I had to look at the email to make sure it wasn't spam and from the first glowing sentence, I knew I was in the presence of someone who could really REALLY write.
Her query did the ONE thing it needed to: it enticed me to read the book. It enticed me to read something that might not be finished, on a topic I normally hide under my desk to avoid.
And earlier this week I got a query that was a total disaster in paragraph one, and got better in paragraph two but not until the final sentence did it hook my interest. And it did. One sentence. At the end. And it did what a query letter needed to do: enticed me to read the project.
I mention this because many of you are getting the idea that your query letter has to be "perfect" to elicit a YES, SEND from an agent. There are a number of sites (my QueryShark included) that show you how to polish and hone queries. Workshops and conferences abound with presentations on How To Write The Perfect Query. You can buy six books on the subject without leaving your desk chair if you click on any writing reference section of an online bookstore.
But the unvarnished truth is this: good writing and enticing concepts trump form. Almost every time.
It doesn't hurt to polish your query. It's better that you do. But it's not a checklist. You can make mistakes; you can break rules and still get YES, SEND from me.
I'm always looking for that one project that makes me forget it's raining and I have to go to work on a crowded subway in five minutes. I'm always looking for the one project that makes me want to stay home and read it NOW.
I can and do overlook all sorts of "mistakes" when the writing is brilliant or the concept is hot.
Every agent I know feels the same way.