Diving into the incoming queries is one of my favorite things to do. A well-written query with enticing pages is one of the great joys of this job. Ineffective queries, not so much.
Here are some new ways you've found to be ineffective recently:
1. Forward. Never forward a query. Particularly do not forward if you got a bounce-back from me when you got my email wrong. If the first thing I see is the bounce back notice, I'm confused.
You want to look professional. We all make screwy errors on email addresses. Open a new email, and start fresh with correct info.
2. Describe my role in the publication process incorrectly. "I'd like you to help me publish my book" demonstrates you either don't know what an agent does, or don't know how to write well. This error doesn't stop me from reading, but it alerts me that you're likely to be someone who will need extra work. I do not like extra work. I do not like it at all.
You don't need to tell me what you want me to do with your query. I know that already.
3. Add a prologue to your query.
"Please find included below my query letter accompanied by the first five pages of chapter 1 as per your submission requirements."
Just send the query. You don't need to tell me it's a query. After this many years in the business, I recognize them pretty easily.
4. Be unclear about whether your book is fiction or non-fiction. If you're busy telling me how you came to write this, and what events prompted your book, I still don't have an idea if it's a novel or something else. If I don't know by the end of the query, I send you a form rejection.
5. Tell me the book can be considered "either fiction or narrative non-fiction".
No. It can't.
6. Tell me you self-published your book but now you want to reach a bigger audiencee. If you didn't reach a big enough audience with a self-pubbed book, no one is interested in taking it on now. Self-pubbed books that find traditional publishing deals have compelling sales numbers.
7. Include the instructions or guidelines from the site where you found my name in your query...and then don't follow them.
Example: Recognition of the agent’s guidelines, client list, and why they are a good fit for the novel. Ask if they would like to see the whole manuscript.
This is just plain old bad proof-reading. It bodes ill for your manuscript.
Bottom line: there's more good work out there than I can take on. All things being equal I want to work with someone who is prepared, meticulous, and has invested some time in learning about the industry. EVERY AGENT WANTS THIS.