A few months ago I took several metaphorical deep breaths and sent "GY" to the first of the literary agents on my list; today I heard back from her. It's a "no", which is a pity, but it's traditional for tyro writers to get many "no"s before they get a yes. So it's realistic to expect and accept a "no". The good thing is, it's a good no. Yes, there is such a thing...
Firstly, it's a personal message, not a standard response. It's clear that the agent has read the material and considered it, and then taken the time to give me some personal feedback. As I understand the business, this is pretty unusual nowadays.
Secondly, the feedback is very positive. She thinks I write beautifully and am a wonderful writer. Those are not my words - they're verbatim quotes. The problem - the reason why she's saying "no" - is not the quality but the "fantastical aspects of the plot". She's tried to sell a magic realist novel without success recently, and says she doesn't want to raise false hopes when she would struggle trying to get a me a deal.
Thirdly, she says she'd be interested in seeing anything else I have written that might have a more straightforward story.
I have of course written straight back to say "Thank you for your time and your feedback, and I may take you up on that". And I've had a reply already, saying "Best of luck and yes, please do".
So although it's a "no", I'm feeling pretty chuffed about it. I have had something moderately close to a nibble, on my first try. And I may send her "Ramundi's Sisters" when I finish revising it, since there is nothing fantastical in that plot, just a lot of painting and stifled Sicillian passion.