between YES! and We-e-e-ll, not quite?
I get a lot of emails asking me to present a query that worked, and I've never done it. A couple of reasons:
(1) We generally do not keep them around.
(2) That would be a violation of copyright, as the author of the letter has a copyright on the letter.
(3) It's not very polite to do to the author.
(4) It wouldn't help you.
Once again, the basic query format is 2-3 paragraphs telling us what your book is about in a way that makes it sound awesome, and the last paragraph contains some technical information about the book and any writing credentials you may have. It isn't any more complicated than that.
I put a query in the maybe pile because it does just that: It makes the book idea seem interesting, or at least, would seem interesting to my boss (she has different tastes than I do, but for the purposes of my job, only her tastes are relevant). Me posting a query that got her attention because the author had a good idea would not help you very much because it doesn't help you with your idea, which I presume is different. Only you have the power to write a great book and then summarize it so well it sounds like we have to read it, and no amount of reading other people's book ideas is going to help you do that.