Okay, fine, it's not that bad. But it's surprisingly hard. Different agents have different standards and preferences, and the purpose of the query is completely different from the manuscript itself. When you're writing a manuscript, you're telling the story. But when you're writing a query letter, you're selling the story. And yes, I do find myself quite clever.
So what are the differences?
I'm no query expert, but I think the biggest difference between the query letter and the actual manuscript is what trips up most writers. The query letter is a marketing piece for your book - it's like the back cover copy. It's meant to boil the plot down to the most essential and exciting elements, and leave just enough of a hook that the agent wants to know more. I think it's hard sometimes for us to separate ourselves from the story enough to step back and look at it in a business context, but if you're querying that's exactly what you have to do. It's not pleasure anymore, it's not personal fun, it's a business proposition. Your book will help people pay their mortgages, and not just your own, so you've got to learn how to sell the experience.
I've perused the archives of Query Shark, read sample queries of authors who have landed agents, read sample structured query letters, and I see the same things over and over. Writers giving too much backstory, writers trying to include too many storylines, writers not recognizing the hook in their own story. The query is not just about "here's the plot of my book." It's "here's enough interesting stuff about my book with good voice that you want to request more."
Think of it like a date - do you tell someone on a first date where you went to middle school and high school and how you have an uncle with diabetes and you once had an addiction to caffeine pills and here's every favorite album you've ever had? (Please say no) No, you tell them the interesting bits, just enough of the story to get to date number two. Once you're on date number two they're bought in and you can roll out the caffeine addiction.
What about you? Have you written a query letter? Did you also feel like you needed a cookie after the first (second, third, nine-hundredth) draft? Do you have a different take on queries?