I'm a regular reader of Editorial Anonymous (added reason: I love love love her slush monster!!) and her post today about "agents" who send cover letters addressed to "Dear Publisher" made me snort coffee out my schnozz.
I've long advocated asking a simple benchmark question of prospective agents-What have you sold
but perhaps it needs to simpler yet: which editor might like my book!
Publishing is in a rollercoaster ride of changes right now (just listening to the tweeting from TOC conference this morning makes me slightly frantic) but one thing has not changed: this industry runs on who you know. An agent who doesn't know anyone is worse than useless. It's ok to ask who do you know to a prospective agent asking to represent your work particularly if the agent is new and doesn't yet have much of a sales record.