At the beginning of the agent search, the power relationship (if it makes sense to think of it that way) between the writer and agent is very unequal, as most of the power lies with the agent. I'll admit I was very intimidated by the querying process. I've spent months sweating over my query letter. Writing and sending multiple drafts. Tweaking and revising my first few chapters.
Contact with an agent has been my Holy Grail; we all know how hard it is to get those elusive requests for partials, or better still, full manuscripts. So I think it will take quite a while for my thinking to readjust. For me to accept that I have an industry professional on my team now, who is there to help and advise, and who believes in what I do enough to try and sell my work to publishers for me.
It's funny - I've only just realised how similar the jobs of literary agents and recruitment industry professionals are. Funny, because I've worked in Human Resources/recruitment myself for a few years.
The literary agent wades through dozens, if not hundreds of queries, looking for the few that spark their interest. Then they request a partial or full, then assess that, and finally make an offer of representation when they find a book they love - knowing that at the last minute (if they haven't requested an exclusive submission) another agent could gazump them.
The recruiter posts a job advertisement, then reads through the hundreds of CVs they're sent, looking for applicants with the right skill set and experience. They may do a phone interview, or ask the applicant to come in for a first interview. For those who do well in that interview, there may be a second interview, before the recruiter/employer makes the decision to offer the applicant a job - knowing that at the last minute, the applicant may accept another position elsewhere.
In both cases, rejecting huge numbers of queries/CVs which don't meet the required criteria is a fact of life. But it's equally true that in both industries these professionals are actively looking for the right queries/CVs. The right applicant or author. And when they find them, the relationship inevitably shifts to become more equal. After all, you're going to be working together, maybe for quite a while - and mutual respect is important if that is going to work.
Anyway, I'm still in shock and can't really think what else to put in this post, but I'm open to questions/comments from anyone out there who is approaching completion of their first project, or is already querying or on submission. If there's anything you'd like to know about this stage of the process - no matter how strange - then fire away!
When I was going through this stage I know talking to others always helped. I'll check all comments and answer whatever questions I find there...assuming of course that I have an answer to your particular question.