Congratulations, you've finished polishing your book and you're ready to find an agent to represent you. But your work is not yet done. Now you have to "sell" your book (and yourself, to a degree) to an agent. This can be the hardest part for many of us. Here are some guidelines that will help you along the way:

1) Remember that publishing is business. You need to present yourself as a professional.

2) Research the agencies you are considering querying. Don't make the mistake of using the scattershot approach It only leads to frustration on both ends. The agent wastes time reading a query for a type of book he or she doesn't represent, and another form rejection letter ends up in your mail.

3) Do your homework. Make sure you understand the agency's lingo. An agency may say they represent authors of inspirational books, but that means different things to different agencies. Some represent only non-fiction inspirational books, others only fiction. For some, "inspirational" means everything from Christian to new age. The genre "romance novels" refers to everything from sweet romances to erotica. If the agency's guidelines don't specify which type they prefer, check the books they represent to find out.

4) Check submission guidelines for each agency you plan to query. Guidelines vary from agency to agency. Make sure you follow them explicitly! Not following their guidelines is a quick way to get your submission canned. This step will also shrink the size of your list as many agencies will not accept unrequested queries.

5) Make sure you understand what the agency wants you to send them. Let me repeat that, because it is extremely important: Make sure you understand what the agency wants you to sent them. Every agency is different. Each agency has a standard procedure for determining whether to represent a book and they set their guidelines based on that procedure. Some want only a one-page query letter. Others want the first few pages with the query letter. Others say to send the first three chapters along with a synopsis or maybe a proposal. No agency will view your submission kindly if you send more (or less) than they request.

6) Find something to personalize the letter--something that lets the agent know you picked them for a reason. This step is over and above the call of duty, but most agents appreciate it. Peruse the agency's website. Read about the individual agents. Check out the list of authors they represent. You might find that a particular agent loves horses and your main character operates a horse farm. Or maybe your story takes place on the Pacific coast and the agent lives in Oregon. You never know what you'll find. It's also a good idea to mention a book that the agency represents which is similar to yours. It gives the agent a better feel for what type of work you write as well as shows you did your homework.

Now it's time to get busy with your research!