I've recently parted ways with my agent, and my current manuscript has been revised to the point it feels unsalvageable. As I've considered what to work on next, I keep feeling drawn back to a book that was on submission a few years ago. It was never bought, but I did receive some helpful editorial feedback that could make it 10x better. It's a historical fantasy, but I'm considering revising to make it an epic fantasy set in a world that I create as well as incorporating the editors' feedback.
If the manuscript has some of the same characters and plot elements, but a completely different setting, could it be queried as a new manuscript? Or would the fact that an earlier version had been submitted make it dead in the water? I do have a complete list of every editor the manuscript was submitted to, and I would of course be up front with agents I query. I guess my question is if it's possible to give an old manuscript new life, or if trying to resuscitate would be a waste of time.
There is no right answer to this, so it's a very interesting question.
When is a manuscript so refreshed it becomes new? That's always in the eye of the beholder. In this case the agent will be the beholder, but then the next beholders will be the editors.
You can't shop a refurbished ms that has been on sub without telling the agent.
You don't have to put it in the query, you don't even have to put it in the requested full, but you must tell her before it goes on sub, and I don't mean the day before either. I mean before you say yes to the dress, and sign with her.
The reason you must do this is because editors often DO remember projects they saw years ago. I've worked with some editors for more than a dozen years; if I send them something they've seen before without telling them, it could damage my standing with them.
They're not eager to read things twice any more than I am.
The more fundamental question though is this: if you refurbish Historical Now Epic, you will have spent time on a project that comes with baggage.
That time might be better spent working on something new.
I understand your reluctance to shelve a project that could be revitalized.
I'm not saying pull the plug on Historical Now Epic. Just consign it to the Ideas for the Next Book File.
If you shop a project that doesn't have baggage, your chances are better of getting an agent and a deal.
Time is a scarce, non-replenishable resource. Invest it in the doing the thing that is most likely to move you forward on your career path.
The question is not can the ms be shopped again, but do you want to spend your time refurbishing instead of writing something new.
I firmly believe that one essential part of the creative process is mystical. I think taking some time to ask the universe (in whatever form that takes) to guide you on this might help you see where you want to go.
A good long walk, looking at art, making pros and cons lists have all worked for me at one time or another.
Blog readers will no doubt have some insight on this question as well, so dig in to the comments.