Recently, I've addressed a few questions about agents and submissions that have no definitive answer. (For example: Can you resubmit to an agent if you've retooled the work?) Alas, today's topic is similar in the fact that the only true answer is that there is no true answer.
Q. Can you submit to multiple agents at one agency?
A. It all depends. First of all, this question is most relevant when considering querying larger agencies. Let's examine two big ones real quick: Writers House and Andrea Brown Literary. Both have plenty of reps, and both have a firm rule that if one agent turns you down, you can't query the agency again - period.
Then there's FinePrint Literary (see Janet Reid interview below), where you can indeed query one agent if another one turns you down. A simple way to know for sure is to simply call the agency's main line and hope someone picks up. Anyone on the phone should be able to answer the question easily enough.
In my mind, the overall answer to this question leans toward "no." I say this because agents, naturally, will pass on work to one another in the office if they think "I don't like this but maybe Cassie will," etc. It doesn't make much sense to simply dismiss a query if they think a coworker may actually take it on. The best hope you have is to write a strong query. If the query is weak, then an agent may dismiss it quickly and forget its existence. If the query is strong, an agent will recognize the good writing but acknowledge that perhaps the subject matter isn't their forte. That's when a query can get passed around the office.
Greg Dinkin of Venture Literary had this to say: "Yes, you should contact the other agent. However, you should definitely let the agent know about your previous dealings with the agency. Agents don't like surprises."
Not the most thorough answer, but it's a question that needs to be addressed. Anyone had personal experience with this?