A recent batch of queries produced the following:
(1) Query opens with a rhetorical question that makes me lose all interest in the book
How you will avoid that: do not open your query with a rhetorical question. If anyone advises you to do this, ignore them.
(2) Query had someVERY undeft sentences that are intended to be compliments but fail. Not enough about the book to get me past the idea this author will be an ass-hat.
How you will avoid this: being cheeky in a query is great if you know someone. Blog readers that comment often (Colin Smith, I see you!) can get away with "Hey Snookums" or the equivalent. Almost no one else should try this. You don't know if I'm reading your query at the end of a long tiring day when humor just hits me the wrong way. Do Not Chance It. Be professional.
The purpose of a query is two-fold: tell me about your book and show me you are not an ass-hat.
(3) Word count problem: too short.
How you will avoid this: be familiar with the word count requirements of your category. I'm more likely to look at things that are too long than things that are too short. Too long can be pared. Too short means you finished a book and didn't see what was missing.
(4) List of events but no plot.
How you will avoid this: Get plot on the page. Unless you have the choice the hero faces, and what's at stake for him/her with that choice, you do not have plot on the page. No plot is almost always an automatic pass.
(5) So abstract as to be uninteresting.
How you will avoid this: For starters, name your characters. I read a query advice book that said not to. That advice is so bad it should come with criminal charges. Name your characters and be specific about the FIRST choice they need to make. You don't need to list every event in the book. just entice me to read more.
(6) Characters are one-dimensional, and the plot is something from a 70's movie.
How you will avoid this: Watch for descriptions that are hyperbolic: billionaire, sadistic, super hacker, former Miss America now a Navy Seal, world's best (anything). Jack Reacher is a big, highly competent guy. He also has flaws and if you asked him to describe himself he probably wouldn't start with "world class marksman" even though he is. If one of your characters introduced themselves with the words you use to describe them, would you want to keep talking to them or would you roll your eyes at their self-importance?
(7) self-aggrandizing bio that is very off-putting
How you will avoid this: Don't tell me anything in your bio that can't be verified. "Nominated for an Edgar" doesn't mean the publisher sent your book for consideration. Same with the Pushcart Prize. And I don't care if you were first in your class at the LakeWoebegon School of Writing and Beet Farming. I've heard everyone there is above average.
The good news: 2 requested fulls!