I had my initial list of possible agents to query. Some were currently closed to queries. Some would only take exclusive submissions, which goes against my "query the hell out of it" strategy. So, I sent it to the remaining folks and then I visited Query Tracker.
If you don't know about Query Tracker, it's an online database that can help you find agents interested in your genre. You can then see if there are any comments from other authors about that agent. In my case, I especially wanted to see if there were a lot of "never responded" situations. I am sick of sending my work out and never hearing anything back, so I want this round to be as full of folks who respond as possible, even if it's a rejection.
Next step, I checked out the agent's website to see what they are looking for in more specific terms. I know my manuscript. I know what the publisher and agent with interest had to say about it. I know its strengths. I looked for words like "voice-driven", "memorable characters," "heart," "timeless." Then I knew I had a potential fit.
Unfortunately, I think I skipped a step. I wanted to get it done, to get those queries out there. But I should have taken more time looking at where the agents were located, if they've made deals with major publishers, and what, if any, buzz there was about them on Absolute Write, an online forum where authors share their experiences and concerns about various agents. I wanted to ride my momentum. I didn't want to over-think it. I didn't want to slow myself down. So I skipped those steps. But sometimes those steps can give you valuable information.
Finding an agent would be huge. It can seem as daunting and impossible as actually getting published. Sometimes it looms so large in my mind that I can't see past it. I start thinking "Any agent is better than nothing." But that's a short-sighted perspective. I'm not just looking for an agent for one book. I want an agent for my career. I want an agent who will work for me. I know my own limitations and I know I can't do this alone.
Finding AN agent isn't the goal. AN agent may not end up being THE agent. It's not unusual to have several false starts before finding THE agent. Even that isn't the goal. Once I find THE agent, there's still a long haul of revisions and edits and more submissions to come. I have to keep the big picture in mind.
The big picture? Writing new work all the time. Getting feedback and critiques and making it the absolute best it can be. Networking. Attending conferences. Building my platform through blogs, twitter, website, and so forth. Researching the best fit agents. Querying the hell out of it. Being prepared to dance with a lot of people before I find the right fit. Doing more revisions. Going through more submissions. Working on new pieces while I'm waiting. Dancing with more partners to find the right publisher, with the help of an agent. Making more revisions. Working on new pieces while I'm waiting. Publicizing. Going through the very public process of reviews and sales and "what if it doesn't fly". Starting the process over and over and over again. Always, always writing new work.
If I can't keep the big picture in mind, I will get sucked into "If onlys." "If only I sold one story," "If only I had an agent," "If only I got something published." If I want to be a writer, it is a career. It is not about an endgame. It is an ongoing cycle of these activities. The goals? Tell the stories I have to tell. Find a way to share them that still honors their value. Find people who will bring their expertise to the table in a partnership with me to help me find an audience for my work and get paid for my work. This isn't a sprint. It isn't even a marathon. It's a perpetual, spiraling journey.