I'm a short story writer with a finished collection. I've published 6 of the 11 stories in literary journals -- reputable journals, but not the New Yorker. What is the likelihood of my landing an agent? Is it highly unlikely? I've been contacted by a few agents when my stories have appeared (a good sign) but they've lost interest when I didn't have a novel in the works. Is this more or less how it will go if I start querying agents? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your generous blog!
The fact that you've landed several stories in reputable journals and that agents are contacting you is a very good sign. It is not impossible to land an agent with just a collection, particularly a younger agent who is just starting out and has a passion for literary fiction. But it is much harder to do so without having a novel ready, too--or at the very least a synopsis for a novel and the first 50 pages. I would really suggest, if at all possible, having the novel synopsis and pages ready before querying with the collection. On the other hand, if you don't plan on writing a novel, then query with what you have. Nothing is impossible!