Ask Daphne! About Querying After a Breakup

October 6th, 2010 • Kate

divorceeThanks to all of you who sent in publishing questions, and to those still pondering — whatcha waiting for? Email ’em to me!! If I get enough, I’ll happily post your Q&As a couple of times a week, like so:

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

I recently split with my agent (my book never sold), and am getting ready to query again. The book I’ll be querying is new, never subbed. So my question is: when querying, should I mention that I was previously agented?

Our split was amiable, and I don’t have a problem explaining why it happened. But because editors never saw the book, I was leaning toward not mentioning it. I figured it was like bringing up your divorce on a first date; it could only raise flags. However, I’ve since heard rumors that (some) agents would prefer to know upfront, and it can work in a writer’s favor. Now I’m confused, and I was wondering what your thoughts were.

Thank you!
An Agent Divorcee

Dear AAD —

Just like a glamorous divorcee may signal to new possible husbands her desirability by proving she was someone’s catch in the past, an author once represented may signal to new agents a similar possibility. Even though you’re querying a different book (and I would be very clear about that in your letter, that this manuscript was not seen by your previous agent, and most certainly, not submitted by her to anyone), having had an agent in the past says to other agents that you may be worth a second, closer look.

Now, some authors do get caught up with unscrupulous agents, who never submitted their work in the first place, or tried to push their clients to vanity presses where they got an extra cut of the action. If you fell prey to one of THOSE agents, then I would avoid mentioning it. It does nothing to prove your professionalism, while the reverse is true if you landed a real agent (and knew enough to avoid scammers).

Hope that helps! And remember, send me your questions, so I can find more great pictures to illustrate my answers!

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2 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About Querying After a Breakup”

  1. Carla Says:

    I think it's sad that there are people around who DO scam people, and it makes the querying process all the more scary having that knowledge, but I agree here. Telling them you had an agent previously will only benefit your case. Hope you get signed!!

  2. The Divorcee Says:

    Thank you!! That was my question, and my agent was definitely legit, just not a good match for me unfortunately. Your reasoning makes perfect sense – this was very helpful.

    Carla, thanks!