View Full Version : Query vs. Submission

06-15-2005, 10:51 PM
Okay, I’m new, and I only found this site yesterday, so please bear with me for a moment.

After writing the book I’d always wanted to write, and researching who might be interested in what, I sent off two dozen queries for my new novel. Twelve were e-mail. I’m looking for an agent.

I got a terse little note back from one guy saying he doesn’t accept “simultaneous submissions.” Huh? I didn’t submit anything. I sent a query letter. From what I understood, the initial contact with a prospective agent is generally a simple one-page query. And that's all it is, an initial contact. It's not a submission of anything. Then, if somebody likes your idea, they’ll ask you to submit a synopsis or outline a few chapters, or even the entire manuscript. That’s what Writersmarket.com, the 2005 Guide to Literary Agents, and other mainstream texts all said. So this guy writes back, “We do not accept simultaneous submissions.” Okaaaay.

Hmmm. It was my understanding a “submission” was a different animal from an initial query, and "simultaneous submissions" referred to multiple submissions (of actual material) to the same agent at the same time. I got these ideas from the books mentioned above, and if these sources can’t provide correct information on protocols, where is one to look?

So… what’s the deal? Is a query letter a “submission”? If so, I’m in trouble already. LOL I queried at least one other person who’s website clearly states “No simultaneous submissions.” Well, it’s too late now. *helpless shrug*

And what on earth is the problem with simultaneous “submissions” anyway? I thought the whole point of a brief initial query was to find out if someone’s interested in the concept of the book before I waste time, energy, and money – and their time and desk space – sending more detailed information. Since not every agent is going to take a shine or every book idea, sending multiple queries would seem the logical course of action, and then it’s first-come-first-served.

Thoughts? Comments? Definition of terms?

Thanks in advance for your time. :)

Cathy C
06-15-2005, 11:47 PM
That's somewhat of a nebulous area, FloVoyager. Technically speaking, a query presents the idea or concept of the novel for the express purpose of intriguing the person enough to read the manuscript. Your query isn't asking "Are you taking submissions?" It's asking "I have a terrific fantasy novel about twins who wind up in a strange land. Would you like to look at it?" So, in effect, you have simultaneously submitted the idea to more than one person. SOME agents may consider that simultaneous. Some won't. From my experience, it's not a simultaneous submission until someone actually has either a partial or full manuscript (and usually only the full.)

I guess I have to wonder what hint you gave in your query that would lead the agent to believe you DID send to more than one company at the same time as him/her. Surely you didn't STATE it, did you? You didn't send a mass mailing or maybe forget to remove the previous company on the list from the "Dear Mr. Smith?" Those are definite no-nos.

06-16-2005, 12:00 AM
“Nebulous,” eh. Ah, thank you. Wondered if it might be something that varies from person to person.

I said, “I am querying others simultaneously.” Which I did because everything I'd seen up until today said to be sure and be up front about that. The rest of the one page query gave a brief rundown of the idea and why I selected that agent to query. And no LOL goodness no, I didn’t used a form letter. I did cut and paste the section that describes the book, but everything else was painstakingly done. I didn’t even use mail merge in Word.

So, now I gather I shouldn't have been so honest? Well, I'm just one of those honest people. What can I say? Oh well, looking back over the info for the folks I queried, some of them say they do accept "simultaneous submissions," so whatever they call it perhaps it all work out. Anyway, it's done now.

I'm curious, though. Why do they care anyway? I mean, if I send a query to A and to B, maybe one of them is interested in the story and one is not. How do I know which one that will be in advance? Not sure why I should be expected to wait weeks or even months before I can send a query letter (I'm talking about a letter, here, not a manuscript or even a synopsis) to the next person on my list. I made a rather short list - only twenty-six (out of all the agents in the country) - but if I had to wait weeks or months in between queries I could be several years older before getting half-way through it.

Anyway, thanks for replying so quickly. :)

Cathy C
06-16-2005, 02:49 AM
And no LOL goodness no, I didn’t used a form letter

Hahaha. I only asked because you would not BELIEVE some of the stories I've heard from editors and agents. Yeah, I sort of agree that if you're going to do simultaneous, then being up front is good. But it does result in this sort of thing. Of course, that doesn't mean that you're crossed off the agent's list forever. It just means that whenever your current batch of letters is all accounted for (if they're negative), then send to those who want an exclusive look. But send them one at a time and STATE in the letter that they can have it for a short time each. Agents who want exclusive understand that you're not going to wait around for months or years to hear back. Give them three months (it's customary), and then when the time is up, you send it on to the next one.

Not sure why I should be expected to wait weeks or even months before I can send a query letter

Ultimately, because this is a BUSINESS. Don't be in a hurry! While it feels very much like a panic to get an agent, it isn't. Your unique story isn't going anywhere, and a few months in the industry is NOTHING! The publishing process takes a year or more from the sale to print. Book publishing is a three-legged turtle. Get used to it now... ;)

06-16-2005, 03:05 AM
Thank you very kindly for the info and advice. I'll take it to heart. You've been very helpful. :)

06-16-2005, 03:09 AM
Hahaha. I only asked because you would not BELIEVE some of the stories I've heard from editors and agents.

::raising hand::

I've addressed a letter to the wrong person before.

In Walgreens-land, the agent says to himself "I've seen this before" and judges your letter on its on merit. In the real world, he probably tosses it and ignores you because he has more than enough work already.

Some editors/agents don't like to read simultaneous submissions (sim subs in writer parlance) because they don't want to get all excited about an idea and then find out they have to "bid" against four other interested parties in order to pursue it.

From a writer's POV, I won't submit to one of those parties until I've exhausted all of the sim sub editors/agents 10 or 20 at a time. Otherwise, I could spend 70 years waiting for paper mail to flow back and forth. That's just stupid.

06-16-2005, 05:00 AM
Ready for Advice from Jax?

- Never, never, never mention in a query letter that you are also querying other agents (even if the other agents expect you to be querying other agents). If an agent is so haughty that he or she insists on an exclusive query (meaning that you're not querying anyone but that agent), skip that agent.

- Always, always, always find a way to tailor your query letter to each specific agent. Do your research. What led you to this particular agent? Was it the agent's most recent sale? Or maybe you love the work of one of the agent's clients? Make it clear that you are not shotgunning your queries out to any agent you come across.

Hope this helps. And best of luck.

06-16-2005, 04:42 PM
I wrote a paragraph tailored to each agent, explaining why I was writing him or her, but with some I guess that won't matter, since I was also honest about the query thing? *shrugs* Too late now.

I'll see what falls out, and maybe someone will take an interest anyway. At least some of the folks I queried say they do accept "simultaneous submissions."

Anyway, thanks to all for your input. Wish I'd found this site earlier, but I didn't.

06-17-2005, 03:14 PM
Flo, unless you've given an agent your full manuscript on an exclusive read (and, in some very, very few instances, an exclusive partial), there's nothing to worry about. Good luck!