Dear Miss Snark:
I would love some of your wonderful advice -- I'm at a bit of a loss. My agent, who is submitting my novel (13 very nice rejections so far) has just told me that my next novel is one he doesn't quite know how to market, and that he thinks it will be very difficult to sell. It's a historical novel but feels less, in his estimation, like a 21st-century novel set in the 19th century, and more like an actual 19th-century novel. I agree with this to an extent; it uses some Victorian plot conventions, but it also uses language and episodes you wouldn't find in a Victorian novel, even though the narrative voice is of that period. In other words, it's much more open about its characters' (mostly sexual) desires than a 19th-century novel would be.
Anyway, my agent, whom I really, really like, and who has invested a lot of time on my first novel, has told me that I should think long and hard about whether he's the right agent for this new novel, given the fact that he's somewhat stumped by it. I don't get the impression that he's dumping me (if he is he's not doing a very good job of it), just that he wants to be fair to me, and that he'll understand if I decide to look for an agent who has fewer reservations about it. Let me add here that he thinks the novel is wonderful, so his misgivings have nothing to do with the quality of the work. And I can understand if he is reluctant to spend a lot of time on something he isn't sure he can sell.
I'm trying to decide what to do. We left it that we would both try to make a decision about this, and that he would brainstorm about where and how to submit it. I really do like and admire him, and I appreciate the amount of time -- so far unpaid -- he's spent on my first novel. Am I a nitwit if I decide to stick with him, in the hopes that he will figure out the best way to market this? Or should I be looking for another agent? I would much prefer to stick with him but if that's a bad idea I'd like to know it.
I don't think it's a bad idea to stick with an agent who is honest about his hesitation, is willing to work with you, and hasn't said "write me something I can sell". We get surprised every single month by things that sell. Go for it. Of course, while he's shopping this, get busy and write him something so commercial it makes your pocketbook puff up like a blowfish in anticipation.