The statement, "A bad agent is worse than none" is true. It happened to me. I didn't sell a book until after we parted company. Now, I have 4 published books and I'm writing for two small but good quality publishers, YA fantasy for one, adult suspense for the other. I've been trying, in vain, to sign with a good agent. Nobody is interested. Shall I give up?
Never, ever give up. Remember that when it comes to publishing persistence is part of the game, and if you want to build a publishing career then you need to keep at it. You need to continue querying agents and writing books, and this isn’t just advice for the unpublished: staying published can be more difficult than finding that agent. You need just as much persistence to stay in the game as you do to get into the game.
It sounds like you’re starting off right. You’ve found a home for your work that you’re happy with and are now querying agents for new and fresh work. The smart thing is that you know when it comes to finding an agent you’ll have more success with a new project than you will with something that’s already been published. In your case, the case of the published author, the agent hopes to bring you to the next level in your career and wants to see what you have that will do that.
What I think most unpublished authors will find shocking about this is the fact that you are published and yet still struggling to find an agent. There’s a misconception that agents will snap up anyone with a publishing background or deal, and that’s just not true. I know that at BookEnds we have turned down a number of authors with careers or deals in hand. The truth is that we can’t take on every author that comes our way, and frankly, that works to your advantage. It means that when we do offer a contract we are really excited to be working with you and not just doing it because we see dollar signs.
Keep plugging away and writing books, continue to hone your craft and improve, and remind yourself that if you really want a career as a published author then giving up isn’t an option.