I got an email from an agent yesterday, which said (more or less): “We probably won’t take you on, but we’d like to see more of your work to be sure first.”
[Edited post because I decided it’s best not to talk about business negotiations while they are going on. I don’t think there’s any big deal in this case, but it just seems like a good policy for down the road. Sorry for the tease.]
Still, it beats the hell out of a “no”.
*”partial” refers to sending a part of the novel to an agent. For many agents, the process goes something like this: Writer sends a query. A query is a one-page letter describing the work, possibly the first five pages of the story, and sometimes a brief synopsis. If the agent is intrigued by the query, she will request a partial. A partial means a bigger chunk of the story (often the first three chapters or so), and perhaps a more detailed synopsis. The agent may also begin to take an interest in personal information about the writer. Should the partial pass muster, then the agent will request a “full”, and will at long last commit to reading the whole damn story. That’s a big deal for an agent, because reading generally happens in her “free” time. Once the agent reads the story, she will ask herself “can I sell this?” which is itself a complicated question, and “can I work with this writer?” Should both those questions came back with a “yes”, the agent will contact the writer and the two will discuss the possibility of working together. Even then, it’s not a sure thing.