Thursday, April 05, 2018

Querying after your agent leaves the biz

I already landed an agent and worked happily with her for over three years. Sadly, she had to leave the biz, and I have to dive back into the ocean. Is it better to mention that fact in my query, and if so, where and how? I'd like prospective agents to know that someone already thought I was ready for representation and is willing to vouch for my ability and professionalism.
The question has two possible answers: yes and no (that's a lot of help, right?)

Yes, you need to mention it IF this novel you're querying went on submission or sold.
No, you don't need to mention it if your novel did NOT go on submission.

Remember, an agent is looking for work to sell, so a project that's made the rounds is less attractive than one which is fresh and new.

If you're published and fulfilling a contract, that commission goes to the previous agent which means a new agent will be working for free for a while.

If your work didn't go on submission, you don't need to tell anyone about your previous agent.

If your work did, you put the information in the housekeeping section of the query (paragraph 3.)

You phrase it as: I was previously represented by Felix Buttonweezer who has left the business.

Your desire to let someone know that another agent found you ready for representation, and is willing to vouch for you is a lovely idea, but it's like getting your first wife to write your new Tindr profile.

You will convey all those things in your lovely query, and any subsequent conversations. You never need mention it.


AJ Blythe said...

(((Hugs))), OP. Just when you think you have climbed the ladder you find yourself sliding down a snake. I assume this isn't an agency with other agents who might take you on? In which case I reckon you follow our Queen's advice and I wish you all the best luck second time around.

Jeannette said...

"Getting your first wife to write your tinder profile." Great line.

Amy Johnson said...

One of those things that can happen through no fault of anyone. OP, best wishes for much success alongside your second agent.

Julie Weathers said...

OP, how depressing. You just have to soldier on and know people support you.

Now I'm wondering if my ex would write a nice note for some dating site for me. It would be interesting.

Megan V said...

it's like getting your first wife to write your new Tindr profile.
That line sounds like the perfect concept for a Rom-Com.
Copyright QOTKU

Back on topic.
Best of luck in your search for a new agent OP.

Colin Smith said...

Opie: The fact you managed to get an agent before should at least give you confidence you can do it again, even if it's not something you would mention in your query. I don't know about you, but most of the time I'm trying to convince myself that I'm publishable, let alone trying to convince an agent! :)

All the best to you!!

John Davis Frain said...

Well, count me among the surprised with this answer. I'm like OP in that I would have thought it a feather in my cap if I had prior representation. SOMEbody out there who isn't my mother thought my stuff was saleable.

In my mind, that fact would have come below a referral from another agent, but (significantly) above no mention.

I guess I would have considered it like a word-of-mouth endorsement for a book. If someone told me I should pick up The Woman in the Window, I'd add it to my list and check it out next time I'm looking at book possibilities (which is to say, probably later that day).

I'd definitely mention a referral in a query, and I understand why that would rank above this situation. But since OP likely doesn't have referrals for most (or any) agents, this seems like a situation that would deserve mentioning. Not that it would sell a prospective agent, but that it would get them to sit up and take notice and maybe read with more interest.

Good luck, OP.

Steve Stubbs said...

You wrote: "a project that's made the rounds is less attractive than one which is fresh and new."

That makes sense. So the question arises: if it made the rounds, why not just toss it and write somethng that's fresh and new?

If the agent did not submit anything in three years time, that does not sound like someone OP would want to stay with anyway, except just socially.

If it made the rounds for three years and nobody bought it, that might not get a new agent excited.

Asking a new agent to work for free does not sound like a compelling USP. If the previous agent worked for free for three years, that sounds even less compelling. I think I would bury that.

If you can write one book you can write another. That seems to solve every problem.

Kate Larkindale said...

It's taken me over a year to get to the point where I'm almost ready to startthinking about querying again (a new book, not one my agent took out previously), so knowing I don't need to mention my previous representation is good.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

I don't know how Steve Stubbs can conclude for sure that Opie's novel didn't go anywhere and should be tossed.

It seems always the same depressing advice, so I conclude someone here wears single-use underwear, socks, dresses, using disposable cutlery, dishes and wives.

Steve Stubbs said...

One Of Us Has To Go said...
I don't know how Steve Stubbs can conclude for sure that Opie's novel didn't go anywhere and should be tossed.


Please note the use of the word "If". I did not conclude anything "for sure," but merely discussed several scenarios. OP may need a new MS to snag a new agent.

I also see nothing depressing about writing a new book.

Rod Serling had a play on the old Twilight Zone TV series about a small time thug who dies in a shootout with the police and goes to heaven. He tells his guardian angel there must be some mistake, but the angel assures him he is in the right place. Everything he wants he gets without effort. After a few months he is going nuts. He tells the angel he knew there was a mistake. He wants to go to "the other place." The angel then assumes a menacing aspect and says, "Why, Mr. Valentine, whatever made you think you were in heaven? This IS the other place." He got everything he ever wanted but they took out the one thing that made it worthwhile by making it effortless.

If Odysseus had gone on a quiet sail on calm seas and never met a Cyclops his story would not have been worth telling and Homer would have stayed his pen. Life is constantly challenging us and inviting us to rise to the challenge.

Best wishes to OP in finding a new agent. May your next book be a runaway bestseller.

Christopher Buecheler said...

Hello all, I'm the OP. I'm surprised by this answer, but I guess it makes sense. I've already sent a few queries out that do mention my previous representation, but I'll make sure to remove the mention in further querying.

To clarify: this book has never been shopped. It's been through three drafts, but we never sent it out to anyone. This is the third book I've written while working with my agent, and my seventh novel overall (I self-pubbed the first four to reasonable success). My previous two novels didn't manage to sell, but they received very positive feedback from editors--a lot of "I liked this but am not sure I can make it a big seller" notes--and we were really feeling good about this latest novel's chances.

Thanks very much for all the kind words of encouragement! It's a bummer, yes, but my former agent has all my support and all my thanks for her hard work over the last few years. I'm confident I can find new representation. I had three offers of rep on my last round of queries, in 2014, so hopefully I can duplicate that success this year! As several of you've said: you just gotta keep on keepin' on. :)

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Steve Stubbs, the depressing thing about your advice(s) is the tossing bit, that all those OPs should throw their manuscripts away in exchange for a new one.

But you knew that that's what I meant. You knew.

Your "a manuscript is just a manuscript" and "a kiss is just a kiss" only matters to you, nobody else, it seems.
And the allusion you once tried to use wasn't one - it was no allusion.

OP, Christopher, I'm so glad you are going to keep on keepin' on! Keep us posted!

Jolie Taylor said...

Your first wife to write your tinder profile- haha, I love how you explain things!

LynnRodz said...

Steve, I remember that Twilight Zone episode!

OP, good luck in finding new representation.