So, you've written a manuscript, which you have edited, re-edited, and polished. Someone other than a relative has read it. You also have in hand a professional, polished query letter and synopsis. Now you are ready to query agents. This can be a daunting prospect, considering the number of literary agents out there.
In my last post, I included links to two sites: Query Tracker and Agent Query. This is where I start. They are free sites. On each of their home pages you can do a simple search for literary agents who represent what you're trying to sell, and out of the magic box will pop a list of potential agents for you to query. Again, this is a great place to start.
I'm going to stop right here and admit I suffer from a little undiagnosed OCD. My brand of anal-retentiveness has two major benefits, though. First, the more organized you are, the easier it is to prevent a double-query disaster. Second, this process is a bit like riding a bike in a hurricane. Pressing that send button, knowing you have no control over what happens to your query from that moment forward, is an uncomfortable feeling. Never underestimate the power of having something tangible to track when there's absolutely nothing you can do otherwise.
So you have your lists. You're ready to blast all these agents' inboxes with queries and hope for the best, right? No. No. No. No. No. You're just getting started.
Each of these potential agents (PAs) has specific requirements for all queries. Some of these PAs might be more receptive to your work than others. Some might also be closed to queries. No database can keep up with the rapid changes in PAs statuses, so I take each agent, and if there is a link to their website, do a quick check of their query status, their requirements, and what they represent. I like hard copies to refer to later, so I print the agent bios, submission requirements, and anything pertinent. This nets me a fairly sizable list.
At this point, you're ready to dig a little deeper. From this list of PAs the next step I take is really just a precaution. I check them out on Preditors and Editors, a website addressing concerns about agent practices (ie Do they charge you money, which no reputable agent will do). You can search each agent by name.
Next, I practice a little Google-fu. I read every article, website, blog, or interview mentioning each agent and/or agency. I look for any insight into either what they've chosen in the past or what they're hoping to acquire that is similar to my ms. This step will also eliminate some that, while excellent agents, might not be the best agent for you.
My next post will address my next step, and go over the basics of my agent ranking system. Really, it's just too much information to put in one blog post.
So, until next time . . . happy writing!