Wow, good thread me dears. PB, and others submitting, I feel your pain. I had an agent, had a book go out on sub, said agent left publishing, so now back to submitting a new book. I guess my experience has told me a few things:
1. Research your agencies as well as your agents. My agent was early career (a good thing re ambition perhaps), but also not well supported within a very small agency. Size of agency & career point of agent aren’t as important though as whether you personally get on with that agent.
2. Do look at indie publishers, they are doing amazingly well at boosting the less mainstream books, and are storming prize shortlists/sales charts. BUT there’s a huge range from sharks to stars. Society of Authors sells a guide to them, it’s worth checking out. Also, if you get an offer, and are then eligible to join the SoA, they will vet the contract for you.
3. Subsequent books will possibly do better. Me – first book (shudder), no full requests (deservedly). Second book, took first agent offer, didnt sub elsewhere. Third book, ~50% full requests, (whispers: other stuff). So don’t give up if book no. 1 doesn’t reap gold.
4. Get on with something else while your submissions are out. THere’s nothing worse than staring at your inbox, and most agents take … a … long … time… Write book 2. Write shorts and sub them. Eat chocolate.
Long post, sorry. It’s really tough. Bon courage.