I wish I could talk about literary agents with some degree of certainty. I can't, simply because of limited contact. But that isn't going to stop me from commenting.
Oh, there are some things I know. They are overburdened, getting an avalanche of contacts every week from aspiring writers like myself. They have their areas of interest regarding genres with which they will work. They are writers, editors and lawyers all rolled into one (or at least they know good lawyers) and guide their clients through the tricky world of publishing. Ah yes, there is the most important fact for someone such as myself: They are absolutely vital to my future, because they hold the first set of keys to getting published. But that is a mighty tough first step to take.
Here is a quick statistic: I have contacted 23 agents since mid-December; I have heard back from six of them. All were rejections. I'm not shaken by that fact, for two reasons. First, I don't have a big ego, so rejection doesn't hit one of my more vulnerable spots. Second, one agent posted on her blog that contacting an agent is a little like a first date. Some first dates work out, a lot don't. (I have to dig back into my memory banks to comment on that, since I've been married for a long, long time.) OK, I'm fine with that fact.
But remember, I'm that guy looking for that wedding night experience. First dates that end with a polite goodbye at the door aren't exactly what I was looking for. And what about all those agents who haven't contacted me yet? Is my work under review, or have I been kicked to the curb? (It was a bit disconcerting to see that two of the agents I've sent to are on the list of the top 10 agents least likely to reply. Marvelous.) Where is that agent who believes in me as much as I believe in myself?
Of course, I have definite impressions from my contact with the few agents I've heard from. There are two of them I absolutely love, and I will talk about them in my next post. (I'll give a couple of honorable mentions as well.) And later I will deal with the query letter, that first contact with an agent that is one of the most difficult writing assignments imaginable. (Hint: Take a manuscript of more than 200 pages and boil it down to 250 words or less ... and make it good enough to sell that agent who is wading through hundreds of similar works. And for added weight, those words could determine your future in this business.)
Keep writing, keep creating, keep believing.