Queries are God’s way of saying, “I’m not done playing tricks with the human race.” Let’s face it, take a 400-page book and distill it down into one page? Capture both the humor and pathos, the brilliant revelations and tragic stumbles?
Imagine Omelet, a novel: A depressed, perhaps crazed Dane whose father’s died of suspicious circumstances discovers that his mother has married his uncle who is implicated in the death of his father particularly after his father’s ghosts tells him he was killed by his brother—Hamlet’s uncle. Moping around the castle incapable of making decisions and succumbing to long, self-flagellating monologues, Hamlet is either crazy or pretending to be crazy to take revenge—that is if he can find the energy to take revenge.
His girl friend, Ophelia tries to help, is rebuffed, and told to go a nunnery. After demonstrating that she too can go crazy, she decides against the nunnery—apparently not a good Christian girl, and she jumps off a tree into a river and drowns herself. Her brother vows revenge. Her father gives useless advice.
Hamlet stages a play wherein he’ll catch the conscience of the king—the new king, his uncle. He overdoes it. His uncles exits, stage left, howling. Then Hamlet has his two best friends killed, and Tom Stoppard writes an award-winning play from their perspective.
Hamlet confronts his mother in what comes close to an incestuous encounter but the censors won’t let the author take the scene far enough to provide an answer.
Then Hamlet and Ophelia’s brother duel, but Hamlet doesn’t know that the brother’s sword is secretly dipped in poison. Hamlet is wounded. A fight ensues and they switch swords and the brother is wounded. Hamlet then stabs the king. The mother drinks wine laced with poison that was intended for Hamlet. Anyone of substance at this point is dead or dying.
Hamlet’s last words: “The rest is silence.”
Be honest—if you were an agent, would you represent this book? (Actually, told this way, it’d make a great comedy, so, sure, you’d take it on as a comedy, but as a tragedy? Nah.) Now that I think of it, maybe I should write the book.
The point is, queries may make agents' lives easier because they only have to read one page—but they tell you virtually nothing about the book. I’ll bet they already know that.
And don’t even get me started on synopses.