How does one address an agent in a query? Dear Jessica? Dear Jessica Faust? Dear Ms. Faust?
Such a little thing to obsess over, I know, but since I rarely query/submit to people I haven't met at conferences or other places, it feels odd to call them "Ms. So-and-so."
I guess it depends on the agent. If you met an agent personally I suggest first names first. I’m always happy to be addressed by my first name when I’ve met someone. Please note, though: My name is Jessica, not Jennifer. I HATE it when people get it wrong, and if I'm in the wrong mood I will possibly reject you based on this alone. I know, I can be such a witch.
I’m a little old-fashioned, though. If we’ve never met then I guess I prefer either Jessica Faust or Ms. Faust. I’m not sure why, but it bugs me when people use my name informally if we’ve never met. I guess by the same token, if we’ve never met (or at least corresponded in an informal way) I will always address you by your full name or Ms./Mr.
Keep in mind, meetings can sometimes happen over email. When in doubt, go with Jessica Faust and wait to see how I respond to you. In the end, though, as long as you get the name right it’s probably not that big of a deal.
Strange how we obsess over the little things. When we little guys write to an agents its almost like writing to God as you hold the key to heaven. We want you to see us as professionals, as friends and hopefully not as wackos. If we try to be funny will you not get our sense of humor and think us strange? If we say Ms instead of Mrs will you be offended? Oh the stress! I'd really like to say; I wrote a book, do you want it? But then I'd probably just end up in the circular file....
Have you ever taken a client who wrote a lousy query letter?
When I query, it always starts out Ms. or Mr. I then take the lead should an agent respond.
If they email with a "Hi, Susie" and sign off with their first name or a nickname, then I email back in the same informal manner.
However, when I then send a cover letter (asuming hard copy) with the requested material, I revert back to Ms./Mr.
I do the same as Anonymous - always start with Ms. or Mr. I do this with all my freelance clients and contacts, too. I don't think it ever hurts to start off with a sign of respect and then let the agent/client decide whether to be more informal.
As an aside, "Dear Jessica Faust" sounds stilted, pretty form-letter-ish. I get "Dear Christa Miller" from credit card companies, you know? "Ms. Faust" is much more business-letter-like, IMO.
What's interesting about this post, Jessica, is the fact that so many people who read your blog feel as if they DO know you, and might err by taking an informal approach. Blogging creates an entirely new community where the readers feel very familiar with the author of the blog, yet are actually complete strangers.
I agree with anon that I prefer Ms. or Mr. The problem comes with an ambiguous first name. If I can't determine the gender with certainty via research, I'll use the first/last name combo.
Even though reading someone's blog does make me feel as if I have a relationship with them, I'd never address a first contact letter with anything less than "Mr." or "Ms."
Nor would I ever call an officer of the law "sugartits," but that's probably just the way I was raised.
The problem comes with an ambiguous first name.
Sometimes there's a problem even if the first name doesn't seem ambiguous. I went to school with boys named Kim and Jan, once worked for a man named Carroll, and have a female relative named Willie.
While people with such names are accustomed to being addressed incorrectly, getting it right shows care and attention.
Thanks for answering my trivial and obsessive question!
I do think Kate has a point about the "personal" connection created by a blog.
I get called Melissa all the time. It happens so much I actually started responding to it. :)
FWIW my eldest daughter is a Jessica whose been called Jennifer and my Victoria is always mistaken for a Veronica. Go figure
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