I'm working on my query letter. Typical format is like this:
Greeting, wherein you spell the agent's name right, use Mr. or Ms. correctly, and follow the name with the more formal and professional colon, rather than comma.
Three short paragraphs (no more than about half a page) of book description, wherein you give away as much of the book as possible.
Professional credits or experience that qualifies you to write the book, word count, and sometimes a list of similar books already in the genre.
A closing that gives your name and contact info.
Right now, I'm trying to hammer out that second paragraph, the book description. This is what I have so far:
As kids, Terri and her sister were just alike: wild women with Hollywood dreams. Now in her early thirties, Terri has become a housewife and a mommy, and baking bread for extra cash has given her a doughy ring around the middle. Her sister's been murdered.
In order to ease the pain, Terri seeks to relive the crazy youth she and her sister had shared. She starts pulling what she terms "heists"--minor break-ins and the like--and is having a blast, despite the strain she's causing to her marriage.
That's when she meets Chris, her sister's dangerous and seductive ex-lover. She's being drawn in, even as her husband is demanding that she end her double life and come back to being a full time wife and mother. Ultimately, she chooses her husband, but by then seduction has turned into stalking, and Terri learns too late that Chris was more than her sister's lover. He was her killer.
I'm not happy with it because it doesn't show what the main character actually does to resolve this problem; it's all set up. I feel that the background is important--I don't know how the rest could have full impact without it--and yet, I'm already at the appropriate length and I like the way this reads.
This is what the good folks at Absolute Write call "the query-go-round". :)