You've finished writing a book, edited it, polished it and now you are ready to send out queries to an agent. How do you find an agent and how do you get them interested in your book? Well, first of all, it isn't easy. Unless you have the next bestseller, it could take you months, even years to find an agent and then a publisher. But you'll never know if you are the next Hemingway or J.K. Rowling if you don't try.
The first step to finding an agent is to research which agent or agency is right for you. Not all agents represent all genres. Some will represent women's fiction and children's, while others won't touch anything but non-fiction. Do your homework before sending out queries so you don't waste your time or the agent's time. Always check their websites to make sure their requirements haven't changed or the agent hasn't left the agency. Books like Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents are great resources, but between the time it is compiled and the time it is published, things can change - so always double-check.
2012 Guide to Literary Agents
When checking the website, also check their submission guidelines. Sometimes every agent in the agency has different guidelines. Some will accept e-mail submissions while others only accept hard copy. Some want only a query letter while others may want the first 50 pages. Read the guidelines to make sure you know how to submit your query.
Most agents will accept simultaneous submissions, so send out as many queries as possible. It can take from 2 days to 6 months for agents to reply to your query, so there is no sense sending out only one at a time. If an agent doesn't accept simultaneous submissions yet also doesn't promise to get back to you in a timely manner, you may want to reconsider sending them your query. Agents are busy, but so are you and you shouldn't have to wait forever on one agent before sending out queries to others.
Keep track of your submissions and their replies so you won't accidentally send off more than one query to the same agent. Also, this will give you a record of who has seen your query.
You should never pay an agent up-front to represent your book. Never. Agents make their money by selling your book to a publisher and taking a commission. If an agent asks for money up-front - don't do business with them. You will be out that money and most likely will never see the book published.
Below is a list of literary agents - but as I've said, be sure to re-check their website to make sure nothing has changed. Good luck!
Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises - Los Angeles. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: http://amsterlit.com/site/submission-guidelines/
Loretta Barrett Books, Inc - New York, NY. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.lorettabarrettbooks.com
Books & Such Literary Agency - Santa Rosa, CA. Website: www.booksandsuch.biz Accepts fiction and non-fiction.
Brown Literary Agency - Naples, FL. Accepts fiction. Website: www.brownliteraryagency.com
Maria Carvainis Agency - New York, NY. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: http://www.freewebs.com/alabamaworley/AGENT_MARIA%20CARVAINIS.htm
Castiglia Literary Agency - Del Mar, CA. Accepts ficton and non-fiction. Website: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/CastigliaAgency/
Frances Collin, Literary Agent - Wayne, PA. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.francescollin.com
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency - Del Mar, CA. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.dijkstraagency.com
Dunham Literary, Inc. - New York, NY. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.dunhamlit.com
Anne Edelstein Literary Agency - New York, NY. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.aeliterary.com
Dystel & Goderich Literary Management - New York, NY. Accepts fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.dystel.com
Elaine P. English Literary Agency - Washington DC. Accepts fiction. Website: www.elaineenglish.com
This will get you started - I will add more as time allows. :)