If you're writing a book (and really, these days, who isn't?), here's an event you might want to check out. Writer's Digest is hosting its first ever Editors' Intensive on December 13-14. For $199 you get a Golden Ticket into the F+W headquarters in Cincinnati, where you will attend workshops and have your manuscript or query letter critiqued by one of four WD editors. You'll learn how to find an agent, write a killer query letter, and more.
All this emphasis on writing query letters should tell you something: The pitch is everything. If you can hook me in one page or less, your chances of getting published are greatly increased. That hook needs to be able to travel down the line and hook everyone else--the editorial board, the publisher's salespeople, the marketing department, the media, the chain bookstore buyers, the librarians, and, ultimately, the book-buying public.
via Jane Friedman's There Are No Rules