I was asked a semi-strange question in an email: Do I know any literary agents who handle commercial novels?
The guy was obviously fishing, assuming that since I'm a columnist for a periodical, I'd have contacts in other areas.
Sorry, reader, but no.
My editor, King Seneca, has kicked around the idea of a collection of my columns, but I don't know how it would sell when all my columns are passed around the internet like some bizarre peace pipes, and are readily fetchable on the Ticker's archive page.
The reader went on to ask me if I had any knowledge of a Jud Laghi, who's an agent out of New York. Definitely a fishing expedition, and not a productive approach for someone who is otherwise apparently savvy about the novel writing/submission/promotions process. And I read the first chapter, which sounds interesting--such as it is--but I don't read novels, so even if he went totally over the gunwale and asked me to be a beta reader, I don't think I could offer any worthy opinion, or additional aid and comfort.
Sure, I could likely blue-pencil it to confetti, as I'm proud of my ability to sniff out the naughty punctuation, spelling, and grammar gremlins. But I get the feeling he's written a drop-dead killer story, judging by the brief synopsis he also volunteered. I'm nervous about this, afraid I'll somehow wind up with more of the manuscript, and I may like it, and I may inadvertently plagiarize sections, or fall headlong in love with it and wind up killing columns with gushy babble. I may fall prey to the noise of the bestseller list and actually read it once it hits paperback, but my effort at the moment does not involve a prediction. It involves taking care of my own prose, and I have quite the load of that to dredge through.
Not because my editor warned me, or it's a facet of journalism I learned in school, or I have a legal beagle barking at freely-offered best-sellers-to-be accompanied by a faint-yet-detectable fishy aroma, I've got to request my readers to please not send me any of their own material. I'm not a valuable galley reader. I couldn't provide a snappy jacket blurb unless there's a blurb store in the neighborhood, and one that takes Visa. You'll have to hunt down your own literary agent elsewhere, on your own.
As you see, I didn't offer any cohesive reasons for deleting the email. Maybe the request struck me as just too weird to address with any lucid effort. I'm sorry, Mister Whoever-You-Are.
I'm rarely downbeat or setting up walls betwixt me and my readership, and I suffer the worst of fools far too gladly (as you well know by now), but I think I may have an excuse for my behavior, this time.
I had a disturbing last evening, you see.
It was a dark and stormy night.