Have you finished writing a book?
First step to getting ready. I've heard of some writers querying an agent with a half-finished manuscript. Not only are agents looking for great concepts and great writing, they're also looking for a completed project. No one wants to look at a half-done painting, right?
Has someone else read your work?
I've blogged before on how important outside feedback is. Can't stress it enough. We're so biased about our own work that it's impossible to look at the draft with fresh, critical eyes. That's where other readers come in. It can't be your mom, or your cousin, or your best friend, because more often than not they're going to be too nice about offering their opinion. Trust me, the first draft of your novel is not ready. I made the mistake of sending off my first draft, and agent interest turned into rejections.
Have you done your research?
Every agent has different submission guidelines and genre interests. It's time consuming to browse through agency websites and reading about these agents, but it's better for everyone involved when those guidelines are followed. That way, the agent isn't irritated, time isn't wasted, and you're sending your work to someone who's really interested.
And then, of course, there's the actual query letter to be written. But that's another post for another day. If you answered all of these yes, then you're ready to start to process. Too bad I didn't ask myself these questions as that over-eager 15-year-old. Are any of you guilty of querying too early?