Michael discusses the basics of writing a query letter.
Address it however you address letters. Obviously, email requires different treatments. What you see here is more traditional. All that matters is that the contact information is clear.
I always prefer the first paragraph to:
(a) tell me of any personal connection (you know someone who knows me, saw me at a conference, or read an interview);
(b) to quickly tell me what kind of book is being submitted (genre, age range, any other positioning); and
(c) a sense of the writer’s accomplishments and memberships, if any.
The second paragraph is where I look for a short summary of the story itself. People will advise you to write this like the back cover of the paperback your your book, but that can be a difficult art. Mostly what I look for is a sense of where the story is going, what sort of goals the book has, (do the author’s aims fit the genre? is the author moralistic? and so on).
If I like the first 20 pages, this is where I go for reassurance that the rest of the book follows through.
I look for the third paragraph to tell me the length of the manuscript, whether or not I have it exclusively and for how long, and how the author prefers to hear from me.
Don’t forget to proofread! Is it Archie or Artie? If you’re serious about your work, you’ll be serious about presenting it and yourself well.
And that’s it. Really, the letter is what most agents read after they’e read the pages and decided whether it works for them. The letter is where we find out more about someone we’re interested in representing.