Finishing my manuscript is merely the start of a longer journey. This past week my attention has been focused upon contacting agents.
But agents receive tens, if not hundreds, of queries each day, and case studies of debut authors suggest there are many other factors at play in attracting the attention of an agent: introductions to the agent facilitated by other authors; conference networking and meetings; requests from agents following the publication of earlier writings in well-regarded journals. Without any of these additional influences, query letters are little different from cold-calling.
A good friend of mine, also an aspiring writer, suggested that I should send out the same email to 70 agents in the hope that just one might respond. My optimism and integrity won't allow me to do that. I am meticulously researching each of the agents I approach. I read interviews they have given to various publications, cross-reference their postings on Poets and Writers, Publishers' Marketplace, and other websites, scrutinize every word on their agencies' websites. In particular, I am tailoring my queries towards those agents who have identified an interest in literary fiction and historical fiction, with a strong voice and a narrative drive; preferring to approach agents who already have relationships with writers I admire or with whom I compare my own writing. It's time-consuming work but it feels right for me and for my book.