Michael, I agree with you …and with James. Oh what it is to be so easily swayed! 🙂
I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m prepared to accept that the way it works now may not be the best way it could work. At the moment I’m only worth rejection slip emails myself, so I can’t claim to know diddly though.
The math is certainly daunting for any author trying to make a start. i’ve done the numbers and they scare the pants off me. I think maybe the idea is that you write one, submit it and sit down to write another, which will keep you occupied and fruitful during the waiting time and probably be better than the first and thus likely more acceptable to an agent. Send off the second and move on to a third, by which time you’ve got the first one either accepted or ignored and sent out again. then do a fourth, fifth etc. Conceivably in the two year period you mentioned you could have three, four or more manuscripts out there thus increasing the chances of finding an agent for one of them. And presumably if you find an agent for one you have a nice little in for the others.
All this time your craft has been improving and your time has not been wasted, even if you have had to wait several years to see the thing/s hit the shelves.
Sound like a plan? It’s the only one I can come up with that seems half way sensible.