I have an issue I haven't seen addressed elsewhere, and I'm hoping you can offer some guidance. I nearly fainted when I read that a query should cover roughly the first thirty pages of a story. I can't think of any way to make that work with my three-act manuscript. The first act has the main character as a child, along with the life-altering event that shapes him. However, in the two remaining acts (the meat of the story), he's an adult, and the antagonist is introduced to wreak havoc on his life. My query covers escalating events almost to the end without revealing the ending.
Is this style of query all that unusual? If it is, could it possibly irritate an agent as they're reading the manuscript, thinking they've been manipulated or deceived? Am I setting myself up for a world of querying disappointment, or just greatly overthinking things?
Nearly fainted? I was hoping for full loss of consciousness, and ongoing consternation. Tormenting writers is really the only reason I love this job.
But enough jocularity.
There are no absolutes in querying. There is only what works.
While I jump up and down and insist you tell me about the book in a query, there are a couple books that could be an exception to that rule:
1. The Duchess of Sussex' memoir.
2. The Duchess of Sussex' rescue dog story.
3. Ivanka Trump's memoir.
You get the idea. I call those cocktail napkin books. I can sell them on a cocktail napkin.
And thus your question, can you talk about more than the first 30 pages of the book in a query, is really "can I do something not the norm in my query?"
Yes you can.
The only benchmark for an effective query is does it work?
You can not assess whether it could "possibly irritate an agent as they're reading the manuscript, thinking they've been manipulated or deceived."
You can only evaluate the query by the responses you get from readers before you send it out. Do they want to read the book?
The purpose of QueryShark and other query crit opportunities is to help you get out of your own way, include the information an agent usually needs to asses a project, and help you talk about your work in a compelling way.
QueryShark et al are NOT the way to figure out the right way and the wrong way. Every query is different and every agent is different.
You're not overthinking this, but you're also too worried about rules. Learn the rules so you can break them with grace, and style.