Literary agents are considered the gatekeepers of publishing, standing at the velvet rope and allowing entry only to those they deem worthy.
You approach, but no matter what you try, you are rejected.
What is missing is the approval of someone already inside the publishing club.
Christine Sneed is on the cusp of having her first novel published, but she has been slogging away in the trenches for a decade. She is no overnight wonder, no stellar talent suddenly discovered in the slush pile.
Like you, she went the query route, submitting to literary agents who didn't find that her prose was adequate. She fired off short stories to literary journals and rarely saw an acceptance.
So how did Lisa Bankoff come to realize that a writer she otherwise would have turned down was all that?
It surely didn't hurt that Ms. Sneed was teaching creative writing at several Chicago private universities. That's the sort of credential that tells an agent you know how to structure a manuscript and there won't be the expense of an editor needed.
In today's modern publishing world, run by accountants and corporate executives with eyes firmly fixed on the bottom line, that's no small consideration.
But what really mattered was that someone on the inside of the publishing club spoke for Ms. Sneed.
Salmon Rushdie read one of her short stories and decided it was good enough to be put into an anthology.
If the likes of Salmon Rushdie thinks you're good, what literary agent would accuse him of not knowing what he's going on about?
So if you're looking for a high-powered agent, you have some work to do.
First, get a job teaching.
Good luck with that. The universities are watching their bottom lines as well. Maybe they'd take on a volunteer?