Dear Miss Snark,
First let me thank you for your biting wit, those razor-sharp castigations that overlay a truly sincere and helpful disposition. The contrast certainly sets this old heart atwitter, not the least for the way you remind me of my oldest daughter, Ella, who has likewise mastered the loving art of brutal honesty.
I'm afraid I've been a bad boy. I had a lovely and hardworking agent who was with me for years. She was there for my height in the late 70s when we cracked the NYT bestsellers, and she stuck with me through the 90s when I was savaged by the critics. But after a series of fiascos during guest speaking engagements, bawdy romps through pastoral writers, camps, and shenanigans at cocktail parties, she dropped me through sheer exasperation. Plus she said my latest manuscript showed "little potential."
But now I'm back. After a near-death experience, a third ugly divorce, and several years of good wine and food, I've produced a pair of, I think, exceptional manuscripts. My agent won't have me back (nor should she). She's moved on with younger and better behaved writers. I've been querying other agents, though, and I've received only form rejections. I expect that the younger agents won't remember my work (nor, I hope, my bad behavior) but hundreds of thousands of books sold and international sales up to my eyeballs (they still love me in Berlin) have failed to tempt them into taking a chance.
So, should I change my name and query as a new writer? Or should I write an apologetic query insisting that I've reformed my ways; after all it would only take a few calls on the part of an agent to collect anecdotes on why I'm a potential nightmare client. I am at a loss at how best to proceed.
I will whip up a Florentine frittata, pour a glass of pinot grigio (sorry no gin--this old fish can't stomach spirits) and await your suggestion.
So, let me get this straight. You're pretty sure the agents you've queried don't remember you but you're sure they're rejecting you cause of your reputation as a bad boy?
Does that actually make sense to you? How much pinot grigio did you pour?
We agents are an avaricious lot. We like making money. We like it so much we put up with wine swilling writers who are a public embarrassment. The only thing you have to do is produce work we can sell.
Here's the brutal truth of the day: they don't remember you; they don't care. Your writing isn't what you think it is. You may be the chien's chapeau in France, but that's the back list.
You don't mention if you've got readers who also think you've produced 'exceptional manuscripts'. That would be my first suggestion: find some readers who'll tell you the truth and ask them.
And to actually answer the question: no you don't query as a new writer, you don't change your name and you don't mention your history. Just query the work you've got. Time enough for people to find out you travel with a personal redcap for all the baggage. If you've actually got "an exceptional manuscript" they can decide then if you're worth the risk.