Monday, November 24, 2014

Query Question: Novel two with memorable elements from novel one

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.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

First there’s the LHS records, then the MCC transcripts, the FBI files, NSA communications, and the CT DOT traffic logs, FB and cookies. Now JR’s email record of every submission: First novel, second novel, collection of thirty short stories, current memoir, and even a proposal, sort of, (no I did not ask Janet to marry me). I guess that means I’m tucked away in many an agent's/file.
Only one compendium concerns me.
Two years ago, for three hours, I researched auto dealers for a new/used car. Bought one the next day and still, ads keep popping up for a new set of wheels. So, do you think that eventually I should expect the auto mall ads to be replaced by mass emails from agents clamoring for my work? No. That’s what I thought you’d answer.

Colin Smith said...

Carolynn: What IF! Imagine that. You get an email from FPLM asking for a query and at the bottom it says: "You received this email because you showed interest in Irene Goodman Literary Agency". :)

I too keep all my agent correspondence. But that's because it takes so long to parse the *true* meaning of "not for me." I'm still working on one from two years ago... ;)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Every once in awhile, I read a book by an author which was not published first but still feels as though it was written first. My notable example for that is Tana French's The Likeness; to me, her series' second novel packs a heavier punch than the first one did. I have no idea which was written first, queried first, etc., just that In the Woods was first out of the gate.

We're told agents and publishers have long memories, but archives help!

Susan Bonifant said...

"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."

When writers get balled up, clarity is a wonderful thing.

And, depending on how long it's been under the bed, old work can be very hard to rewrite while the new work reflects a writer's growth as an artist.

For example, absolutely no one in my current novel is staring out the window, thinking. But my first novel was full of 'em. If someone suggested I try again, but this time without the window-thinking, I would be starting with a book about people dropping off kids at school and going to the bank later.

Craig F said...

Thank you Janet for removing my earlier post. I was distracted and some things bled together. I apologize to all who may have read it.

Five fulls and three partials from 40 queries is pretty good. The question is in what those old 'useful feedback' responses were. At certain times they might request that you rewrite in first person or something along those lines. If you didn't want to do what those agents said and just decided to chuck the first under the bed I would not re-query those agents.

Very few books are publishable with out some revision. Those other agents might think you are a writer who believes that their book should be published 'as is'. That is not a good place to be.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I'm curious to know if an agent is 'bothered' by the writer suggesting that their characters have series potential.

Would this not be apparent in the writing/ characterization?

Is it not the agent who sees this and says "wow" or "F"an "A", this could be a series?

@Susan Bonifant the opening of my first long fiction was someone opening their eyes. Luckily I threw it in the city dump before anyone read it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Susan and Angie, my first MC spent a lot of time in front of the mirror contemplating 'what' she looked like.
She also had a few dream sequences, with surprise awakenings, I called 'twists' for the reader.
Ah, for the old days of not knowing just how must you don't know.

MNye said...

Ahh, for some of us the old days are now.

DLM said...

I'm querying a novel that's seen a few revisions now, and what it is today is decidedly NOT what it was last time querying was seriously active. Indeed, some small but crucial changes just in the last couple of months have changed the face of it, thanks to (that golden resource) feedback from a good agent, make it not even the book it was this past summer.

Some agents who've heard from me before will hear from me again. I could worry about their sneering behind my back, but ... hey, if it's behind my back and there are other agents not doing that, the "not's" have it, as far as I'm concerned. Worst case scenario is rejection, and we all need those in order to get to the right agent (and eventual sale). I can more than tolerate rejection along THAT road.

Sadly, though, the biggest hit I've had with any agent so far is with Janet's (entirely well-placed) adoration of Gossamer the Editor Cat. :)