According to Michael Bourne (who writes for The Millions and Poets & Writers), successfully navigating through the world of literary agents requires— what, talent? Patience? Perseverance? Nope. Success requires connections!
In his recent article "A Right Fit," Bourne says:
...agents work with people they know, and friends of people they know.
If that sounds like I’m saying, “It’s all about who you know,” that’s because that is exactly what I’m saying. You can rail about how unfair that is, and how it makes publishing into an incestuous little club, and to a degree you would be right: a lot of very dumb books get published because somebody knew somebody. But that’s the way the machine is built, people. It may come a-tumbling down in the near future in the face of e-books and indie publishers, but for now, if you want to get published by a major publisher, you have two choices: you can keep banging your head against a wall and be angry, or you can figure out how to get yourself into the club.
To do that, you have to immerse yourself in the literary community. Five years ago, with my first book, I sent roughly 60 query letters to agents and editors at smaller publishing houses.