Mean What You Say

My big wish for this upcoming month is that literary agents who state they want literary fiction in their agent profiles actually want literary fiction and not commercial fiction with a few literary flourishes.  I say this because having looked at some of the good rejections I've received the past couple of years, I've noticed most of these rejections were by literary agents who said they wanted literary fiction on their website but still rejected my manuscripts for being, well, literary and stuff.  It's complete speculation on my part, but here are some possible reasons for that:

1.  The agent prides her/himself on representing literary fiction but most of her/his client list is actually (or has become) commercial fiction, so including the category of "literary fiction" in their list of desired genres is more about how they see themselves as an agent and less about the kinds of manuscripts they actually sell to editors these days

2.  The literary agent has a divergent definition of literary fiction (that more and more resembles uptown fiction or top-tier commercial fiction), which is why s/he gets snarly when you declare foolishly that "literary fiction doesn't sell"

3.  The agent doesn't want to feel like a complete and absolute sellout because who does?

4.  S/he is keeping her/his options open, but literary fiction has become more aspirational than vocational.

5.  The term literary, as all other genres, just doesn't have stable genre conventions and doesn't mean shit anymore, so it's almost impossible to define and just as impossible to exclude other overlapping genre conventions

6.  All literature, in one amorphous sense, is literary (right?)

7.  If an agent could know ahead of time that a manuscript would sell for one million dollars, they'd probably accept it regardless of its genre, so literary fiction isn't out of the question technically

8.  The agent used to look for and sell literary fiction actively, but as the market has contracted and as Amazon has taken over the world, s/he has become much more conservative in the kinds of authors s/he represents, and commercial fiction has always had a better payout.  So, finding the next Pulitzer prize winner has become much less important than paying the mortgage

9.  The agent, once a brave and fearless bellwether in the publishing industry (whose "experimental" authors once violated rules of form, structure, and content gleefully) has dug his/her heels in and now rejects more and more literary fiction and accepts more cookbooks and dystopian YA knock-offs because there's already a pre-manufactured audience.  Yes, s/he has literary authors, but s/he's had them for thirty years and they're remnants of the golden age of literary fiction

10.  Why the hell not?