Friday, July 06, 2007

Etiquette: Talking About Your Former Agent

STATUS: My hubby has been out of town all week but is finally back tonight. That puts me in a great mood.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHE’S LIKE THE WIND by Patrick Swayze

These blog postings might have several facets. We’ll see.

A recent letter I received got me thinking about this topic. In the letter, the writer was looking to switch agents because her project hadn’t sold. That in itself isn’t a problem. I can understand the frustration. The problem rested in how the issue was presented in the letter. The writer had incautiously written that the agent had only submitted the work to a few junior editors and then had promptly lost interest.

This may be true but it’s not in a writer’s best interest to present it that way. Maybe these are some up-and-coming young editors. Maybe X number of houses for the submission was appropriate. Maybe the Agent did his/her job. Ultimately, the inquiry letter ended up sounding more like sour grapes from disappointed hopes rather than a professional statement of the circumstances.

In other words, the writer sounded like a potential problem client, and I’m sure that wasn’t the writer’s intent.

Now I can totally sympathize with the disappointed hopes part and feeling abandoned by the agent. What I’m recommending here is that if this is the case, you feel it privately, but that’s not what you share in your new cover letter to prospective agents.

Keep it professional. Simply state, “I am currently looking for a new agent. I do have a project that was previously submitted to XYZ editors. I have revised it significantly and would like to go back on submission to some new venues for the work.”

And that’s if you really need to disclose this information at all in the first round of contact to agents. I always recommend just sending out a general query letter first so as to get agent interest. Then if sample pages or a full is requested, then ‘fess up to the prior representation and submission—sticking only to the facts (as in it was sent to “XYZ editors at XYZ houses).

Keep all other opinions to yourself. Once established with the new agent and you feel comfortable sharing the more personal perspective, then go for it. But in the query letter, just the facts ma’am.