Thursday, December 22, 2022

Querying Book #2 before Book #1 is retired



My agent made it clear when she took me on that the representation was only for that one specific book, and not necessarily for my career. She was the only offer I had, so I went with it. We don't have anything in writing. The book is now out on submission. We've had a few rejections and we're currently waiting to hear from four publishers. The agent has told me that after this round, if nobody picks up the book, she and I will go our separate ways.


My next book is nearly ready. When I mentioned that to my agent, she said she was not currently open to queries, but when she opens back up I'm free to query her then. This confirmed in my mind that she doesn't feel we have any obligation to each other, moving forward (except with regard to the current book, if it sells). 


So, here's my question: Can I query the next book if my previous book is still out on submission? I've always been under the impression that you can't have two agents at the same time. But if my only other option is to sit and wait to query the new book until we've heard back from all the publishers on the old one, it seems less than ideal. Also, if we do manage to sell the old book but she's not interested in representing the new one, am I allowed to have two agents then?



This is a textbook pickle conundrum, and honestly your agent gives us picklepusses a bad name.


I'm glad you didn't phrase this in terms of what you owe your agent, cause then I'd have to get on my broom, come to your house, and bop you on the noggin with a nice crunchy ...yup...pickle.


What you haven't asked about is the key element here: time.


How long does she expect you to wait for a response from these outstanding four publishers?  Weeks? Months? A year?


Cause the real problem here isn't you querying other agents.

It's what other agents are going to do with your query.


For starters, you wouldn't even get through the door here. People who already have agents are off-limits.


Thus, you don't want to waste your spiffy new book on agents who won't care a bit about content, only about your representation status.


Agents who will take a look are then presented with the VERY unappetizing scenario of having to work around this agent if the book sells.  Next work clauses/non-compete clauses, and just general ease of operations are all much more difficult if someone else must be consulted before making decisions.



So, my advice to you is hold off querying for now.

Use this time to polish up, build your mailing list, and write short stories.


Decide how much time you want to wait for Agent Picklepuss to snag a deal.

Ask her how much time she thinks she needs.


Assess from there.


Happy Holidays!








John Davis Frain said...

To carry your question a step further, OP, I've heard (read) many viewpoints on when to mention your agent (previous agent, I guess) to prospective new agents.

Janet may differ, but the prevailing thought I've seen is to include that information in your query. Prospective agents see previous representation as an endorsement that you have written quality stuff, and they understand that not all author-agent relationships work out.

That was good news, if not universal news, when I discovered it. Pickles are prickly enough in this business.

Tim Lowe said...


I have tried both ways, with little difference in the result. If they are using a form and the form asks if you've been previously agented, I add a line to the query about parting amicably with the previous agent and why (he started a new agency and decided to focus on literary fiction).

Gotten requests both ways and rejections both ways. It's tough out there, no matter what you do. A friend of mine got published by a small press and was shocked that it didn't really help her chances of getting picked up by an agent for book #2. Aside from great sales (Colleen Hoover, anyone?), there is no magic formula for getting an agent to sign on. They really have to fall in love, and there's no formula for that.

Cassandra Briggs said...
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Cassandra Briggs said...
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AJ Blythe said...

Ugh, OP, what a conundrum! If it was me, I would definitely need a timeframe from the agent, at which point the "parting of ways" could be formally discussed so there is no confusion for either party. Tough situation to be in, but then again, if your book is picked up, maybe your relationship with the agent will turn into something more tangible. Good luck!