The other day, a fellow writer/author on Twitter (@LianaBrooks) asked a very pertinent question. “How do you pick who to send your first queries to? Longest response time? Best bet? Longshot?” She already knew how to find the literary agents, but sorting them was a different kettle of fish.
Here’s my (humble) opinion on the subject:
*Disclaimer–this post is very William Goldman-like in its use of parentheses. I apologize in advance.
I think it all boils down to the age-old question of “Do I start at the top, or should I save the ‘best’ for last?” Like a chubby kid at a buffet–and I speak from experience here–you’ll find yourself faced with a myriad of options, unsure whether you’ll have enough room (or in this case, patience and/or sanity) to try them all. Of course, if you’ve done your research well enough, you’ll have a handful of options consisting of what I like to call “Rock Star Agents.” (As in, “when I grow up I want to be a Rock Star and/or be represented by So-N-So.”) These lofty few are the proverbial dessert (or in my case, the bacon).
Personally, I started my query process with the “best” ones–the ones I really thought would be a perfect match for my writing style, personality and the career I want to have over the next 30-50 years of my life. Because I’ve always been an impatient, greedy little kid. (And because I apparently believe in cryogenic freezing and/or the long-term benefits of Diet Coke as a human preservative.)
But you also might want to think about the fact that your query letter is (hopefully) going to keep getting better the more time and practice you spend on it. The more it gets rejected, the more you work on it. (And if this isn’t the case, please visit the Query Shark, STAT!) If this way of thinking makes more sense to you, it might be best to start at the end of your list (at, let’s say, the salad) and work your way up from there.
(Fore more information on How to Query Agents, How to Write a Query Letter, etc. please refer to the Blogroll and Writing Tools portions of this blog.)