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How to Query Again Once You’ve Had an Agent

Your agent didn’t work out. You signed the agreement confident that you were going to build a long-lasting career together, but for whatever reason, that didn’t fully realize.

It happens. More than you probably know. Certainly, there are authors who spend their careers with one agent. I’m so terribly lucky to have worked with a few. But there are others, who for whatever reason, find themselves in a position to query again.

Why Author-Agent Relationships Dissolve

There is no one-size-fits all reason as to why an author-agent relationship dissolves. It can be as varied and personal as choosing an agent.

And while certainly, this list isn’t exhaustive, here’s a shortlist of some of the biggest reasons this might happen:

  1. The agent leaves the business.
  2. The agent and author find themselves with different visions for the book/the author’s career.
  3. The author’s focus or genre shifts outside the agent’s area of expertise.
  4. The agent’s focus or genre shifts outside what the author is writing.

And of course, there are always the disreputable agents, the lack of communication, or those who just decide they don’t like each other anymore. I would say, though, that these last reasons are far less common than the first four.

Whatever the reason, it’s okay. It happens, and it’s not going to hurt you in any way.

How a New Agent Search is Viewed

The most important thing to know if you’re on the search for an agent again is that this is not a mark against you.

In fact, if I see that an author was previously represented, I often look at it as a plus. That means one of my colleagues saw promise in this author and their work, and that shows me there must be something there worth looking at.

Beyond that, I just want to find a really great book with really great writing. Relationships are personal, and just because one didn’t work out doesn’t mean another can’t. I mean, can you imagine if in the dating scene we limited ourselves to relationships only with people who had never dated?

How to Query

Now that you feel confident you haven’t hit any agent blacklist (there really isn’t such a thing), it’s time to start querying again.

This is really going to be the hardest part because no one ever wants or wanted to query again, but here you are.

The first suggestion is not to query anything that’s been shopped, no matter how limited the list seems to you. No one wants to try selling a project that’s already been seen by editors. Everyone wants a fresh start, an open market, and endless possibilities. You need to start with a new book, your next book.

The exception to this is if the first book was edited but never actually shopped. In that case, you can definitely try to find a new agent for that book. Recently I was in that exact same situation with a client. It’s worked out very nicely for both of us.

The only change you really need to make from the first query you sent (except for the book, of course) is the mention that you’ve been previously agented. I would mention it. It doesn’t need to include details a simple, “I was previously agented, but we parted amicably” works. That’s it. I don’t need to know who, why, or when.

What I do know is that you might have different questions for me in our call, and your previous experience will inform your choice for your next agent. And that’s all good. I was far less picky about my first hairdresser than I am about the ones I go to now. Experience does that to a person.

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2 comments

  1. Thank you for this, Jessica! Exactly fits my situation, and although my previous agent (we parted amicably) told me this happens, and not to worry, I’ve been worried that it might mark me as ‘that’ author.

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