Mountain climbing can be tricky business. I'm not an expert hiker but I do enjoy an occasional climbing adventure. A few years ago, I embarked on an impromptu excursion that has been added to my ever-growing collection of "learning experiences". After an arduous and painful entanglement in scrub brush and a strenuous climb to what I thought was the top of the mountain behind my uncle's home, I discovered the frustration of false peaks--sub-peaks that appear to the inexperienced climber to be the object of their climb when, upon closer examination, are only a mirage.
Creating a publishable manuscript can be like that. Finding an agent for your manuscript can be like that. Many times, like inexperienced hikers, a new author reaches a point at which they believe they're about to reach the end of their climb. An agent requests a partial or a full manuscript, an agent offers representation, an editor is reading their manuscript. Often, these steps result in a book contract, but sometimes they are only a false peak.
The key to success is not turning around and going back down the mountain. Don't do it! The top of the mountain still exists, despite the false peak. You just have to keep going to reach it. Study the market, go to conferences, participate in workshops, distance yourself from the manuscript and write something else. Sometimes, the false peaks are there so we can prove to ourselves that we can reach the markers along the way, climb over them, and see the actual top of the mountain in our reach.
So, to all you writers out there (and all you non-writers who have other goals in your sights), adjust your approach and find a better trail if necessary, but never stop climbing!