Now that I'm ready to start approaching agents with my manuscript, I have to accomplish a couple of tasks that I've never enjoyed: writing a query letter and writing a synopsis. The synopsis isn't so bad; it's just a compressed retelling of the story, about a paragraph per chapter or so. I find query letters inherently discouraging, though. I could have written the next great American novel, a work of such beauty and perfection that it would top the bestselling charts for the next century, but if my query letter doesn't stand out above everyone else's query letter, my masterpiece is going nowhere.
I expect I should regard the query letter as an opportunity to demonstrate my writing skills, by forcing me to convey a compelling story idea in 250 words or less. However, I expect that every literary agency is deluged with query letters, and it seems to me that even if I have a snappy query letter, I have to catch the right agent on the right moment of the right day in order to get a note back asking me to see the whole manuscript for review.
So I'm skimming web site such as Query Shark for tips and to-do's (and more importantly, things not to do), polishing my 250 words, and crossing my fingers.