Those of you who are more experienced will react to my next statement with a mental no-duh.
HOWEVER, I do not remember reading anything about this anywhere.
Here's the most important thing I've learned (at least about trying to get published in the YA market):
Premise is #1.
Sure, some may argue and agents list on their websites and blogs that solid writing and 3D characters are important. But from what I've seen through agent contests lately is that agents are drawn to strong, original premises. Also, judging from what gets published sometimes, strong writing is NOT a must.
So, if I had to do this all over again, I would start with a startling title, then build that into a logline, query letter, short synopsis, long synopsis and THEN finally write the darn novel. That's not really how I naturally work but I think that may result in a more "sellable" product.
It's not that I blame agents for choosing on premise. It's a tough publishing world and everything is driven by what readers are more likely to buy. My story (while having great writing, characters and action - at least in my opinion!) is not the most original if judged purely on premise.
Geez, I wished I'd done my HW before writing. But, it's a story that I had to tell. Like they say, usually your first published book is NOT the first one you write. At least I'm learning a lot.
I hope this helps other writers out there.