I’m preparing to query my second novel, a mystery, which features the same main character as my first novel. I made clear in the queries for the first novel that it had series potential, but both novels stand alone. I sent out about 40 queries for the first novel, with 5 requests for fulls and 3 for partials.
I plan to query four of the agents who read the full and gave me some useful feedback. I know they will remember the first novel and I feel I have enough of a relationship with them to let them know the situation. What I’m not sure about is how to approach agents who rejected the first novel at the query stage, some of whom I would like to query again.
The main character has a distinctive name and a memorable background, and I want to make clear that this is neither a revision nor a sequel. If I ignore the first query, I’m afraid they will think they’ve already seen (and rejected) it. But if I explain that this is a different, better novel, they might think it’s stupid to expect them to be interested in a concept they already rejected. Do you have suggestions as to how I can address this?
And yeah, I know I should have written something completely unrelated, but this wouldn’t go away, and I just decided to write what I wanted to write. I’m glad I did.
You're operating under the assumption that agents who rejected that first novel at the query stage will remember it, and that's probably not accurate.
When I receive a query that seems familiar, I look up the author's previous emails to me. (Yes, I keep ALL the queries and replies)
I look at the TITLE first. If it's a different title from a writer, I assume I have not seen the book, and read the query. If it's the same title, I look at both queries to see if it's the same book. If it is, I mention that I've already responded to this project on such and such a date. If it's NOT the same book (ie the query is substantially different) I read the query.
Here's what you need to remember first and foremost: we're all looking for work we can sell. If the book sounds interesting NOW I don't care if you queried me 500 times before for the same title that DIDN'T.
So, the answer to your question is make sure the title is different, and write the query so it is clear this is a new project.