Here's the worst part. I'm not bummed because we aren't getting good stories. I'm bummed because so many of them don't follow directions. I've heard some agents claim that 50% of the queries they get don't follow the submission guidelines posted on the agency website. Honestly, this number feels low to me. I'd put it more around 75%.
At the agency where I'm interning, we actually give writers a do-over. If your submission doesn't follow directions we send you a handy email back detailing exactly what was wrong and invite you to send us a fresh new query. It's like the first one never happened.
However, most agencies don't work that way. If your query doesn't follow the rules, it's an auto-reject, no questions asked. This may sound harsh, but it's really just a survival mechanism. I've experienced first hand how much time it takes to respond to queries that don't include what was asked for. Additionally, some agents may see this inability to follow directions as a sign that an author is either unprofessional or may be hard to work with.
I may be preaching to the choir here, but for the love of all things holy, do yourself a favor and follow the submission guidelines. I promise that it puts you way ahead at the starting gate. If you aren't sure about a specific guideline, ask. Most agents are on Twitter or FB and several have places on their websites where you can ask questions.
For those of you who are in slush pile hell, what method do you use to keep track of submission guidelines for all the agents you are querying?