Career Novelist wrote: With a 98% rejection rate among query letters, many writers will never even get their work in front of an industry professional. There is a gateway and that gateway is the query letter.
The query letter is the most important letter you will write, and though there is a lot of free advice floating around about how to write a query letter, most of it is the advice the 98% who are getting rejected are following.
Great post by Career Novelist, I agree 100% with everything written above. A well-written query letter should make agents want to represent you/your novel. If a query letter is truly great, you will have no problem getting an agent because agents are around to make money for themselves and a great query letter will convince them there is something worthwhile about your project.
I was sending out batches of query letters every couple weeks, getting rejections left and right. Along the way, I kept tinkering with the query letter to make it slightly better (adjustments I should have made before I started sending it out in the first place, but I thought it was ready before it actually was). After a while, my query letter kept getting slightly better until it was really good, and instead of getting only rejections, I was getting requests for partials or the full manuscript. Before long, I was signed up to a great literary agency.
Now, even with all of that said, my agent was unable to sell the manuscript to a publisher. But even so, she is still around, still offering free advice, and still encouraging me. She is convinced that if my first book, which was just self published, can do well, she has a very good chance of getting a publisher interested in my follow-up novel. And it is invaluable, even if you are self-publishing, to have someone familiar with the industry, giving you tips and advice the entire time.
I cannot stress enough the importance of a great query letter.