Here is the draft of the query letter that I sent out to prospective literary agents by far the most times (approximately 15). As of the date of this posting, it has garnered a dozen outright rejections, and is quickly approaching two months outstanding with the handful of agents who have still not replied (i.e. it’s probably dead with them too). And yet, despite its lack of success, I don’t think it’s actually a bad letter; my suspicion (as was confirmed by all those agents who were kind enough to provide personalized feedback) is that it was the subject matter of my manuscript that ultimately doomed my query with most of the folks who wound up taking a pass – not not the letter.
Which just goes to show you: your query letter can be well written, tick all the boxes in terms of the information it contains, paint a compelling picture of why you wrote your novel and… fail. Over, and over, and over again. The wild card, as always, is finding the right fit. Your letter may be a masterpiece, but if the underlying manuscript doesn’t excite the agent you’ve approached, the quality of its covering page won’t matter one iota.
(Which is not to say you should treat the query letter as a joke – you can most definitely bomb a query with a bad intro; just don’t fool yourself that there’s some magic formula that guarantees success.)