The main idea here is to learn as much as you can about an agent before you query them. Make sure they are looking for your style of writing. Check out their blogs, their facebook page, their twitter feed to get a feel if you would like working with them. Channel the stalker. Become the stalker.
*cough* *throat clearing* What was I saying? Anyway...
Step One: Find some names. I like QueryTracker, but there are other places you can look for agents. Query Tracker has several ways to search: genre, specific agent or agency, and how they receive submissions and such. Below I typed in my genre. Since I write a science fantasy mix, I added both genres to make sure I've covered my bases.
Hit search and this is what comes up.
Step 2: Research one of those names. I clicked on Sara LaPolla because she has a lot of searchable material. When you click on a name you are taken to this screen where you get more information.
You also see the tabs across the top. Clicking on these will give you information that Query Tracker has collected based on information submitted by users of the site. For example, reports will show you how many people on Query Tracker sent in a query, how long it took for them to get a response and what that response was.
I also click on the submissions link. This tells me what they expect to see with my query and any formatting specifics if there are any.
Alright, I also check out her blog and follow on twitter. Now, if you find a blog, search through it and find all the goodies the agent may have hidden in his/her posts. In other words, READ THE BLOG, as much of it as you can.
NOTE: Krista V over at Mother. Write. (Repeat). has interviewed several agents. Scroll down on the right hand sidebar to see who and read what they are looking for.
Another great place to browse agents is Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog. He has tons of great info here, but I'll start you on the Agent Interview page. Often the agent will tell you exactly what they hope to see in your query letter and how to set it up. Some want you to jump right in with the query, others want the personal info first, most don't have a preference. Read these to find out if they do have a preference!
Step 3: Keep track of what you find.
Twitter--I have a list for agents. This way I can have a column for agent tweets on my tweet deck (I'll save that for another post). HOVER. READ. REPLY. LEARN. STALK. Wait, don't stalk, at least not the creepy kind. Although if you think about it...
Step 4: Write and send the Query. Don't worry, we have a post for that too.
Other helpful links on How to Find a Literary Agent:
From Nathan Bransford
Advice from Writers.net
More from About.com-- we will cover the topics mentioned here in the next few weeks.
University of Pheonix makes these suggestions.
There is also Agent Query but for some reason this one is harder for me than Query Tracker. My mind doesn't fit well here.
Casey McCormick does a lot of Agent research and posts the info on her blog, too! She always gets some good info.
Another resource to dig through is Publisher's Marketplace. You can search pages for a particular genre.