This process involves a lot of waiting. And doing more while waiting. The waiting is not a bug, it's a feature. The slowness of the industry gives you time to work and get better.
When I rail against self-publishing, it's not because self-publishing is, by definition, bad. It's because most people do it out of impatience, and thus do it badly. This series has been loaded with stories of doing work that wasn't good enough and striving to do better.
A friend from my theatre days would say, "Any problem can be solved with money or time." Time is your friend in this business. Use it.
This is all my way of saying that my re-write of Thorn didn't immediately lead to my agent signing me on. It took him a while to get back to it, and he waived his claim to exclusivity in the process. I explored other agents, had a few other full-requests, and walked pretty far down the road with one before she passed.
I even went to a conference to pitch to agents. This was a great experience, which I recommend if you can swing it, and here's why: just about everyone attending is in the same place as you. At a lot of genre conventions, you've got fans who are there to be fans, and pros who are there to promote... and there's not a lot for the aspiring writer. Pitch conferences are for the aspiring writer, so you find a lot of camaraderie.
In fact-- at this point I was querying both Thorn and Holver Alley, and had finished a draft of Murder of Mages. Like I said, use the time, keep working. My scheduled pitch was for Sunday morning, and after some vacillating I had decided to pitch Thorn. Saturday at around 5pm, I checked my email and saw I had received a form-letter rejection to my query for Holver Alley.
From the very agent I was pitching to the next morning.
Needless to say, I was a mess. And this is where the camaraderie comes into play. One of the volunteers, who was also pitching her own project, spotted me and immediately realized Something Is Very Wrong. She more or less dragged me over to her table, pried the problem out of me, and then proceeded to shove me in a secluded corner with another agent.
Now, neither said corner shoving nor the following morning's perfectly fine scheduled pitch resulted in me getting signed-- that happened a couple months later with Mike, so it all worked out well in the end-- but in that moment, it was exactly what I needed.
And, hey, two months later I had an agent. So that meant I had made it, right?
Yeah... still a ways to go.
IF I HAD SELF-PUBLISHED AT THIS POINT: Both Thorn and Holver Alley would have been decent, even moderately successful books on the growing Amazon-Kindle market, I bet. But would that have really given me what I wanted? Especially since I would have had to have paid for an artist to make a good cover or something. At this point it wouldn't have been bad, but it wouldn't have been right.
BUT DID I LEARN ANYTHING BY NOW?: To ride it out, because good things did come with patience.