I read lots of writer, agent, and author group blogs. One theme I notice, particularly in the writer and group blogs, is the GO FOR YOUR DREAM! YOU'LL SUCCEED IF YOU STICK TO IT. Rah rah rah.
Here's the fact of the matter. Your chances of realizing your dream via the agent to major publisher route is about the same as winning the lottery. Not so hot.
This is not to say you should quit writing or give up on being published. Not at all. But I just hate to see young writers (in their 20s or 30s) getting the mistaken impression that they will get an agent if they persist.
You've probably watched at least a couple of episodes of American Idol, particularly the auditions. What do you see?
1 - Really horrible 'singers' who think they're absolutely great and get totally hysterical when Simon tells them they suck (and they do suck).
2 - People who say "I want this more than anybody, so I should get it." Every other person in that stadium wants it just as bad as you do, so get over yourself.
3 - Some pretty good singers who might get some gigs in a bar or bar mitzvah. Hey, it's a living.
4 - A tiny teeny percentage of singers who actually have a shot at success. Good on you!
Writers are no different than American Idol hopefuls who sign up at those mass auditions. The percentages are probably about the same for writers who "audition" by sending their queries to agents: Way less than 1%.
The bloggers who cheerlead you into believing if you just stick to it you'll get yourself an agent and a big contract are lying to you. They're lying, not because they're mean people, but because they believe they should encourage others. That's nice of them, but they really ought to go serve meals to the homeless and leave writers alone. The odds are simply against you gaining success in the traditional way.
The other side of the story is the trash-talkers against self-publishing. "All self-published books are crap." Yeah, sure. Read some of the major publisher books, and you'll find an equal amount of crap.
Follow your dream, but don't put your hopes on mainstream publishing. Be creative. Look for small publishers, epublishers, POD publishers. Hell, do it yourself, then you won't depend on anybody else to validate you.
Just never believe the Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah crowd. The last syllable is the operative part: Bah. It ain't going to happen except for 1 out of 1000 cases. Can you wait for it to happen? If you're comfortable with that, then, by all means, keep churning out those queries to the agents.
For the record, I have nothing against agents. I'd love to have one myself. However, I'm at a certain age and experience level to understand that the odds are against me. I suppose I could adopt a child and raise her to become an agent, then I'd have an inside track. But, the sad news is, I should have adopted them twenty years ago. Too late now.