Don't skip the query letter. Some writers make the mistake of sending their sample pages in place of a query letter because they find the query too difficult to write. You wrote an entire manuscript. You can write a query. Literary agents don't have time to read all the sample pages they receive and if you fail to send a query, your submission might end up unread and discarded. There went your chance.
Don't forget your contact information and the date. You want a formal format:
1402 20th Street
Kansas City, KS 12345
September 19, 2014
Kringle Literary Agency
2463 58th Street, Suite 302
New York, NY 10001
Dear Ms. Knapp,
A basic query letter is made up of four essential components:
An Opening Line
The opening line, also known as the hook is meant to catch the reader's eye, pique their interest and keep them reading. Most agents frown on questions as the hook. Example of a bad hook: Have you ever wondered what it would be like ...
The mini synopsis. I've read a couple different viewpoints on what makes a good mini synopsis. One author/literary agent said to keep this paragraph to three sentences. How can you get the plot into three sentences you ask. It's not easy, but it's doable. He further explained to leave any names out of the query. If you add names that distracts the agent because now they have to store away a name. The author/literary agent's book is packed full of information and great advice, although I'm not a big fan of the three sentence synopsis. I tried it out. I sent one query letter using his advice and received a rejection the following day. That's a record as far as my query replies go. So my advice is: keep your mini synopis to the recommended 250 - 300 words and make every word count. Focus on the main plot, settting, and characters, but don't introduce any more than two characters. Let the agent know what your main character is facing, what's at stake and the choices they will have to make.
Author bio. Again this is an area I've read different points of view. Some say if you have nothing to show, then skip the bio. What you include in this section is totally up to you, but I'd caution against hobbies or anything unrelated to writing. Some agents don't mind reading about your obsession with chocolate or that you're the official cookie-baker your son's t-ball team. But unless your manuscript specifically pertain's to chocolate, baking or t-ball I'd leave it out. Your query letter should be a formal introduction to a professional literary agent, not a Hey Buddy! What are you up to today? However, if you've been published in magazines or any other form, do tell and be specific. If you've won any writing contest or if you have any expertise in the subject of your book. Some agents request a bio, even if you've never been published. They want you to tell them about yourself. So always read the agent's submission guidelines and follow them closely.
Appreciation. I will repeat how important it is to follow the agent's submission guidelines one more time, and don't forget to say thank you. Something as simple as: Thank you for your time and consideration. If the submission guidelines request sample pages or your synopsis this can read along the lines of: Per your agency's submission guideline, I have included the first ten pages of my manuscript below. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Check your spelling and spell the agent's name correctly. Don't fret too much. You will do great! Good Luck!