Dear Miss Snark,
I am just parting the ways, amicably, from an agent who turned out not to be the right one for placing my ms. There's a loose end, though, and I want to make sure it doesn't come back to haunt.
The agent sent the ms to an editor at a major house, who never responded to her subsequent queries; after about nine months my now-ex agent formally pulled the ms. So far as she knows, though, the editor still has the ms, presumably gathering dust in a closet somewhere. Although it seems awfully unlikely, what happens if the ms surfaces on the editor's desk - and the editor likes it?
When I land another agent, I'll certainly tell her the prior submission history, such as it is, but I want to make sure there's no awkward consequences from an ms that got lost in the shuffle ...
Well the editor is going to call your old agent cause that's what the contact info says. Tell your new agent about this loose end. If it ends up in a deal (VERY unlikely as you realize) it will get worked out. Agent agreements specify how long agents are entitled to commissions on work they pitch if you part ways. I think mine says six months but it might be twelve. I've never had to look at it very closely. Mostly if a client parts ways with me, I send them a letter saying they are released completely even if there are open projects.
But do tell your new agent. She'll want to know.