Friday, September 12, 2014

Question: I'm re-agenting. Isn't my manuscript more appealing for having been loved previously?

 What are your thoughts on opening a query letter with this:

I recently parted ways with my agent before the novel was shopped, so I would love to submit for your consideration...

My colleagues and I feel very different about this opening line. I think it's a red flag for prospective representation, running the risk of that agent wondering "what's wrong?" with either me or my manuscript. On the other hand, fellow writers think it sends a powerful message that I/my work was strong enough to have had agent representation.



You're both right. How's that for confounding your expectations!

This is information that does NOT have to be in a query. Sans submission, you are not required to reveal that you had worked with an agent on this very same manuscript. However, as your coven fellow writers points out, knowing it had attracted representation before does say something good about it.

You are quite right to intuit that "formerly represented" is a red flag for any agent. We do not assume our ilk let good ms slide out of their mercenary paws readily, nor that they are idiots (although we know that to be the case with more than a few.)

What to do, what to do.

Like all sales pitches, you lead with the good stuff. If you really want to tell your prospective new agent that someone else liked you too, you put it at the END of the query. Notice in your question you said "opening a query letter." You never open a query with this. Not with any housekeeping stuff either like word count or genre. Snag the reader's attention with what matters: the plot.

Truthfully though, I'm voting with leaving this out. I'm less likely to request something if I know I'm clearly second choice, for any reason. [Yes, my ego is that big.]

12 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just because another shark bit the tale of the seal does not make it's heart any less tasty.

Joyce Tremel said...

I think it also depends on why the writer and the agent parted. When my former agent left agenting to work at a publishing company, I did lead off with a sentence explaining that.

donnaeverhart.com said...

Agree that circumstances for parting ways are important. I would mention it only under the same situation that Joyce Tremel states, otherwise, or if the agent became sick and could no longer work (or worse, God forbid). That, but nothing else b/c there can only be so many other reasons a client and agent part ways. Reasons I wouldn't want New Agent to be concerned with. Like, maybe s/he has crazy client syndrome, or, the dreaded Editor's We Just Didn't Love It Enough virus, meaning the writing was somehow missing something - even though Previous Agent loved it. Stuff like that.

Angie Brooksby said...

first date:

I recently parted ways with my boyfriend because, well, I really shouldn't say.

Will you consider marrying me?

wjm said...

This is a question I've wondered about for a long time, as I too once had an agent. We didn't so much "part ways" as "drift." The problem I was left with (and I would think an agent would have a right to know this) is that I have no idea who, if anyone, she showed my ms to. Since then, I have considered that ms dead in the water. Am I wrong?

Wendy Qualls said...

I would think it's a potential positive if you "parted ways" because the agent actually left the industry entirely - less so if the agent is still agenting and you just didn't click for some reason.

Anastasia Stratu said...

Dear Ms. Reid,

Many writers who are making their first steps in the American publishing world, are bound to have tiny little egos and huge complexes re: their actual literary worth.

So they are simply afraid of querying the Mighty Shark first, being afraid they would end up a dish on a sharko smorgasbord. Or join Stieg Larsson rather than become his competitors.... I guess.

Sincerely yours,
Ana

DLM said...

wjm, you should reach out to the agent and get a submission list. Le Shark actually covered this pretty recently! If the agent is not to be found, contact the agency. You are within your rights to know what, if anything, was done with your hard work - and if nothing was done, you know it's not the *manuscript* that died on you ...

alaskaravenclaw said...

I am grateful to the Shark for having reminded us continually to get a submission list from our ex-agents. Otherwise I would not have known to ask for one.

I did not mention my ex in my queries. Several agents who responded asked why I didn't have an agent. At that point I told them I'd previously had one. Not otherwise.

Lance said...

A quotation from the Shark:
And the only preference I have is that you write well and have a book I want to read.

All this chatter about the history of your novel is getting in the way.

Liz Mallory said...

I'm wondering if there's another way to say it... I'm assuming you and your agent parted ways because of conflicting personalities or something related; if you can phrase it like that, so agents know it's not because your MS sucked, would that work better?

Janet Reid said...

You do not want to get into any aspect of why you parted ways with Agent #1. That's for later, if Agent #2 is interested in representing your work. And really, you do NOT need to say anything at all in the query about Agent #1.