A Snarkling wonders:
Please help me out, as I'm about to drown my sorrows in copious amounts of gin. Back when I was but a snarkling, I pitched my ms to a plethora of agents, and ultimately ended up signing with one. When I chose said agent, many of the others - either while gently passing or when I opted for said agent - asked me to feel free to submit my next work to them and to keep them posted on my future projects. I developed a nice rapport with several of them, and their offers seemed genuine.
The novel that my agent then sent around came very close to selling. Very, very close, but ultimately, it didn't. (Cue more gin.) However, again, many of the editors asked to see my next book, a sign, I think, that they believed in my talents, just that this particular work wasn't for them. So I tossed away the liquor bottles and got writing, and produced what I believe to be a far superior book, and my writer's group agrees. Fab! My agent and I, however, do not see eye to eye on it (for reasons that I won't bother with here), and my instinct says that while we have had a lovely relationship, this might be the time for me to walk away. (I suspect that you might advise me to stick with my agent if I respect his opinion, but for the sake of this note, let's say that after careful consideration, I still want to bolt.)
Which brings me to my question: I'd like to go back to the agents who requested that I stay in touch, but I'm not sure how to approach them. Obviously, they'll be curious about what happened to ms #1 (rightly so), and I don't want it to sound like I'm making excuses for my near-miss (marketing committees, second reads, blah, blah, blah). At the same time, I also don't want to bad-mouth my agent, as this really is coming down to a subjective difference of opinion on this work. (And no, I'm not stubborn or sticking to my guns! In fact, I've changed things drastically to fit his vision...we've just reached an impasse.) So what do I say? I don't want to shoot myself in the foot right out of the gate by offering up too much, but I also don't want to look like I'm dodging the obvious. Do I tell them about the raves the book received and the request for future ms? Or just say, "Hello, it's been a while, here's something you might like."
First, any agent who said "stay in touch" when you told them you were signing with someone else isn't reading your letter/email very closely. I'd consign those folks to the second tier of queries.
You want to address the issue of previous representation clearly and briefly. I advise something along the lines of "I was represented by Agent 008 for a novel, HISTRIONICS, that did not sell. We've come to an amicable parting of the ways. I'm writing to you today about my new novel, STILETTO, since you were kind enough to ask to see other work/stay in touch/whatever they said in your letter of 1/1/2005."
Basic info, no adjectives, adverbs, and very professional tone.
Stuff happens. Every agent whose had a sale has also had a no-sale. I've sold things other agents didn't, other agents have sold things I couldn't. This is not algebra: there is not just one correct answer. (Well, there is, but it's always the Snarky one).