A Snarkling reviews her correspondence stack and asks:
My previous novel, a historical along the lines of Bernard Cornwell's 'Sharpe' military adventures but in a different historical period, garnered a dozen form rejection letters from agents before I decided there must be something wrong with it and gave up. As the rejections were all form letters of the 'this is not for us' school, I don't know what was wrong with it, but I suspect that either the first few pages weren't successful in hooking interest or that the story as outlined in the synopsis wasn't good enough. While I was querying agents with this, I wrote another in the same setting and with some of the same characters but quite a different story. It would have been a sequel to the first, but it is an independent story and can stand alone. My question to you is: is it worth querying agents with this second novel (with no reference to the first), or does the fate of the first mean that the whole idea is unsaleable and I should try a different period or a different kind of book altogether?
That novel writing stuff is hard isn't it!
You're probably right that it was the first few pages (were agents reading only pages with a query or partials or the whole thing?) or the synopsis.
I encourage you to persevere. ONLY however after you've really worked on the second effort, the new one. Get some readers who'll give you good feedback.
Every novelist I know, EVERY one, tries to improve with each book. All of them have pages under the bed that will never see the light of day. This one will be yours, but ONLY if you really buckle down and read your work critically.
Your unspoken question is "am I too much like Bernard Cornwell; did agents think this wouldn't sell cause he's got the market locked up" and the answer is no.
Press on. Work hard. Bread and water till you fix the first chapter!
You might run the synopsis through the Crapometer when it returns and get some feedback here. Keep your eye peeled for when that starts up again-December.