I promised to write about agents, so here I go.
Let's start with the four ways for getting an agent that I personally know work:*
1. Pitch an agent at a writers' conference--meet the agent face-to-face and tell him/her about your book. SleuthFest is a great writers' conference for this. So's Crime Bake. Why? They offer face time with agents. You will need to craft your pitch so you can say it in your sleep. Try it on several friends and watch their reactions. Do they smile? Do their eyes light up? Remember that agents expect you to be nervous. Heck, they've done this before. And be prepared to send at least 50 pages of your work-in-progress. Better yet, finish your book first. If you're writing fiction, they've been pitched by dozens of folks who never finish their manuscripts. So be prepared--have yours done.
2. Pitch an agent online. In this age of Internet, this is a great way to get a speedy response. Use a guide to agents such as the excellent one by Jeff Herman. Go to Predators and Editors athttp://anotherealm.com/prededitors/ Join the Guppies--which is a special interest group for not-yet-published authors who are members of Sisters in Crime. (You must be a SinC member first, then you pay a small fee to join Guppies.) The Guppies have a list of editors they'll share. Or use the Writers Market guide to editors. Make a list of those who will accept online queries. Then, work your list.
3. Get a referal from an author. This is the hardest of the the opportunities. If you haven't already published a book, haven't established yourself as a professional, it can be very tricky for another author to recommend you. After all, she or he will be sharing an important asset--the name and contact info for his/her agent. So don't count on this method. And never, ever just walk up to an author cold and ask for this info. That's rude.
4. Send a query packet or query letter to an agent--cold turkey. It can work. But to do a good job you need to write a GREAT query letter. There are examples at Gumbo Writers. Check them out at http://www.gumbowriters.com/
* I have friends who have used these methods or I have tried them myself.