Three years ago the agent I'd been working with left agenting and passed me and my books over to one of her colleagues. Said colleague wasn't really interested in the genre I primarily write, so the decision was mutually made for us to part ways. Since then, I've been working with a small press and have published four novels with them.
Now I've finished a new book, and I want a shot at bigger sales and better distribution than I've been getting with the small press. So it's time to start looking for a new agent. Is there any advice you can give me about querying when you've already had an agent? And already have books out there?
Dear Old Hand,
The best thing to do in this situation is to be completely honest. Obviously in a query letter you don't have a lot of space to go into detail, but there is room for you to mention your small press books and the fact you have been agented previously. Just a single line like "having parted amicably from my previous agent, I'm seeking new representation for Shiny New Book," would be enough. You can explain the situation in more detail if the agent is interested and you have a call to talk about the book and her vision for it.
You're actually in a better position than most querying writers in that you already have experience with an agent and have probably figured out what you liked and didn't like about the experience. You will have learned what you expect and want in an agent and can now narrow your list of potential agents accordingly.
Do your research with that in mind. Was your previous agent slower to respond to emails than you liked? Did she offer helpful editorial feedback or did you feel like she was trying to make your book something different to what you intended it to be? Was she upfront about where she was subbing your work and the responses to it? Did she send you that feedback or was she reticent to do so, even when you said you wanted to see it, warts and all? Did you feel like she truly loved your work? Are you planning to keep writing books like the one you're querying or do you have ideas for books in other categories or genres?
Query with these things in mind, and when you have the call, ask the questions that will help you decide if this is the right agent for you based on what you already know about your preferences.
You also have a track record with publishing so understand about deadlines, and edits and dealing with editors whose ideas might not gel 100% with your own. Not to mention you've done this before, so will be no stranger to rejection. Knowing that you are resilient enough to pick yourself up after rejections or bad reviews or poor sales is something an agent will appreciate. And seeing that you still have the drive to keep writing and knocking on publishing's door after all that is also a plus for you.
So from my perspective, you're in a very strong position right now. Go forth and query. And good luck.