The first query I opened had a problem: no pages.
My submissions guidelines (designed to make sure you know what I want) always say "include the first 3-5 pages." Most people do this.
This fellow did not. But, he had a concept that wasn't an instant rejection. The writing wasn't great, but then I never want to decide yes/no based on queries alone because I think queries can be harder to write than novels. (One of the MANY reasons I ask for pages.)
Instead of saying no to the query at this point (my normal reply) I noticed the author had written an earlier book. I looked it up on Amazon, and availing myself of the "look inside" feature, read the first pages.
And then I wrote the rejection.
What's your takeaway from this? Three things:
1. Notice I didn't ruthlessly discard the query for "not following the submission guidelines." Honestly I don't care overmuch if you follow them or not. The reason submission guidelines exist is to give you information about what I need to evaluate your work. If you don't send what I need, well, ok, sayonara sasquatch.
2. Notice I looked at the previous book. I decided his new project wasn't getting a request based on the writing in the previous novel. If you're ok with that, well, so am I.
3. Notice I didn't email the writer back asking for pages. That's because the query came by mail. I'm never going to tell you not to query by email, but querying on paper means you're the least likely querier to hear back from me with ANYTHING but a form rejection. If you query by email, and you're writing something I don't take on, chances are I'll email back to say "sorry, I don't take on adult westerns." When you query by mail, the only thing I'm going to say is "sorry not for me."