Literary Advice

Is it time I give up on this agent business? I met with a career counsellor today, but I’m really confused about the advice I got.

“I’m an aspiring literary agent,” I said, “but I keep passing up books that go on to be bestsellers. Maybe I’m just not cut out for it. I can’t exactly go back to the publishing industry, because all of my ex-coworkers will laugh at me for failing when I was so confident I could be an agent.”

“So,” said the counsellor, “are you sure you need a career change? Melbourne has plenty of places for you to work in publishing. You don’t have to go back to your old workplace.”

I sighed. “I don’t know. I made my departure from the publishing industry very public. But now I haven’t even sold a single book.”

“Why haven’t you sold a book yet, or picked up any clients? Let’s dig into this a little bit.”

I still didn’t understand it, honestly. Why didn’t I see the market value in these books? “Let’s use the latest query I got as an example. I technically haven’t rejected it yet, but that’s just because I’ve been putting it off. This book is terrible, possibly the most cliche and boring drivel I’ve ever read. Who on Earth names their protagonist Wiggle McGiggle? And yet, as soon as I send a form rejection, I’ll pick up a newspaper and see that Augustus Bland has won a Hugo Award for Best Novel.”

My counsellor took a deep breath. “Janet, career counsellors of Melbourne have been giving advice for many years now, but I am going to suggest something a little different. I think you should seriously consider this book. If you’re so sure that your tastes are poor, perhaps you should do the opposite of what they say.”

“I was worried you would say that,” I said. “But I don’t even know how to sell science fiction or fantasy. And besides, the book is rubbish.”

She shrugged. “I can’t tell you what to do. All I can do is advise, and I think you should give it a chance.”

“Fine,” I said. “I guess I’ll have another look.”

– Janet McCallom