When writers choose an agent, is it whimsical? Are choices to query made by closing their eyes and pointing to a name on a list? Or choosing a rune stone with an agent's name on their lips?
Nah. Writers network intensively, especially with each other and it's essential to have a good friend-system. Word does get around in writertown.
Right now, there is a huge discussion blooming almost everywhere, probably due to the economy and publishing's tense mood, about agents. Agents Kristin Nelson and Janet Reid (FinePrintLit) have interesting blog posts, as do other agents. It's very interesting.
More on this later, but do check Twitter's Hashtag #allaboutagents on Friday night this. Agents are answering questions galore, and you get a real feel of their personalities and match to whatever the writer writes, their career. Most interesting. There are quite a few agents on Twitter and their responses give much insight to their work and sometimes lives. Facebook and MySpace also provide insights to agents.
But writers also scan agent blogs, read their websites, snag any interviews they've done, and check sites like AbsoluteWrite and Publishers Market Place, paid version. AgentQuery.com and LitMatch.net etc. are really popular. At both, agents may visit to correct or update their own material.
This research is intense, and many groups offer help, i.e. a list of writers who have had this or that agent, and make e-mail questions to that writer possible.
Or through the vast Yahooville, or other places, a querying/researching writer will send up a post: Would anyone who has experience with AgentXYZ please contact me privately? That is probably the most useful networking tactic as it brings in new friends as well. I met a really good friend that way.
A writer serious about getting an appropriate agent for their work/career is busy, busy, busy, a regular bloodhound before choosing one to query.
And to leave an agent is very, very difficult as sometimes emotional likeability/attachment clashes with career necessity. This whole process is no easy matter, sometimes months of effort spent getting the right fit.
Someone suggested a Twitter Hashtag of following the editors. Now, that would be really interesting. :)