Yesterday's NJRW meeting was a special event. We had two editors and one agent talk to us as well as answer our questions.
I didn't only listen to what they told us to do or not do. I watched them, after all I am a writer. Two of them wore wristwatches. Couldn't see one she had long sleeves on. They wore black business suits, spoke with their hands, made facial expressions, cracked jokes, etc. My point is they aren't terrible scary monsters. They are people with needs, wants and likes. Follow them on twitter, read their blogs, go to places they are speaking at, and learn what they like.
I've heard plenty of them say they get anywhere from 100 to 150 query letters a day. The agent said most of them are reviewed by her assistant, unless one stands out, then she'll read it first herself. Obvious question we had how do they stand out. She shrugged and I saw it to mean, I can't help you there.
Maybe I have an overworked imagination, but I thought about standing in front of your closet trying to decide what to wear on a day you don't feel like getting dressed. You could have hundreds of clothes in that closet and none of them will appeal to you. How many pieces of clothes get an automatic no and you move on to inspect the next piece? Sometimes you stop, consider and move on. When you finally decide on a dress to wear it comes off the hanger and makes you smile. You are pleased with your choice.
What will please agents and editors?
I wish I knew. I do know I am getting closer to the answer, because I am listening to what they are looking to buy or represent.