First off, Congrats to my sister in law Lauri who signed her first book deal with Tanglewood Books. Way to go Lauri. You've made it onto the path.
Because the quest for an agent is looking a little grim, I decided to start researching publishers. First stop, SCBWI. If you are a member, which I highly recommend, you can use their resource library. Every year they produce a publishing guide. I went through the listing looking for houses that were accepting queries. Be careful, some don't. Then I circled which houses they belonged to. Many are sub divisions of a larger company.
Next, A wonderful book called, Book Markets for Children's Writers 2009. You can buy yourself a copy at www.ChildrensWriter.com . It's an amazing book. They list alphabetically children's publishers, from the big wigs to the small presses. I go through every page and search for those that want middle grade and show an interest in fantasy.
Then, on to the internet. I go to every company's website and do a little research. I check out their submissions guidelines and also their catalog of books. I like to see if they publish books like mine. Often times I cross a company of the list because even though it states they do MG, all that's in their catalog are board books or early readers.
I also check google. I read articles about the publishing houses. I also cross check for editors. I like to see who the actual people are. Then I can see which editor might be best to personally send my query to. People like different things.
I hit on a good one last night. While researching Holiday House I came across a blog by a lady named Hilary Wagner. She just signed her first book. The blog went on to mention her editor, Julie Amper. Then I googled Hilary Wagner. I came across another blog that mentioned her agent at Nancy Galt Literary, Marietta Zacker. She loves her agent. Bingo, I got the name of both an editor and an agent that come recommended.
That's as far as I got last night. More to come :)