Yesterday I posted a 13 point rant on what I found in my slush pile that made me quite cross.
I've been reading your comments.
Some of you feel I'm too harsh.
Let's have a basic review of what your query letter does:
1. It is the first piece of your writing I read.
2. It talks persuasively about the book you'd like me to read
3. It tells me the first things I'm going to know about you.
This is not the place for "good enough". It's certainly not the place to think "I've seen very badly edited actual books so why is Miss Snark in an uproar about such petty details like the implication of the word 'bear'".
There are people in your office right now with a run in their stocking, unshined shoes, three weeks past due on a haircut and drenched in Eau de Gauloise, but that is NOT how they showed up for the interview that got them the job.
A query letter is like a job interview: put your best foot forward.
And remember, the default answer on query letters is NO. What I look for is something that makes me say YES. I assume from the start of ripping, reading and responding that I'm going to say no. You don't get dinged cause you think Missouri is in Central America. You didn't get chosen cause people who write that Missouri is in Central America don't know how to write well. Missouri in Central America is the visible symptom of the underlying systemic failure.
And if you didn't get the frog reference here's the lowdown: first, frogs being reptiles (ok, I'm wrong, you're right in the comments section/they're AMPHIBIANS) lay eggs. "Bear young" is pretty much a mammalian (NOT a frog like) thing. Second "entire species" hatching infertile offspring means instant extinction. It's also wrong. There is an increased incidence of frog infertility. See the difference? Not only is one right and the other wrong, one makes the point clearly and the other doesn't.
It ain't easy being green.