I took an important step this weekend towards the publication of my book: I sent queries to three agents who I think might want to represent it.
If you haven't tried to get a book published before, let me tell you it's a strange process. (Possibly filled with mayhem.) First, you have to do all the work and finish the book. Only then, can you try to get an agent. Then the agent has to hook an editor, and the editor has to sell it to his or her publisher. Every agent has unique preferences and quirks. Each one has different rules for what you can and cannot send in the initial contact. Since agents can get dozens of inquiries from unpublished authors every day, this is necessary. It doesn't make it any easier on the author.
To agent JK: by email, a one-page query that includes a description of the book's plot, and the first page of the text.
To agent ES: by snail mail, a one-page query that just gives the "hook" for the book, because the package also includes a 9-page complete plot summary and the first three chapters.
To agent IG: by email, a one-page query (short version), the aforementioned summary, and the first ten pages of the text.
I'm sure I'll be doing lots more of these - hey, maybe I'll submit to an agent that wants exactly the same thing as one of the first three, and I can save some time for workouts!