Armed with a copy of The Novel and Short Story Writer's Market 2005, (purchased from Half.com) Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents (library copy) and a bookmarked link to AgentQuery.com, I was on my way.
At first, my approach was alphabetical. Just go through the books A-Z, pick out the agents looking for my kind of book ("ungodly long" was not a genre I found listed--anywhere) and send off the ol' query letter.
Ah, the query letter. More unheeded advice, here. I probably spent an hour or two refining it, and when I was done, it was very demographically targeted. I was giving the agent more of a reason why it would sell and who it would sell to instead of a reason why he or she would want to read it in the first place.
Nonetheless, my first round of queries resulted in three requests to see some sample chaps (remember, the book is still 184K words at this point--I was not budging on this. Every word was GOLD, GOLD I TELL YOU! Wait a minute...aren't some false idols made of gold?). In hindsight, I have to seriously question the sanity of these agents (who, despite my gratitude at the time, shall go unnamed here). Naturally, all three politely declined after reading my opening chapter, which consisted entirely of backstory.
I plugged away like this for six months or so before one agent had the courtesy to point out that my length might be an issue (insert own joke here).
In the meantime, I joined a writer's group after attending a reading from a local published author David Terrenoire. Couldn't hurt, I thought. Might be nice to get some affirmation on those words 'o gold I was refusing to cut.
Yeah, right. 'Cause that's what writer's groups are for--ego-stroking.