So Joelle Delbourgo wasn't impressed with my meagre credentials. Nor was she swept away by the first chapter of the manuscript.
What might an agent be looking for? I picked up a copy of Mozart's Sister, to get some idea of what makes the cut for debut fiction. Picked it up and put it down. I wasn't drawn in by the prose.
Don't start a novel with an info dump we're told, but the novel begins with a long section of "As you know, Bob" details. I understand why the tactic is generally forbidden. It makes for a dull run of prose that I skimmed over in search of something concrete.
I tried to keep going, but I was surprised! by the number of surprising! statements. I had to turn to the frontispiece, to see if by some chance the novel was put out by a vanity press without editors on board. No, it was Crown Books, a real publisher. Turn to the back flap, and discover that the writer lives in Italy. That explains the emotion, the use of exclamation marks to substitute for the hands that Italians cannot help but flap about as they speak.
If this is what agents are seeking, I have no hope. I not only can't write like that, but I wouldn't want to. Mozart's Sister might be shelved with historical fiction, but there are different styles within the genre and I don't fit.
It doesn't matter in the end. The author thanks her literary agent but I've never heard of her and I've queried them all. I'm not ready to start an agent search in Europe. Not yet, at any rate.