I parted with my agent a couple months ago and am ready to query a new manuscript. (No, I did not write a new manuscript in two months, but it is now ready.) The parting was amicable. There has been some debate among fellow writers as to what to do with this info in the query letter.
(1) Most agree not to mention Former Agent's name, but since this is a pretty well known agent, a couple have suggested using Former Agent's name in an attempt to show I've secured rep once so can't be totally worthless. I, on the other hand, think it can totally backfire somehow, someway, but . . . ?
(2) Should the "amicably parted ways" be at the top of the query to alert New Agent of that info or is including it in the last paragraph (after comps and bio) a good place for it so I can get right to the query?
(3) Since I'm including the parting ways bit (I should include that, right?), should I mention this book has not been submitted to publishers in case New Agent is wondering if this manuscript is old news?
(4) Should I mention anywhere that I've had two other books go through the publisher sub process (only about 15 editors each, some second reads, one failed acquisitions, but rest were passes or non-responding editors)? Not sure what this info would add, but someone mentioned it'd show I'm not expecting miracles or a quick sale, etc., and am in this for the long haul.
The purpose of a query letter is to entice your reader to request the full.
Thus, try not to include information that will make your reader (ie ME) hesitate.
Here's the unvarnished truth: when I get a query from someone formerly agented I do NOT assume this is a golden opportunity do what Former Agent could not. I view it as likely to be more trouble than it will be worth.
Now, I am sure you are not more trouble than you're worth. After all, you read this blog, and you knew to ask this question. And your former agent may be a dunderhead of epic proportion (there are more than a few of those.)
But, let's leave the details until after I fall in love with your work. It's a whole lot easier for me to talk myself into this if I love love love your book.
I have several clients who had agents before me. In almost every case, I knew and loved their (published) work before they signed with me. Since you don't have published work (yet) your book will need to do the heavy lifting.
In your particular case, your chances are helped because you don't have any published work.
Now, I can hear you woodland creatures frantically squirming with thoughts of "but what about transparency."
Transparency does not mean revealing all instantly. Much like you don't have to explain your stint in rehab when you decline the glass of wine, or reveal that your dear mum made you practice walking with books on your noggin when you get a compliment on your perfect posture.
Remember, you are pitching a product here. The book and you, package deal. All salespeople worth their salt know to lead with benefits. While your book is not a vacuum cleaner, selling is selling. Lead with your strengths.
Obviously you WILL tell Agent New about Agent Old, and the time to do so is if Agent New requests a full manuscript. And yes, you will say who Agent Old is. If you're an ex-client of Barbara Poelle, who has been known to sell things off cocktail napkins, in a cloud of fire and brimstone, well, you're not a good choice for me. But if you're a refugee from one of those sludge pits of agents who don't know a gin joint from joint accounting, well, you're probably going to keep my attention.
So, at the requested full stage: yes on name, yes on amicable, yes on this is a new book, and no on the other stuff unless it involved an agent.
And if you've had more than one agent when you query me, you really need to meet me at a conference and we're going to need to have a conversation cause that's a pretty big hurdle.
And just so you know here are the questions I ask prospective clients about their former agents:
1. Have you parted ways formally?
2. Did you sign an agency agreement?
3. What went wrong?
4. What are you looking for now.