The process looks something like this:
See a book on my child’s desk at Parent Teacher conferences. Realize that the book cover and title seems very like the type of book I’ve written. Carefully scribble down title and author when teacher thinks I am writing notes about the conference.
When at home, look up the book at Amazon.com. Read synopsis. It does seem similar in tone to my book. Write down the name of the publishing company next to the name of the author. Scroll through the “people who bought this book also bought” list. Identify more books which look similar to my book. Write down those authors and publishers.
Take the titles to my local library’s online catalog. They do have the book, so the next day when I’m at the library with the kids, take a detour into the adult non-fiction section. Find the book. Peruse the shelves around the book for other books which look similar in content or tone. Shush kids who are playing with the library’s rolling stools. Grab a stack of books to check out.
When at home, sit down with the books and the list. Flip through the books to see who the publishers are. Look at acknowledgements to see if the author names an agent or an editor who worked on the book. Write those names on the list next to author names. Take the list to my computer. Google to identify more agents and/or editors associated with the book titles.
Open agentquery.com and start filling in agent names. See if the agents are open to unsolicited queries. Peruse the “what I’m looking for” list to see if the agent will be interested. Compare the agent’s name to my submissions document to make sure that I don’t already have a query out at that agency. If all looks good, copy the agent’s name and contact information into my “To Query” file.
Google publisher names and editor names. See if I can find submission information. Add that information to my “To Query” file.
I am now ready to send out queries. Each query takes at least 10 minutes as I try to personalize the opening and closing paragraphs. Sometimes I have to print and mail the query.
By this time I am tired of the whole process, so I sigh in relief that I’ve done my job. Either it will sell, or it won’t. For the moment I can cheerfully ignore it… until I happen across another book which looks like it might cater to the same audience. Then I have a job to do again.