Dear Miss Snark,
Over the last two and half years I have been working on a novel whose diction is high and whose ambitions are literary. For the last year, an agent I'd love to sign with has been reviewing drafts and giving detailed suggestions, but she seems to be waiting to offer representation until she sees a draft she can sell. I don't mind, because she's got a stellar record as an agent, and because I agree with her that it's not ready to go, and am delighted by the attention, despite the lack of commitment - especially since her criticism is free of charge, and brilliant.
Before writing this novel, I wrote a totally goofy one. When I finished it I set it aside, uncertain I wanted to make my publishing debut (if I happened to be so lucky) in such an idiotic voice.
Now, however, as I wait for the latest set of comments from my prospective agent (which will doubtless be a month or two in coming), I've been looking at the old book and thinking I might like to query people about it. It's been so long since I looked at it that the jokes work on me, and I think they might work on others. Perhaps my prospective agent will be interested, but I by no means want to bother her with it until she's done going over the current pages - which she may, of course, turn down anyway, or at least ask for more revisions.
Would I be stupid to query a second set of agents on a second (actually first) novel, while the jury is still out on the other manuscript? Are you allowed to have one agent for your screwball authorial self, and one for the dignified you? That is, will agents be willing to work manuscript by manuscript, or do they, by default lay claim, to all of your projects?
Oh I love this idea. An agent works with you carefully on your novel, gets you to the point of a presentable mss and THEN you tell her "oh by the way I signed with Miss Snark, but she's only going to do this other lesser novel...not that she knows that now of course".
This is one fast way to have not two agents but zero.
Do not do this.
I had someone do this to me. I worked with him on a novel I LOVED but had typos like you would not believe. I read that thing three times at least and copy edited it each time. Just as he was "revising" for the third time, he mentioned casually he'd signed with someone else. I wasn't sure whether to kill him or myself; I settled for the flask of gin.
I had my revenge though, and it was cold and sweet. The other agent was an idiot (which I could have told him), didn't sell the book, and he came back asking me to take him on. No dice.
I'd learned my lesson. He'd behaved like a clue free ungrateful bonehead once, and that's not something that is a one-time-only mistake.
Do not do this.
I have clients who write things I don't know how to sell. I still represent them but I co-agent or get good advice on who to pitch. I don't dump the clients.