I think the query system works... okay ish. Is it ideal? Probably not. But I don't think anyone's come up with a better system yet. There are just too many people who want to be published; reading sample pages of every single ms just isn't realistic.
I think it works okay. Not great, but every system needs tweaks. It'd be fabulous if there were a standard way to query. It can get frustrating changing the format of each and every query based on agent preference (some like just the query, some want five pages, some a synopsis, some all...holy cow!), even though each query itself should be tailored to the specific agent you're querying.
Seems that agents know what they want, how they want their list to grow/fill out/develop and, sometimes, are quick to dismiss anything that isn't within their parameters. Again, this is good and bad, depending on what you're peddling.
But I'm still a newbie query-er. I'll let you know more once I'm agented! (A positive attitude and thick skin are both totally necessary! My agent is out there and, with my excellent query--thanks, query kick-arounders!--I'll find that person.)
I feel that the query system does work. However, as the system becomes more defined, it becomes more and more difficult for first time writers to stand out. Looking for an agent these days is incredibly challenging.
I think it works for the most part. It quickly gives an agent the following info:
* Can the author write.
* Can the author describe their piece cohesively.
* Can the author follow directions (i.e. include the correct submission requests).
* Is this a genre/age group that the agent is interested in representing.
I guarantee a significant portion of queries are rejected extremely quickly because an author fails in one of the above areas.
That being said, there is such a huge emphasis put on the query - that even a single sentence could make or break it! It would almost be easier if agencies had a form where an author would input their name, book title, credentials, book genre, word count, one line pitch/hook, one paragraph synopsis - and then hit submit!