Dear Miss Snark,
What happens when a writer parts ways with his agent midstream and novel #1 is still out with an editor or two? Is the submission withdrawn? Will the writer blow his chances with those editors? Will his name and his agent's name be bandied about, humiliating everyone?
Also, is there an official cooling off period before the writer should begin querying other agents? Say, sixty seconds? Six days? Six weeks?
I've been on both sides of this one.
When I get a new client who has pending submissions from a former agent, I talk to the former agent directly. Usually they just say "take it, no problemo". I do the same thing. I'm not hung up on getting "what's mine" cause I know there's a lot more to a sale than sending a manuscript.
When a client leaves me, I send them a list of where their work went and the status. I don't pull the submission normally. I just let it wither away. Without me calling to follow up, there's not much traction. On the other hand, if by some miracle an offer comes through, I tell the former client and ask how they want it handled. Amazingly most of them want back in at Snark Central.
There are no hard and fast rules here other than to behave well and not get emotional.
There is no cooling off period but you should check your contract with your agent to see what it says about notice. Absent a specific release date, most of the time you need to give him/her 30 days notice.