The first rule of the professional writer, so wonderfully encapsulated by James MacDonald as Yog's Law is this: The money flows to the writer.
Wonderful. Simple. Ummm... also impossible for the time being.
And by this I do not mean the "Sign up with me, pay me X dollars, and I'll get you a publishing contract scams." (The agent pays you. The publisher pays you. If they want you to pay them, it's time to find a new agent/publisher.)
No, by this I mean that in order to get an agent, I need to shell out some dough. Research shows me that agents seem to like certain things, like actual physical letters sent in the actual physical mail. So, paper, ink, envelopes, postage. Not too bad, after all how many of these query letter things am I looking at writing anyway? (Sound of Elise researching away...)
You've got to be kidding me? Yeah, some people are lucky and get an agent on letter number one, or number five, but I've got one source telling me that it might be letter number 100. So, if I actually have to write 100 of these things, I'm looking at almost $100.00. And that doesn't attempt to put a price on my time for finding 100 possible good agent matches.
Then comes the whole: How do I find agents to query? Well, some agents are nice enough to keep up blogs about their lives and projects. Some writer's are kind enough to mention them in the acknowledgments of their books. I can google them. I can spend some more money and sign up with Publisher's Marketplace, or a similar service where Agents list their services, contact information, and what sort of things they want to represent. I can spend more money and start heading to writing conferences and meet Agents in the flesh. I can hang out online at AbsoluteWrite and chat with other writers and see who they've got representing them.
Lots of options. They all take time or money.
So, once the list of agents to query has been drawn up, and the letters sent out comes the next step, waiting.
Okay, yeah. But after that comes the important bit, getting responses. Now, with any luck some of them won't be "Dear Elise, Thank you for your query, alas as of this time we are not..."
With any luck some of them will ask for a manuscript. Great! Happy Dance time!
Wait a minute. A manuscript is an actual paper document. A very specifically formatted paper document. And... yep... let me reformat a bit here... Bloody Hell! My manuscript is 920 pages long! (In the background I hear my hubby say, "Write a shorter book!")
So, obviously this isn't something I'm going to just whip off a copy of on my home printer. Time to check out FedEx printing. Enter this... download that... and, oh wow! One manuscript is $68.85. Hmmmm.... how's the bulk discount? After all I may have to send out a bunch of these things. Fifteen manuscripts is $481.95.
And I still have to mail it to an agent? At least it fits in the USPS $12 Priority Mail box. So, if I end up sending out all 15 of them it'll cost me, $661.95.
Hmmm... Well, Mr. Yog, now what?