Everything I mentioned thus far on this blog–crafting a good first line, keeping description simple, hooking me right away in a query–are standards I judge queries by. I have to sort a lot of queries quickly, and these basic measures are nearly always enough to tell me if you’re good.
I know on occasion good authors slip by. For every book, I read the entire query (unless it’s really bad) and the first paragraphs of the sample. If I’m confused by either, I peruse the synopsis.
But in the end, agents (and their assistants) make snap judgments about books based on limited information. I don’t have time to read the full 400 sample pages that come in each day, let alone 40 full novels.
Today I rejected one manuscript because the first sentence was too long and flowery. When the rest of the first page proved the same, I sent a rejection. Another manuscript received a rejection because I’ve seen all its concepts before and nothing stuck out as original.
Sometimes I feel shallow.
I wish I could give (some of) you more time and attention. But that’s what the query stage is for: sorting out chaff so good queries will be read in full.
So yes, I judge your entire novel based on 2-3 pages of information. I have to. That’s why you need to make your query shine.