Howdy y'all. Let's get real. I'mma be real with you for a moment.
Yesterday I sent out some queries. WHAT! Oh yeah. After writing and editing and leaving it alone and editing and getting a critique and rewriting and then telling myself to LEAVE IT ALONE REBECCA! After all that...oh, hang on: After writing a query and then realising it was a synopsis and writing another query and rewriting and rewriting and staring at the screen for h-o-u-r-s-a-n-d-h-o-u-r-s, I finally...wait, after setting up a new super professional email address, and after researching agents, and after making a spreadsheet (for realz)...after ALL of that, I sent out some queries!!!
Oh, it's a scary business, isn't it? The best bit is when you're about to send and you can't...quite...click...it...Yes, that took me a little while! Now comes the wait. Hopefully after 4-weeks-to-3-months I will have some replies in my inbox. They might be rejections, but they just might not be - and if they are, then I will mourn for a minute (read: sob wildly listening to Sufjan Stevens for about a month) and move on to the next round.
Here's some random tips on queries and who-to-query (read on for my legit expert knowledge*):
1. Do your research
Make sure that any agent you submit to actually represents your genre! Seems basic, but apparently a lot of people don't think it's very important. "What's this, Mr. Billy Megatron doesn't accept MG sci-fi romance in verse? Well, my MS will surely change his mind. SEND!" Don't do that shit bro. You will only get rejected, and fast.
2. Find out what the agent wants
Agents like it when you put some effort in! Starting off your query with "I'm submitting to you because I've read you like YA fiction" says absolutely nothing. In fact, it might just say that you have simply searched for any and all agents representing YA and you are spamming them with your MS. Starting with "I'm submitting to you because I've read that you are searching for gritty, sexy writing with a strong voice" says that you've read their bio or an interview they gave, or you've at the very least Googled around a little bit. You should check out this blog because it is banging, you can click on the agent you're interested in and they have rounded up all sorts of info for you, including which agency they're at and what they rep alongside a selection of quotes on what they're looking for. You're welcome.
3. Make a spreadsheet
Hello, 3 years of secondary school ICT. I knew you would come in helpful for more than knowing how to make Powerpoints where the words fly in and then explode. Make yourself a spreadsheet where you can input all the data you find: Agent's name, agency, key things they want, how you can submit to them (email/snail mail/form), email address, average response time. You can also log the date you submit and the date they respond - and if they haven't responded yet, check when you sent it and how long they usually take to get back to you, and if it's about a month over that time then follow up (politely, duh).
4. Get yoself a profesh email address
Yo, no-one's gonna take you seriously when your query comes through from "firstname.lastname@example.org".
5. Read other people's queries
Out there on this crazy thing called the internet you can find actual real-life queries. On QueryShark people submit their queries, which then get critiqued for all to see. READ THROUGH THE ARCHIVES! Hopefully you will be able to pick up on what does and doesn't work, and then apply that knowledge to your own query. Literary agent Lauren Ruth also does this on her blog, and on Guide to Literary Agents you can see agents show us successful queries and tell us why they worked. I also highly recommend hitting up SlushPile Hell, because this will show you that your query is not really that bad after all, and that there are some craaaaazy people out there.
Now that you have done all that, you're super ready to submit. Go do it! (I must refer you to this* again)
(*obviously I'm not an expert. But you knew that, because what kind of expert says for realz?)