a) have a completed manuscript that has been edited and critiqued,
b) have worked hard to produce a well written and engaging query letter, and
c) have identified specific agents who would be a good fit for your work.
But - me, I'm a rebel. Here is the process I suggest:
- Write a query letter at 2:30 in the morning, when you are sleep deprived and punchy. This letter will seem HILARIOUS at 2:30 in the morning when you are taking a break from writing technical documents, but not quite so hilarious in the cold light of day.
- Email your hastily written query letter to a few of the top literary agents in the industry before you really think it over. Because hey - why not? What's the big deal? It's JUST YOUR FUTURE.
- If you haven't actually finished your manuscript, that just makes the whole thing more exciting. Basically you want to set it up so that the best you could possibly hope for is a rejection.