This is my understanding of the process and, thus, how I’m going about it personally. Any disagreements? Got any suggestions to add?
1. Write the Book
The whole thing. Agents and publishers are only interested in completed fiction. They want to know the final word count and they want to start working on the project right away. So don’t waste your time and there’s querying about an incomplete book. Of course, there are exceptions. Like with non-fiction projects. Only write the first couple chapters and then write an outline for the rest when you query. Find out more about that process here.
2. Research Literary Agents
I recommend Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011. There’s a new issue every year, so make sure you get the most recent copy. Only submit to agents who are actively searching for your type of book. If you have a YA book, don’t submit it to an agent who only does adult books. First off, you’ll guaranteed get a rejection letter. Second, you want the best agent possible for your manuscript. You want a YA literary agent who has lots of contacts in the YA publishing world and lots of experience working with the genre, not some adult literary agent who is entering the field for the first time.
On that point, check out literary agent Mandy Hubbard who is a very active agent. She recently posted some statistics on what she likes reading and her average query response time. All nice things to know.
3. Query Agents
See my previous post about how to write a query letter.
Honestly, I don’t know what happens after that, because I haven’t gotten that far. I assume the literary agent takes the wheel for awhile and the writer gets to keep on waiting. And revision, there’s probably going to be a lot of revision involved. There’s another whole process for how to deal with revision letters from editors (better than a rejection letter, yes??). The Writer’s Waiting Room never ceases to exist in some form.