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Addressing an Agent in Your Query

It’s been a while since I’ve been asked how an agent should be addressed in the query. While this might seem pretty easy for most, there are definitely still those who don’t quite get it right.

Dear Sir for example. In a business filled with women, it seems especially wrong that you would choose sir.

In the comments on my Query Mistakes post a reader asked:

Do you  really like being called Ms. Faust?  Wouldn’t you rather  be addressed dear Jessica, or is that insulting? I really want to know because after watching your videos, I feel as if we’re friends and it would be ridiculous to address you in such a stuffy manner.

I don’t even love when kids call me Ms. Faust honestly, but I guess it’s one of the many necessary evils of adulting. I would love if you called me Jessica and love even more that you feel you know me. The point of this blog and the videos and everything else we do at BookEnds has always been to make us accessible and for authors to feel comfortable with us. Thank you for acknowledging that it’s working.

I think in the end very few agents care that much (unless they are misgendered). I don’t even care if you address your query to the wrong agent, although I know not all agents will agree on that point. While it’s always safest to use Ms. or Mr., agents who are extremely accessible like those at BookEnds or likely Janet Reid, are probably fine if you address your query using their first name.

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5 comments

  1. Hi Jessica,

    A while ago you were extremely kind and answered a comment I left here after having been previously agented and it ending in flames. Thank you so much for taking that time. Amongst other things, you said write another book, which I’ve done – although I haven’t finished editing … my question is, how to deal with the baggage in the query letter. I pulled out before the book went out on sub’ – and walked away. Never approached anyone else with that MS. Genuinely awful experience. Never bitched on social media, never named the agent.

    Am using a pseudonym for brand new book, don’t want to lie to a prospective new agent but if I mention anything would they ask who etc. If I use a generously broad perspective, and just say, it didn’t work out – and that we’re on good terms, are they likely to check? If I say nothing … It all feels complicated.

    And yes, you do *feel* like a friend, thank you for being accessible.

  2. I stopped using Mr. or Ms. After seeing several agents talking about being misgendered, I didn’t want to make that mistake! I’d rather sound a bit informal than that.

  3. I worry about this as well (for agents I don’t feel I have a connection with) as much for cultural reasons as anything. In Oz I feel we are less formal than the US (it’s the impression I have anyway) and would hate to stuff it up.

  4. Hi Jessica (and Team),

    This blog has been absolutely instrumental as I navigate the choppy waters of finding an agent (which, in all honesty, has been fun, too).

    I’m a 21-year veteran in the US Air Force and this post screamed out at me. Here, we go by rank/last name (or call-signs, but that’s another comment about how I think that’s an antiquated remnant from the pilots/boys club). Because of our formalities here, it bled over into my queries.

    The big takeaway for me here isn’t the formality, as I would rather err on the side of caution (and showing respect for you all and your positions). But rather, the misgendering. To be frank, I hadn’t thought of it even though I myself am gay, have trans friends on my rugby team, and am married to a woman who works with trans teens.

    That said, I have been calling James Mr. McGowan in my messages. Having watched these videos back-to-back now for three days straight, I echo the sentiment of the other comments throughout the blog: you all are approachable, friendly, and warm. It makes the formalities seem unnecessary, while the respect is there regardless of titles I may or may not use.

    Thank you for what you do and the time you take to put into these- I eat them up like the box of chocolates I ate yesterday which were meant for someone else.

    Happy New Year, BookEnds!

    Warmly,
    Kim

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