LitMatch: Research Literary Agents and Track Submissions

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Query vs. Submission: A Note on Terminology

Spend a little time on LitMatch, and you’ll notice that we use the word “submission” in a lot of places where you might expect us to use the word “query.” It’s a small point, but one that we sometimes get questions about, so I wanted to take a moment to elaborate on both terms and why we don’t always consider them to be the same thing.

In the general, industry-wide sense, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of distinction between the two words, and in many cases, they’re used interchangeably. You might visit one agent’s Submission Guidelines page and find the same kind of information in another agent’s Query Requirements. Most times, the wording doesn’t matter, because in either case, they both tell you how the agent wants you to approach them, which is the information you need to get your query, and your submission, started.

So, what’s the difference?

For our purposes, we use the word “submission” to encapsulate your contact with an agent from beginning to end. That submission could start with a letter, an email, a phone call (in rare cases), or an in-person meeting. Later, it could become a request for chapters, feedback on the full manuscript, or an offer of representation. Whatever form it takes, the word submission covers it from start to finish.

We use the word “query” to refer only to the initial communication from a writer to an agent. Once the agent replies, asks for additional materials, or makes an offer, then the query portion is over, and the submission goes forward from there. In short, the query is the opening line, but the submission is the entire conversation.

Once again, this is just the way we refer to things, so if you see the words used differently in other places, it doesn’t make them wrong any more than seeing the same usage makes us right. It’s just a wording system that makes sense to us and so far has worked out well for the majority of our users. And in the end, what we call it won’t matter so much when your query becomes a submission that ends in success.

Christopher Hawkins


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking your time to clear these things up for us.

Christopher Hawkins said...

You're very welcome!


Anonymous said...

I'm really new at this and getting a bit freaked out. I haven't the slightest clue.

Christopher Hawkins said...

It's okay. Everyone has to start somewhere. Doing your homework before you submit and remembering to be professional and courteous in your communications with agents will get you most of the way there. Before you know it, you'll be an old pro at the whole process.