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Mustafa
04-12-2012, 09:11 PM
At what point do you tell a perspective agent (one you're querying) that you have had a previous agent for the manuscript you have contacted them about? Do you tell them in the initial query, or do you wait to see if they want more, and then tell them? Or do you wait until they offer representation and then tell them.

There is no issue of the mss. being shopped around already. I parted ways with my agent for other reasons, none bad, we parted on good terms. But I can't NOT mention it because I did write about it on my blog, so googling my name, which I'm sure an agent would do if they were considering me, would bring them to my blog, which would reveal that I had an agent in the past ....... see my dilemma?

I don't want to over-share on the initial query, but I don't want to under-share and make them think I'm trying to hide something I'm really not trying to hide at all.

Drachen Jager
04-12-2012, 09:38 PM
A query letter is like a resume. Put your best foot forward, details can wait.

If the manuscript has not been out to any publishers, and you're clear of your previous obligations, I can't think why the agent would even care. It's not like you're hiding anything, the information simply isn't that important.

Jamesaritchie
04-12-2012, 09:52 PM
But, if your manuscript has been out to publishers, you need to say so upfront. If not, you're handing the new agent something that can easily embarrass her, and that can limit the number of places she can submit the manuscript to, even if you do tell her.

Any good agent needs to know who has already seen a manuscript before she agrees to represent you, not after.

RKLipman
04-12-2012, 10:07 PM
I would mention that you were previously agented (and by whom) and that you recently parted ways with your agent amicably.

It won't hurt you whatsoever, but there's a chance it could actually help. It indicates that someone else has already felt strongly enough about your work to represent you, and will get a closer look taken at your pitch and materials.

leahzero
04-12-2012, 10:40 PM
I wouldn't mention it in the query. You've never been on sub, so it doesn't affect a new agent's submission strategy.

I WOULD mention it in some way if an agent requests a full, and/or wants to talk on the phone. They're unlikely to Google you unless they're seriously thinking about representing you, which means they'll have to read the entire manuscript first. So until you get to that point, what reason do you have to mention previous representation when it doesn't affect the new agent's submission strategy and is just a long story to explain?

leahzero
04-12-2012, 10:45 PM
It won't hurt you whatsoever, but there's a chance it could actually help. It indicates that someone else has already felt strongly enough about your work to represent you, and will get a closer look taken at your pitch and materials.

That's a good point, but because the writer can't waste valuable query space to explain the full story, it could also lead to unanswered questions that raise warning flags in the agent's mind.

My suggestion is to err on the side of caution and wait until an agent expresses serious interest in the MS (e.g. requests the full) before divulging.

RKLipman
04-12-2012, 11:08 PM
That's a good point, but because the writer can't waste valuable query space to explain the full story, it could also lead to unanswered questions that raise warning flags in the agent's mind.

My suggestion is to err on the side of caution and wait until an agent expresses serious interest in the MS (e.g. requests the full) before divulging.

I disagree, Leah. There's nothing that needs explaining.

It's literally one line at the end of the query, where a bio may or may not otherwise be.

"I was previously represented by LeahZero of LeahZero Literary Agency. We recently parted ways amicably and I am now seeking new representation for my work."

Boom. That's it.

This is common enough that it doesn't raise a whole lot of questions; at least not the kind that will set people on fire. If it comes down to a phone call, you can be certain they'll ask. But in the meantime, it'll get your foot in the door a bit quicker.

Little Ming
04-12-2012, 11:51 PM
I think I would just mention it at the bottom of the query.


"I was previously represented by LeahZero of LeahZero Literary Agency. We recently parted ways amicably and I am now seeking new representation for my work the MS was never submitted to publishers."


My other concern is also what does your blog say about your previous agent. If the new agent does a Google search (not very hard to do ;) ) and lands on "Represented by Past Agent!!!" or "Just parted ways with Past Agent" it might lead to the (mistaken) assumption that the MS has already been shopped around and/or there's something misleading going on.

I would just be honest up front. Two, maybe three short sentences at the bottom of the query: "I was previous represented by Past Agent. We parted on good terms. The MS was never submitted to publishers."

RKLipman
04-13-2012, 12:22 AM
I think I would just mention it at the bottom of the query.



My other concern is also what does your blog say about your previous agent. If the new agent does a Google search (not very hard to do ;) ) and lands on "Represented by Past Agent!!!" or "Just parted ways with Past Agent" it might lead to the (mistaken) assumption that the MS has already been shopped around and/or there's something misleading going on.

I would just be honest up front. Two, maybe three short sentences at the bottom of the query: "I was previous represented by Past Agent. We parted on good terms. The MS was never submitted to publishers."

You're right, Little Ming, that would be better in this instance. My bad.

Mustafa
04-13-2012, 04:15 PM
Thanks guys. that helps a lot.

popmuze
04-15-2012, 07:17 AM
Just wondering if there's a statute of limitations on a ms with previous submission history. Like, if it went to two or three editors four years ago under another title and has been greatly rewritten since then.

Nymtoc
04-15-2012, 09:38 AM
I would mention that you were previously agented (and by whom) and that you recently parted ways with your agent amicably.

It won't hurt you whatsoever, but there's a chance it could actually help. It indicates that someone else has already felt strongly enough about your work to represent you, and will get a closer look taken at your pitch and materials.

There's a slight catch here. What if your parting with the previous agent was not so amicable? This is not a rhetorical question, as I can attest. :(

In general, I would save the "previous agent" talk until later, unless--as others have said--the ms has already been shopped to publishers, in which case you must tell the new agent about it.



Just wondering if there's a statute of limitations on a ms with previous submission history. Like, if it went to two or three editors four years ago under another title and has been greatly rewritten since then.

Trying to imagine how things might go: I would not mention that in the first approach, but as soon as the new agent shows interest, I would drop it in as an aside: "By the way, three or four years ago..."

MKrys
04-15-2012, 04:51 PM
I disagree, Leah. There's nothing that needs explaining.

It's literally one line at the end of the query, where a bio may or may not otherwise be.

"I was previously represented by LeahZero of LeahZero Literary Agency. We recently parted ways amicably and I am now seeking new representation for my work."

Boom. That's it.




Agree. And here's a link to a blog post on this subject from the Bookends LLC people. Basically the gist of it is that it's worth mentioning you've had an agent because it shows that there was interest in your book and makes you stand out from the crowd. http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.ca/2012/01/seeking-new-representation.html

ThunderBoots
05-18-2012, 10:20 AM
In general, I would save the "previous agent" talk until later, unless--as others have said--the ms has already been shopped to publishers, in which case you must tell the new agent about it.




Trying to imagine how things might go: I would not mention that in the first approach, but as soon as the new agent shows interest, I would drop it in as an aside: "By the way, three or four years ago..."

My novel was shopped to major publishers back in 2006 -- and came close to being picked up by an imprint of Random House.

My agent dropped me when he couldn't sell it, though, and I subsequently have revised it to some extent. Added a subplot, for example, and really improved the first 5 chapters with a restructuring.

I always figured that I would tell a new agent about this only if s/he was interested enough to talk representation -- not just when s/he asked to read a full.

I've kept the names of the publishers/editors who read the manuscript back in 2006 so that a new agent would be fully armed as s/he went out to do battle this time around.

Now, in reading what some folks have written here, I am not sure if I'm not being exactly ethical in keeping this info close to my chest ...

Does the fact that so many years have passed enter into the equation?

Or does the extent of revisions matter more?

Terie
05-18-2012, 10:48 AM
My novel was shopped to major publishers back in 2006 -- and came close to being picked up by an imprint of Random House.

My agent dropped me when he couldn't sell it, though, and I subsequently have revised it to some extent. Added a subplot, for example, and really improved the first 5 chapters with a restructuring.

I always figured that I would tell a new agent about this only if s/he was interested enough to talk representation -- not just when s/he asked to read a full.

I've kept the names of the publishers/editors who read the manuscript back in 2006 so that a new agent would be fully armed as s/he went out to do battle this time around.

Now, in reading what some folks have written here, I am not sure if I'm not being exactly ethical in keeping this info close to my chest ...

Does the fact that so many years have passed enter into the equation?

Or does the extent of revisions matter more?

The changes you say you've made aren't substantial enough to interest the publishers who have already rejected the novel.

Not telling a prospective agent that the book you're submitting has already made the rounds is a big mistake.

Look at it from the agent's point of view: they spend time reading and considering your manuscript, only to find they can't submit it anywhere. Wasting an agent's valuable time is a pretty good way to piss the agent off, and is exactly what you don't want to do when seeking representation.

This book might be sellable someday (for example, as a second book by someone whose first book is doing well), but it just isn't right now. You need to write a new book and get rep with that. Then you can tell your agent about this one. He or she can then decide whether it's salvagable.

happywritermom
05-19-2012, 07:23 AM
I would tell them it was submitted in 2006 and well-received, but that you had no offers. Then mention that you have since revised the novel.

Chances are none or few of the editors who read your novel the first time around are in their same postions. Any good agent will know that. You are essentially starting fresh after six years.

My novel was shopped in 2009 to only editors at big six publishers and one big indie. I recently started querying again after revisions and I mentioned the previous submissions in my query letter. Just the other day I received two partial requests.

Be honest, but have confidence in your manuscript.

ThunderBoots
05-19-2012, 10:45 AM
I would tell them it was submitted in 2006 and well-received, but that you had no offers. Then mention that you have since revised the novel.

Chances are none or few of the editors who read your novel the first time around are in their same postions. Any good agent will know that. You are essentially starting fresh after six years.



I like the way you word that ... "well-received, but no offers."

I also figured that a new agent would most likely be pitching to different editors than did the one in 2006 -- so I didn't think not mentioning the previous experience would be a big deal.

Don't want to piss anyone off, though, so best to err on the side of caution.

I'll definitely tell any agent who now requests more material after reading my query about my previous experience, and add that line to my query if I send out a new batch.

Still ... how do I correct matters now with those folks who have the manuscript? Just e-mail them out of the blue with a "Gee, I guess I ought to mention ..."?

ThunderBoots
05-25-2012, 10:14 AM
Well, just to follow-up ...

Another agent requested a partial, and I put it up front in the e-mail response the bit about how the manuscript had been represented before, well-received, etc.

She made no mention of it in her follow-up e-mail -- just focused on the fact that I couldn't grant her an exclusive read because other agents had already requested & received the manuscript.

She "waived exclusivity," by the way -- just asked that I tell her if another agent offered to rep the novel, and to give her a week from then before accepting that agent's offer.

Thanks, everyone, for your advice!

ThunderBoots
06-03-2012, 02:45 AM
OK, here's what has happened:

One agent who had already requested and received a full when I was exploring this question here was interested in offering representation. When we talked on the phone to explore this possibility, I told her about 2006. She expressed some reservations -- asked me to send her the list of which editors/houses the novel had been pitched to back in 2006. But that didn't end the conversation ... we discussed the sequel; she wanted me to start thinking about the third novel; and she even was receptive to a non-fiction book proposal of mine.

I sent her the 2006 list with the 15 or 16 names that night. The next day, there was an e-mail from her telling me that she was going to take a pass because of the previous sub history.

In the meantime ...

The agent I mentioned in my last post, who didn't remark on the matter when I mentioned it in the e-mail accompanying the requested additional material ... still hasn't asked about the submission history. Nor has she said, one way or the other, whether she's interested in representation.

Another agent whom I advised of the matter in response to her request for more material replied that so long as no more than 20 subs had been made with the earlier version, she was going to continue reading. She didn't even ask for the sub list, or even for the number of subs, actually.

A third agent whom I advised of the matter in response to a request for a partial asked me to send her the 2006 sub list ...

happywritermom
06-03-2012, 04:54 AM
You're definitely getting plenty of interest regardless of the sub history. It's definitely not a reason to pass, not if it was six years ago. You're doing the right thing.
Good luck and keep us posted!

PS. An agent who read my first 50 pages and just requested the full also expressed concerns about my sub history. It has not stopped her from reading either. She simply said we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.

Jamesaritchie
06-03-2012, 10:42 PM
I've seen a fair number of novels sell to publishers who previously rejected them simply because it isn't publishers who buy a manuscript, it's editor. Editors come and go on a regular basis. The turnover rate is often remarkable. Just because one editor rejects something does not mean the editor who replaces him will do the same.

Needs and wants can also change dramatically from year to year. A publisher may be overstocked on vampire novels one year, and reject several the editor would normally buy, but desperately need more a year or two later.

Knowing when a new editor takes over, and knowing what each editor needs right now that he had to many of a year or two ago, is one of the benefits of a really top flight agent.

Just because a publisher rejects a novel does not mean it's dead there forever.

ThunderBoots
06-04-2012, 03:35 AM
PS. An agent who read my first 50 pages and just requested the full also expressed concerns about my sub history. It has not stopped her from reading either. She simply said we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.

That's the spirit!

Good luck with your novel this time around --

ThunderBoots
06-04-2012, 03:41 AM
I've seen a fair number of novels sell to publishers who previously rejected them simply because it isn't publishers who buy a manuscript, it's editor. Editors come and go on a regular basis. The turnover rate is often remarkable. Just because one editor rejects something does not mean the editor who replaces him will do the same.

Needs and wants can also change dramatically from year to year. A publisher may be overstocked on vampire novels one year, and reject several the editor would normally buy, but desperately need more a year or two later.

Knowing when a new editor takes over, and knowing what each editor needs right now that he had to many of a year or two ago, is one of the benefits of a really top flight agent.

Just because a publisher rejects a novel does not mean it's dead there forever.

This is exactly what I thought, so I was quite surprised that the agent-on-the-verge-of-representation backtracked.

Even if not one of those 2006 editors had left for a new publishing house ... or a new career ... or whatever ... the composition of the books each house had in its pipeline at the moment would be different than in 2006. And could that agent really know, right off the bat?

Plus, she said in her farewell e-mail that there were still 5 editors or so not on the 2006 list she thought might be interested in my novel ...

Nonetheless, her business plan is ... well ... her business plan.

Whatchya gonna do, eh?

ThunderBoots
06-05-2012, 09:28 AM
Another agent requested a partial; I sent it, along with a cover e-mail that mentioned the earlier version being shopped in 2006.

She asked me to send her the list of editors approached in 2006.

The next day, she said although she loved the work (great idea, sustains interest, well-executed, etc etc), she was taking a pass.

She specifically cited the 2006 sub list, although she also mentioned that she had a problem with some of the dialogue. Since no one else has mentioned any problem with the dialogue in that section, my gut feeling is that she didn't want to read any more primarily because of the sub list.

So, I've going to approach (via e-mail) a few agents in London ... not very hopeful ... looks like I may have to put my novel to bed for a nice long (as in, Rip-van-Winkle-like long) nap.

And focus on non-fiction, because then you don't need an agent!

Guinea
07-19-2012, 10:00 PM
Oh c**p. Just read this thread with a sinking feeling. I had an agent last year and she submitted to publishers (one who showed interest but thought protagonist should be younger - subbed to about 8 in total). We parted ways last year after 5 months, relatively amicably. Have since been submitting and have had a request for a full. She even asked if it was out with other agents and the time and I didn't even think to add have actually had rep before.
Have since revised MS, but only the age of protagonist. Not a major overhaul.
Anyone else in the same situation? 2006 for subs to publishers is okay, I think, but 2011?

J.Reid
07-22-2012, 07:25 AM
I'm weeping with frustration here you guys. If you query me and don't mention anything about past representation or previous submission history, I assume this is a fresh off the printer novel.

And if/when I invest several valuable hours reading this book, and maybe offering notes only to find out it's been on submission previously, you've wasted my time. And you've wasted your enthusiasm because at this point we're done.

You MUST tell agents in the query that the book was previously shopped.

You're MUCH better off writing a new novel and querying on that one.

Guinea
01-08-2013, 03:37 PM
Had completely forgotten about this post, so am resurrecting this.

J Reid - Fully agree that an agent would feel like that, and believe me, I have been kicking myself with a great deal of pain since then. But have rectified the situation and now have it on all my initial query letters, but haven't noticed that agents are even bothered by it. It might help that it was a UK agent and have recently been subbing in the US.

Meems
01-09-2013, 07:24 PM
But what if you were with an agent but parted before it was submitted anywhere? Is it still as important to mention that in the initial query letter since it is, in terms of submission history, still shiny and new?

cate townsend
02-07-2013, 10:11 AM
But what if you were with an agent but parted before it was submitted anywhere? Is it still as important to mention that in the initial query letter since it is, in terms of submission history, still shiny and new?

I have the exact same question. Anyone?

waylander
02-07-2013, 03:27 PM
Yes, I think so. It answers the first question any interested agent will ask.

Barbara R.
02-07-2013, 03:41 PM
Just wondering if there's a statute of limitations on a ms with previous submission history. Like, if it went to two or three editors four years ago under another title and has been greatly rewritten since then.

Two or three editors isn't bad, but you would need to divulge this to a new agent...and I'd probably wait till an agent has read and liked the book before opening that can of worms. Agents really, really don't like spending time on projects that have already been shopped around. But if it's really just a couple of agents, I don't think an enthusiastic agent would be deterred.

Barbara R.
02-07-2013, 03:52 PM
But what if you were with an agent but parted before it was submitted anywhere? Is it still as important to mention that in the initial query letter since it is, in terms of submission history, still shiny and new?

If it was never submitted, then I don't think you need to go into this in your query--or rather you wouldn't have, if you hadn't discussed it already on your blog. (And I hope you said nothing but nice stuff about your ex-agent there, because if not, the first thing agents will think is "There but for the grace of God go I.") Given that you did make it public, I think that what other posters suggested is good: a low-key mention that the book was briefly repped but not submitted by another agent.

MandyHubbard
02-07-2013, 08:00 PM
But what if you were with an agent but parted before it was submitted anywhere? Is it still as important to mention that in the initial query letter since it is, in terms of submission history, still shiny and new?

Interestingly, I was at a Florida SCBWI conference 2 weeks ago, and this question came up. The first agent (well known), told everyone it was a 'red flag' if authors have been previously represented because he wanted authors who were "committed to long term relationships" with their agent. He then passed the mic to me, I told everyone I disagreed, but "maybe that was becuase, as an author, I'm on my 4th agent."

The whole room laughed, and then I explained furhter how sometimes it's just not the right fit, you don't have the same vision, yada yada yada.

The other two agents agreed with me.

SO, that's to say that:

A) You'll have some range in answers and preferences but

B) Honesty is best. Begin or end your query with, "I am seeking new representation as I recently parted ways with my previous agent. This project has not been shopped."

An agent can get the details when they talk to you on the phone-- which they almost always do before offering.

And I'll admit, many times I DO look more carefully at folks who've been agented before, considering them a notch above the average slush query. I think it HELPS you to tell us this, not hurts you.