I queried about thirty agents last winter (2015) with my first ms, a thriller about Cambodia/Khmer Rouge. Save one partial request, all flat-out rejections. I self-published at the same time as querying. (1)
This year, Angelina Jolie is releasing a film about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, through an adaptation of the memoir 'First They Killed My Father' by Loung Ung. Film will be released on Netflix. Good or bad, everything Angelina does gets press.
(A celebrity is releasing a film this year about the obscure topic that will bring it more to public awareness...)
There is almost no current fiction about Cambodia. If the movie does well, I think it will help my book. (2)
Question is: Should I re-query all the same agents as I did last year, highlighting this upcoming movie? (3)
Or query only new-to-me agents (4)
Or does it seem like a complete non-event and move on? (5)
Or a wait and see how movie does? (6)
And should I unself-publish first? (7)
I feel like I am sitting on an opportunity now that before was a 'No One else Cares'.
Thanks for the blog, wish had found it earlier. (8)
(1) If you self-published at the same time you queried, you seriously misunderstand the purpose of both self-publishing and querying. I don't take on books that are already published. Agents who do look for strong sales. If you've just published, unless there was a tsunami of sales on Day One, even agents who take on self-pubbed books won't be interested.
(2) Go to Amazon, type in the search term "novels about Cambodia." I came up with six. When you look on GoodReads, there are more. When I see this kind of statement in a query, and my very cursory research doesn't support your statement, I'm hugely dissuaded from considering your work further. You're much better off emphasizing how your novel is DIFFERENT from the other novels out there. You don't have to be only, you just have to be new and fresh.
(3) No. Publishing works on a long lead time. Right now, I'm selling books in to Fall 2017 catalog and Winter 2018 lists. You've missed the window completely for Fall 2016.
(4) Sure, if you want to.
(5) The success or failure of Angelina Jolie's movie will have almost zero impact on whether someone wants to read your book UNLESS Angelina Jolie's movie is based on your book.
(6) See #5
(7) There is no such thing as unpublishing. You've published the book. It's got an ISBN number and if you were smart, a copyright registration. Those things do not go away even if the book isn't available for sale.
(8) Me too, if only to have spared you what seems like a lot of work for no reward.
As a general rule, a movie based on a book is good news for that particular book, but it doesn't help books in the entire category. One of the (many) reasons for this is that the movie is based on a book that was published several (if not more) years ago. That means that publishers wanting to ride the wave of any renewed interest in this topic are going to look at their backlist (previously published books) FIRST, not try to acquire something to publish now. Reprinting a book can be done in weeks. Publishing a novel takes MONTHS if not a year or more.
Bottom line: query new agents if your book is selling well. If it's not, be prepared for a vast swath of silence.
If your book is not selling well, at the risk of sounding cavalier about the challenges of writing: write another book and start the query process anew. OR invest in making the self-published book a success.