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Name Mistakes in Queries

Almost every time I dip into slush, I find a query (or a dozen) that mistakes my name. I’ve gotten:

  • Dear Editor
  • Dear Agent
  • Dear Andrea Brown
  • Mr. Kole
  • Ms./Mrs. Cole
  • Marry

There are also those people who spell is “Querry” or “Quary” or “Quarry.” (I don’t think I’ve ever gotten “Kwerie” or anything similar, unfortunately.)

Point is, this is a common mistake. What’s also common, though, is emailing immediately in a panic and apologizing for the mistake. Those emails are almost always panicked in tone. A recent writer even went so far as to say “I am beside myself.” (I know you are reading this and, for goodness’ sake, please don’t email me with an apology for the apology!)

Guys.

I’m not going to reject you outright for misspelling my name. My name is an uncommon spelling of a more common last name. In fact, it’s that way intentionally and I like it. So I know it’s not “Smith.” And even people named “Smith” probably get their names misspelled all the time. These things happen.

If there’s one thing I hope you’ve taken away from my blog and my speaking engagements at conferences is that queries aren’t the end of the world. They’re a cover letter. If done right, they will make me more excited to read your sample. If done wrong, or if they contain a silly mistake, they will not end in your demise. I will always read your sample. And I’ve never offered a writer representation for their query-writing skills.

Please don’t freak out to such a degree that you feel compelled to send these frantic apologies. (To the writer whose apology I quoted: You aren’t the first this week, let alone today, to do so, so please don’t worry about it.) It’s okay. It’s all okay. Query mistakes and misspellings happen. I usually gloss over them and keep reading. The apology emails, if anything, just draw more attention to the original typo. I know that most writers do a careful job of researching agents and putting queries together. Errors happen. If that’s the worst thing to happen to you, I’d count yourself lucky.

There is never any need for panic or such deep regret when it comes to queries. Relax and tell us about your story. You’re the expert in it, after all!

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  1. Becky Mahoney’s avatar

    I have so totally done that – and with one of my first queries, too! I carefully personalized the rest of the letter and then I addressed the poor guy as “Ms.” I even sent the requisite panicked e-mail to apologize!

    When I first started my job, I had a boss who made me extremely nervous, and I made all my worst mistakes in front of that boss. When I got more comfortable around him, I stopped making mistakes. The same goes for queries, too. Once I got more relaxed about communicating with agents, the dump typos got less frequent – and even when I do those things, I try to let them go. It really helps!

  2. Joanna’s avatar

    Just a quick check in. Isn’t Ms. an appropriate title when marital status is unknown to the author? If I need to find out author’s marital status to write a for sure Miss or Mrs., that feels a little stalkerish to me. And what if a married agent didn’t take her husband’s last name. I thought Ms. was a safe bet. Your thoughts on this?

  3. Joanna’s avatar

    Should have read: “If I need to find out an agent’s”

  4. Franziska Green’s avatar

    So no one’s called you Ms. Coal yet? I’ve been called Sicki before. That irks just a little because, let’s face it, who’d name their kid Sicki?!

  5. M.W.’s avatar

    Joanna,

    Using “Ms.” to address a female agent is your best bet. Just make sure you don’t address a male agent by “Miss” or “Ms.” and you’re good to go. ;)

  6. Kristie’s avatar

    Ha! I am just beginning to consider the query/submission process. After ruminating myself into a funk about creating “the perfect” query letter, including but not limited to intermittent sighs, frequent sobs, and occasional wails while typing away at the computer, I fantasized about a query fairy lighting on my pillow and leaving me some magic.

    Nasty fairy! I haven’t seen any evidence she has bothered to wing by.

    Thanks for being a breath of fresh air in your approach to reviewing submissions, Mary. It is reassuring to know there is at least one agent out there who isn’t gnashing her teeth and furiously flinging (deleting!) submissions with less than perfect query letters into the fiery pit of doom! :)

  7. Adele Richards’s avatar

    Dear Mr Kohl, thank ewe for this post witch shows what a suite guy you are.

  8. Shelley’s avatar

    Whew!

  9. Karen’s avatar

    That’s so good to know. While I try my best to create an error free query – I’m sure something slips by!

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