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Guy Fawkes
02-16-2012, 11:14 AM
I've encountered several situations where an agency with multiple agents only accepts email queries and the only emial address available is info@xyzagency.com or submissions@XYZagency.com.

I am wondering how to address such queries. If it was to a specific agent I would begin with:

Dear Mr. Agent's last name

or

Dear Ms. Agent's last name

But in a situation where you don't know who it is going to where all you have is a general email address as I mentioned, exactly how do you address it?

I mean do you address it:

"Dear Submissions Person:

thanks!

Old Hack
02-16-2012, 12:57 PM
"Dear Sir" would work in this case.

Terie
02-16-2012, 01:20 PM
"Dear Sir" would work in this case.

Actually, it's long been the practice in the US (at least for the 35 years I've been hanging around the freelance/writing business) to use 'Dear Sir or Madam' rather than just 'sir' when you don't know the recipient's name or gender. :)

Old Hack
02-16-2012, 01:29 PM
You might have a point there, Terie.

areteus
02-16-2012, 01:36 PM
I would go with dear Sir or Madam too. Though that is still outdated (letters have yet to catch up with modern times yet... :) ).

Alternatively, find any name in the agency and address it to them. It doesn't matter if that person never sees the message so long as someone does but if it makes you feel better to use a name then this works...

On times when I have had to contact schools when asking them to send job application details, I have usually mailed the general school address but addressed it to the head (whose name is usually easy to find on the school website). Sometimes on those occasions you get a reply from the head (or their PA who is pping as them anyway) and the rest of the time you get a response from the office admin assistant who usually gives their name and so any future messages can be addressed to that name.

I don't imagine that agencies are any different to schools in this regard. So long as you are polite and professional in your content, few really pay attention to who an e-mail is addressed to.

Terie
02-16-2012, 02:06 PM
You might have a point there, Terie.

...but if I comb my hair just right, no one will notice. :D

Guy Fawkes
02-17-2012, 11:47 AM
Thanks, guys!

On one hand I don't want it to sound like a generic query, even though in this case I don't know who might be reading it.

On the other hand I am tempted to begin with something like:

"Dear Submissions Person:

I feel strange addressing my query this vaguely, but I am following the guidelines on your website and have no way of knowing who will be reading my query."


Is the above passage wierd or over the top and more likely to have e negative effect than simply addressing it as "Deat Sir or Madam:"


thanks

Solunar
02-17-2012, 12:04 PM
I put "Dear XYZ Publishing," for mine, then started talking about why I was writing to them, a blurb, etc.

I got a receipt for my submission recently, from two of the owners of the site, but there's been no acceptance or rejection yet, so I think that's how I'll go from now on.

I was wondering if "Dear Sir or Madam" sounded too generic, like a mass email, so that's why I chose to state the name of the publisher instead.

"Dear Submissions Person" sounds a bit clunky and slightly rude because of the word "person". To me, at least.

ETA: Oops! Saw this in the New Post, didn't realise this was about querying agents only. Sorry about that!

Terie
02-17-2012, 12:36 PM
I feel strange addressing my query this vaguely, but I am following the guidelines on your website and have no way of knowing who will be reading my query.

Is the above passage wierd or over the top and more likely to have e negative effect than simply addressing it as "Deat Sir or Madam:"

Look at it like this. If you were writing a business letter to, say, the phone company or the service department of your favourite supermarket chain, would you feel the need to say something like that? :)

A query letter is a business letter, and although unique conventions govern the content of the letter, the 'wrapper' should still be just the same as for any business letter.

The people who read e-mail received at the generic 'info' and 'submission' addresses get tens and even hundreds of queries every day. All they care about is the query's content, not how you address it -- as long as how you address it doesn't get up their nose. (Hence my suggestion not to say only 'sir', since the majority of people in publishing are actually women so there's a better than 50% chance the person reading the query is actually a woman.)

Although your proposed opening might make some recipients smile and think 'how sweet', it might make others roll their eyes and think 'what a noobie'. Therefore, I would suggest that you not bother and just write the query following the standard conventions. There's enough room for variation within the conventions to make your query stand out without risking making someone roll their eyes at your very first sentence.

Nymtoc
02-17-2012, 12:38 PM
Solunar's suggestion, above, would work with an agency, too. "Dear XYZ Agency" isn't bad.

Otherwise, I would go with "Dear Sir or Madam," even though it's antiquated, because it slips by almost without notice.

Some people use "To Whom It May Concern." To me, that looks like the start of an official announcement or public notice.

The body of your letter is what counts anyway. Most recipients of such letters aren't going to worry over your salutation.

:)

Guy Fawkes
02-17-2012, 02:09 PM
Thanks so much.

You guys are invaluable!

kaitlin008
02-17-2012, 04:54 PM
You can also address it to one of the specific agents at the agency, unless they imply that they don't want you to. Then it shows that you've looked into the agency and have an idea of which agent seems like your best fit. That's what I did when I was querying. (And I know I wasn't the only one!)

But I agree with the others that how you address it isn't going to be important compared to the actual content of the query.

Giant Baby
02-17-2012, 05:45 PM
I really wouldn't recommend the "Dear Sir or Madam" approach. There are a lot of agents who state that they won't consider a query if it's not addressed to them. They get too many cut and paste jobs from queriers who don't even read submission guidelines but just shoot off scads of inappropriate queries. You don't want to be mistaken for one of those and have your query deleted unread.

As Kaitlin suggested, it's perfectly acceptable to choose the agent you want to query and simply address it to them, unless the agency wants it sent to a specific submissions manager (in which case, address it to the submissions manager, either by name or title). I have several subs out that were requested from queries sent this way, they do get forwarded to the right agents.

If you're unsure which agent to send to, just address it to the agency. Anything to personalize it enough to show you've researched who they are and are sending a thoughtful query.

Terie
02-17-2012, 06:26 PM
I really wouldn't recommend the "Dear Sir or Madam" approach. There are a lot of agents who state that they won't consider a query if it's not addressed to them.

But the OP was asking specifically about agencies that direct writers to submit to generic addresses. Agents that want queries addressed to them usually don't ask you to submit to generic e-mail addresses. At least, that's my experience.

Giant Baby
02-17-2012, 06:43 PM
But the OP was asking specifically about agencies that direct writers to submit to generic addresses. Agents that want queries addressed to them usually don't ask you to submit to generic e-mail addresses. At least, that's my experience.

Seven of my requests were sent to generic agency submissions addresses. Each was personalized to a specific agent, and all but one of those requests came from that particular agent (the last one came from a collegue).

These addresses keep the agents' inboxes from getting clogged with queries and allow interns and assistants to help manage the flow. They're not meant to keep the queries from being directed to the agent you want to contact (unless stated in the guidelines), they just have to go through the proper channels first.

augusto
02-17-2012, 07:55 PM
I always pick out the agent I'd most like to work with and address it to them. It has a much better chance of getting to them if it has their name on it than if it doesn't.

JSSchley
02-18-2012, 09:20 AM
I second augusto's and Giant Baby's comments. Each time I've emailed a generic address, I've just pretended it was to the agent I'd researched.

So it went to info AT superagency.com

but the subject line was QUERY: TITLE OF MY BOOK (Super Agent)

and the salutation was Dear Ms. Super Agent:

Colossus
02-19-2012, 11:45 PM
I have a temptation to start with:

Dear any agent there that will actually read this and not shriek in horror when they find I'm not a previous best-seller,

<body of paragraph>

Jennifer_Laughran
02-20-2012, 07:08 AM
I don't think it really matters, I mean - they aren't going to ding you for anything like this, if it is a generic address.

Me, personally, I'd only address it to one particular agent if I was VERY SURE that they were the only one I'd want to work with. Like for example, if it is an agency that does all kinds of books, but one agent does children's books, and you've got a children's book, I'd address it to that one person. Otherwise, I would address it to the agency, on the off-chance that a different agent than I think might actually be the better fit -- and maybe if you only address it to one, nobody else will even look.

In other words, I'd address it DEAR XYZ AGENCY:

And assume that whoever is sorting the queries will get it to the agent or agents who might be the best fit.

But again... I don't really think it matters, if you have a stand-out query, it will stand out no matter what salutation you use.

Guy Fawkes
02-24-2012, 01:29 PM
Wow, the advice even gets better!

thanks again, everyone.