I got this reply from John Jarrold which I will append entire. I like him. I think he's a pro in any sense, and an individual would be lucky to land him as an agent.
As promised, I have now read your material Ė apologies for the delay. I can see the imagination at work here, but I canít honestly say I loved it. After fifteen years in publishing, I'm all too aware how difficult it is to get a publisher interested in a new writer, so I feel that I do have to love my clients' work - personally and professionally - to do the best possible job. If I don't feel that strongly, I'm the wrong agent.
The entry level for a new novelist now is 'special', not 'good'. This is partially because sales and marketing directors have so much more power than they did ten years ago. If they don't believe they will be able to sell a first novel into W H Smiths and the rest of the bookselling trade in numbers, they'll block the editor from acquiring it. A senior editor told me a few weeks ago that even if he loved an author's writing, he wouldn't make an offer until the book that was submitted to him was 100% right for the market - he has just acquired an author whose previous four novels he (and everyone else in London) had turned down despite liking them a great deal. Thus, I have to believe the writers I take on (and the books they send me) are truly wonderful, or it's pointless submitting them.
FYI, I've taken on about twenty writers as clients and turned down over 1100, so far...I know it can be as difficult to get an agent as it is to be taken on by a publisher. You just have to keep plugging away.
All best wishes for the future.