So, you wrote your novel, your brilliant masterpiece, your work of art that will change history, go down in the annuls of time, become part of the canon, or at least make you a gazillionaire. So you'll just throw together a quick query, throw that sucker in the mail, get a bunch of agents to offer representation, take your pick of the crop, get published, and write happily ever after. Right?
Sorry, i had to take a break to roll around on the floor laughing. phew. now my stomach hurts a little, but i'm sure i burned a bunch of calories that i ingested in my fits of nerves while i waited (somewhat) patiently for even ONE agent (even that one at the very bottom of the list w/o a website or email address) to ask for even a PARTIAL manuscript.
So maybe my book sucks, i dont know. But i dont think it does, obviously, or i wouldnt have written it and all the ones that followed. More likely, my query is only average and i have no credentials/pub credits. anyway, that's not the point of this post. The point is this. It's a long, hard road that may or may not lead somewhere, but if you really really believe, and you keep trying, your chances are (probably) better. I know, i sound like Polar Express here with all the believing, but it does help. Or i BELIEVE it does, anyway. I have to, since i havent yet gotten an agent, and i might sink into despair if i stopped believing. And if i didnt, i'd at least gain 50 lbs and stop writing altogether.
So here's what i suggest: find a list of agents somewhere (agentquery, querytracker, a very huge book), make a list or spreadsheet or whatever works for you, and go through it, highlighting agents you've contacted, keeping track of their responses, which version of the query you sent (if you have more than one), and get ready to spend a lot of time finding out what they like, tailoring your query letter, sending your query letter, updating your list/spreadsheet, revising your query, and getting rejected. Hey, it happens.
But if for some reason you're as insane as i am, you'll keep trying.