Our ammunition is the query, synopsis (of various lengths), and first pages or chapters of our book. Our bullets are stuffed into either an envelope or email and our hopes ride on them finding the target and bagging an agent.
Yet how does one make their bullets powerfully enough to hook that agent's overwhelmed eye? Well, isn't that the book-contract-question? If I knew the magic recipe I'd have done it already. So it's back to the basics.
The two most important things to snag an agent:
R.I.F. (Reading Is Fundamental): Search for agents and only submit to the ones who want your type work. Did you write a killer spy novel but blindly submitted it to a romance agent? Boo on you. Be respectful of the agent's time and yours. Read what they want, how they want to be submitted to and then follow their wishes.
Simple, yes but don't get your material thrown off the to-do list because you didn't feel like cutting your synopsis down from the ten-page monster you are in love with down to the requested two-page one.
Content: Again a no-brainer yet you can't over state the obvious. Clean up your work. Get feedback from people who are actually submitting and doing the work. Befriend someone who is a grammar stickler. Ask for help. Always look for ways to be a better writer.
So while it's tough being on safari and polishing your guns for that big hunt over and over again (and you feel like everything you write is rubbish), have faith. And if you don't have faith in your work, keep writing, learn how do better, and find support around you to keep going when the brushes seems to snare you.
Remember one of the best author out on an agent hunt story I'd hear was Kathryn Stockett. You know her little book called The Help. She had over 60 rejections letters from agents and it took her over 5 years to finally down a live one. But she decided that her book and her work were worth it. So don't get too discouraged just keep reloading and putting yourself out there, in the hunt.
Shh, did you hear that twig snap? They must be close; look alive and release the hounds.