Question of the day: My agent hasn't been able to sell my manuscript, and I'm getting less than positive vibes from her now. Is it possible to take the manuscript to a new agent, or do I have to give up on this book? Should I find someone new regardless?
This is always a tough situation, and having been there, done that, I'm not just saying that to be sympathetic. Writers view having an agent as some sort of safety net, as if being able to say, "I have an agent," they are somehow ensured more success or offered more legitimacy. And certainly, to some extent, this is true. However, I've said this before: having an unenthusiastic agent can be more detrimental than having no agent at all. If your agent isn't going to be your advocate or doesn't love your work/writing, what's the point of having her represent you? Consider that word: represent. She is your representation. As in, she is supposed to stand up and speak for all who you are as a writer, and well, if she can't (or won't), honestly, what's the point?
In your case, I can't speak specifically to your manuscript because it's all contingent on how many editors your agent shopped it to and if she shopped it to the right ones. If indeed she went out wide with it (and got it in the right hands), your book is likely DOA for now. Another agent simply won't be willing to take it out to the same editors...because she'll likely be met with the same result. Certainly some agents are able to get material read faster or maybe even a little closer, but at the end of the day, if an editor doesn't respond to material with one agent, she's not going to respond to it simply because it's repped by someone else.
If your agent hasn't gone out wide, and in fact, only took it to a handful of editors, you might be in a better situation. That said, you'd have to disclose the situation to a perspective agent so he/she could make up his/her mind as to whether or not it's doable. I don't think you have to get into the nitty-gritty in your query letter, but yeah, as things get closer - like if he/she calls you to discuss representation - you need to come clean. Because your new agent WILL NOT be pleased if she submits it to an editor only to be told, "Oh hey, yeah, I've seen this and already passed."
In the end, you have to go with your gut. It's a very scary (and brave) thing to walk away from an agent. But if you feel like you're moored in a boat with no paddles with her, I don't see what you really have to lose.
Anyone else agree? (Or not?) Anyone successfully switched agent and had the new agent sell an old manuscript? Because, truth told, I think this is pretty rare. I'm curious to hear.