There is plenty of advice available to budding new authors. A lot of it. Most is out here on the Internet and most of it--that I've seen anyway--says your only real chance of getting noticed by a publisher is to be represented by an agent.
If one is to believe the preponderance of what has been posted on this subject (and I can't see why not), it seems there is a pretty clear hierarchy at work here, with the publishers at the top because they, after all, have the money.
Beneath the publishers are the agents, of which there are many, who represent many different books for many different authors. Like an auditorium filled with teenage girls, all screaming for the attention of Justin Bieber, the agents clamor for face time and attention from the publishers because, as I believe I have already mentioned, the publishers have the money.
Once you get past the agents, you're down to the talent. The authors themselves. I was tempted to use an analogy of John/pimp/hooker for the publisher/agent/author relationship because there's a lot that works. Both the pimp and hooker, for instance, are working for the John's money.
Where that breaks down is when you get to the authors. In the pimp/hooker scenario, the pimps are doing the work of developing the relationship between themselves and the talent. Although not exactly my area of expertise, I would expect it's a lot easier to convince a pimp to take on a hooker than it is to convince a hooker (or hooker-to-be) to sign on with a pimp.
In the agent/author scenario, the dynamic is the other way around. There, it's the authors trying to lure the agents into representing them. Back to the teeny-boppers and Justin Bieber analogy, Mr. Bieber has a wealth of options from which to choose while each of the ladies in the crowd has a single choice.
Agents are the Bieber in the agent/author relationship, at least at the start which, for most of us, is the only place that really matters. Agents get so many requests from anxious new authors that they can be incredibly, remarkably, cavalier with their attention.
Everything I've read says you need to query 50 to 100 agents to find one who'll represent you. Also, it says that each of these queries needs to be done thoughtfully, carefully, and in the manner in which the agent requests.
Some agents want only a cover letter. Some want a cover letter and author's bio. Some want to know what you bring to the table to help with the marketing of your book. Some want the first chapter. Some want the first 10 pages. Some want the first 25 pages. Some are too busy to accept new clients. Some only represent pet books, or historical fiction, or biographies.
I suppose it's a testament to how many books there really are to see the incredible number of agents out there. There are a lot. And, there are places you can look, organizations you can join, to find them.
Even so, when you're sending out your fifty to 100 queries, each of them has to be personalized. Each has to be tweaked. Each needs to include whatever that particular agent does or doesn't want. It's more work than you'd think.
And, then the responses are, as a rule, incredibly slow. Six- to eight weeks is pretty much the norm, with some a bit quicker, and many who won't even bother to say no thanks. You'll only hear from them if they want to see more.
It's a process which is, if I'm honest, pretty frustrating. I submitted Loss of Control to about thirty agents before I basically gave up on that and decided to publish the thing myself. My reasons for going it alone and the process itself (or at least the start of it) will be in my next post.