- Don't be desperate. Be particular. By which I mean, do not randomly throw out your queries to anyone and everyone at random. Nicholas Spark's agent might be basking in a sun-hut in Fiji thanks to his dutiful agenting but if you're writing a nonfiction book on the fashion habits of koala bears- that may not be the best fit for you. Don't waste your precious time and subject yourself to needless rejection mass querying to those who would never be a good fit anyways- you only need one agent to love your work, the right one who will advocate for you and your project, so its imperative that you. . .
- Focus your search. I spent a warm day in March at my local Borders bookstore with a pen and paper going down the aisles and pulling out books with multicultural fictional titles [since that was the genre of my manuscript]. I checked acknowledgements, and nine times out of ten the author thanked their agent. As I went down the aisles I realized a handful of agents represented most of the multicultural works on the shelves, the number one agency based on my research of my local Borders? Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency proud agent of Lisa See, and Amy Tan and other literary greats. You don't need to go to a brick-and-mortar store to research, the Internet provides a plethora of resources as well- but for me it was a way to not get distracted and simply focus on the task at hand- plus not all authors list their agents on their websites.
- Read the submission guidelines and follow them so thoroughly your momma wants to check you into an OCD anonymous inpatient clinic. Seriously. Follow the instructions and don't think you're the exception if going unsolicited. Many friends have scoffed at this saying, its okay if this or that is off- but the truth is that though its a royal pain to format your manuscript for the specifics of each agent- since you're undoubtedly sending to more than one, each with their own unique requests for page margins, line-spacing, and font- its pointless to send it out if you don't tailor your work to the specifications required. An agent is busy- a fact I realize more now that I have one- and if they can toss your work out for technical error.
[photo source here]