Dear Mr. Lukeman, Your books are among my favorite writing references. As I prepare my query letter, your advice on the topic has been particularly useful. I've composed a personal query that I feel reflects the type of novel I have written. Yet, frequently I've come across emphatic advice to place the hook in the first paragraph, leading with such phrasing as "When Jane Doe is faced with (random compelling crisis)" or the like. My tastes lean toward literary fiction, and when I imagine phrasing my query leading with a hook, it doesn't suit my story. In your query letter book, you mentioned how conflicting the advice is on the subject. Is it due to genre preference perhaps? Do you consider this type of format more typically used with manuscripts of commercial fiction?
It is impossible to say, to speak in generalities, without having a chance to read your query letter specifically. In every case it will be different.
The most important thing to realize here is that query letters are limited; you only have finite space. They are also showcases for writers to exhibit their talent with word economy and with their ability to grip a reader in just a few sentences. On any given day at a major literary agency, hundreds of queries might arrive. Yours must stand out. Not in a cheap, gimmicky way. But in an organic way, one reflective of you and your writing. That said, it is not a passive letter--it must be an active one, one that appreciates how much is at stake, and how much must be accomplished in a short period of time. Remember what Mark Twain said:
"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."