The query letter is a tool to gain permission to send your manuscript.
The cover letter accompanies the requested manuscript.
The query letter is a sales pitch.
The cover letter reconnects the agent/editor with the reason they requested the manuscript.
Every agent has his little quirks about how he prefers his query letter written. Some like comparisons, as in, “It’s Harry Potter meets The Duff.” Most would figuratively burn a query with a line like that.
You can’t please everybody.
Basically, a query goes like this:
First paragraph—The hook. Then the pitch.
Second paragraph (if needed)— Finishes the brief synopsis
Third paragraph—Why you targeted this agent/editor
Fourth paragraph—Your bio
A cover letter does not take nearly as much sweat:
First paragraph–Reminder the editor that she requested the manuscript, with the name, genre, word count and date requested
Second paragraph–Elevator pitch
Third paragraph–Thank you for your consideration
Even Easier Peasier.
Look. I know it feels like your whole life is riding on that “send” button, but it’s not. Some people will love your writing, some will hate it.
YES! SOME WILL HATE IT!
So what. Some people even hate J.K. Rowling, and she’s doing just fine.