I'm addicted to reading agent blogs because of the insight into the business. It's also a great way to learn about authors I've yet to read. I'm always interested in expanding my reading horizons. But one of the central subjects on many agent blogs concerns query letters. After reading replies from authors who bemoaned the difficulty of writing query letters, I felt rather smug. In all but one case, I got a request. I concluded I'd written a dynamite query/cover letter. But then I recalled something important.
In all but one case, I had some type of connection with the agent.
Guess which one got rejected? If your answer is the one I had no connection with, award yourself a gold star.
I essentially wrote the same query letter to all of the agents. The only thing that differentiated the query was the first paragraph where I mentioned the connection. These connections consisted of an author recommendation to her agent, contests, and in-person pitches. In the case of the agent I signed with, I met her at a regional conference dinner. She asked about my book, and I gave her a one-line elevator pitch. She requested a partial on the spot. Scouts, be prepared!
While authors do get requests from query letters, I think my experience is important. Authors can increase their chances of getting requests by taking advantage of opportunities to make connections. If an agent you're hungry to sign with is attending a regional conference, you might try to attend if it's financially feasible. Enter contests that are judged by agents you are targeting. And if a published author offers to read a partial of your manuscript, by all means jump on the opportunity because she might recommend you to her agent.
Luck plays a part in any request, but it never hurts to take advantage of opportunities. You just might land the agent of your dreams.