When I was little I memorized the way my mom would spell out our last name to people over the phone. Ready?
“B as in boy, R – A – N, S as in Sam, F as in Frank, O-R-D. BransFORD.”
My sister has a variation that emphasizes the SF in the middle, which is more comprehensible when you separate it out into BRAN – SF – ORD.
All of this is to say I know I have an uncommon last name that is a bit of a mouthful, and I don’t get up in arms when people misspell it in a query and I certainly never reject anyone for it. At least they’re in the ballpark (and below you’ll see why I’ll take a misspelling over some of the other results).
I thought it might be an interesting insight into the old inbox to show the rather incredible variety of ways people address me in a query. So I kept track for a week, and here’s the result.
Behold! Query salutations. During the past week I received 258 queries and requested 3 partials (all addressed properly).
Number of queries addressed to:
Mr. Bransford: 124
Nathan Bransford: 29
Mr. Nathan Bransford: 10
Nathan Bransford, Literary Agent: 2
Not so much:
To Whom It May Concern: 3
Nate B.: 1
Literary Agent: 1
Literary Agency: 1
Agent Nathan: 1
Mr. Branford: 1
Mr. Bradford: 1
Vicky Bijur: 1
Martha Bransford: 1
Ms. Bransford: 3
Curtis Brown: 1
Mr. Brown: 1
I fully understand that mistakes happen, and I want to emphasize again that I don’t reject anyone solely because they messed up the salutation. But this is really the absolute easiest thing to get right in the query, and it’s a tad eye-opening that 23% missed the mark.
Tessa Quin says
To Whom It May Concern?
Sounds like a suicide note.
Martin Willoughby says
My surname's 'Willoughby'. Try and imagine how many misspellings I get. I also get some weird pronunciations from cold callers.
I just laugh.
Chris and Vicky Bijur almost made me spit my breakfast all over my computer screen. That's hi-larious. Thank you for sharing–you've made my morning.
There is no way the person addressing you as Nate B. thought he was going to be taken seriously. No way. (Unless he's a friend)
Giles Hash says
That's why I triple check my query letters. I want to get EVERYTHING right! The competition is so tough right now, I don't want to give anyone anymore excuses to ignore or reject my letter 🙂
And to think I worried about whether to start "Dear Nathan" or "Dear Mr. Bransford."
I did the same thing everyone else did when I saw CHRIS. Martha…er…you failed the physical for that a long time ago, so that's a mystery.
As a person whose maiden name was very, very simple to spell but apparently impossible for people to figure out how to pronounce (!), I feel yoah pain.
JB, who's waiting in line to be the first to buy the "Agent Nathan" action figure!
Wild Child says
Personally, I am partial to Mr. Brown. Does that mean you get a raise?
People have been spelling my last name wrong since before I can remember. If I were an agent, I think I'd be like you and give them marks for trying. 🙂 Still, it's always nice when someone gets it right.
@bettielee re: "For such a long time, I was so scared of querying."
Develop a thick skin and jump in, the water's fine! I queried for 30 years and have over 300 rejections. I wear a Shield of Gardol and I am living to tell the tale.
The rejections never hurt until recently… until the "marjorie-cartoons" were rejected. This hurts. I am submitting not just for me, but for her, and my alter ego takes rejection quite seriously. She is not pleased. Her next morph may be quite edgy.
Jen P says
So glad we here at least have the likelihood of clearing into the 'didn't get it wrong in the opening address' 77% just with such a simple thing.
Do you have a personal preference?
I like the method in lots of languages with a formal you and informal you, depending on how well you know the person. The formal you is ALWAYS prefaced with Mr. or Mrs or other title followed by last name.
ryan field says
Terin Tashi Miller says
Dear Ms. Bijur: That's great!
Having a first name frequently misspelled, even by friends, I sympathize.
T (it's just easier, I've found)
Terin Tashi Miller says
Oh, and I agree completely with Mira:
Expect a query addressed to "Mr. Agent Man" some day soon…it'll be from me…or maybe Mira, since it was her idea…
I'd like to know how many queries you get addressed to Nate B. now.
Which is to say how many people who read your blog and feel vicariously connected to you in some way that they'll risk the joke.
Anyway, Nate B, catchyalater.
Decided that was too easily misinterpreted as disrespectful, which is not the intent, of course.
Terin – no reason we can't share! 🙂
This is a fun thread.
I'm dating a Nate B…
This post was hi-friggin-larious! Keep 'em coming, Vicky.
Olivia Cunning says
I can make sense of all the mistakes made except "Chris". Where did that come from? It made me snort in a most unladylike fashion.
Yeah, I grew up with M-O-S…long pause…K-O-W…I-T-Z.
and then you repeat it.
Shannon Ryan says
Put me in the pro-Nate-B column.
The unsatisfactory category is actually funny!!
The Invisible Writer says
I'm Dan Hill.
Just for giggles I spell it out for people as though there's a trick – keeps 'em on edge.
Jay Tee Shay says
Dear Nate Blank Agent-Type Person Dude,
So, you expect us to spell your name right? What do you think we are? Writers? Oh, wait…
Jaye Tea Chez
Ishta Mercurio says
Agent Nathan! Agent Nathan!
Actually, I am not immune to cut-and-paste stupidity. I once sent a query to an agent from a template that I had created for that manuscript's query, and I missed a couple of the parts that I was supposed to personalize. Oops. I got rejected pretty much immediately.
And I, too, have an odd name, which both gets misspelled and mispronounced. Nousha, anyone? It's really Ishta. EEESH-tuh. Oh, well.
But isn't it a little bit fun to be called Agent Nathan? Come on. Whipping out the literary agent badge and storming a bookstore has to be a perk. =P
Meghan Ward says
Amazing that 60 people got your name wrong!
Who in the name of Socrates is Vicky Bijur – I hope that at least that this person got the spelling correct!
Hey, maybe the person didn't know Nathan's last name, and consequently wrote 'Dear Agent'.
Maybe this person thought his last name was a secret?
So that would make Nathan a secret-agent.
A secret agent! Ha – I crack myself up.
I see I'm the only one who queried 'Mr Bradford".
Note to self-when doing google search to pull up the web site, just because 'Nathan Bradford' got me to the site, doesn't mean I should cut and paste from my google search!
Vacuum Queen says
So funny that someone thinks they play hoop with you on the playground or something. To simply call you, "Bransford," cracked me up.
Jacqui Pirl says
Thanks to Agent Janet Reid's fabulous blog, I just found your fabulous and hilarious blog! What a riot. Makes me feel somewhat less bad about any of my query goofs.
That's J A C Q U I, and P I R L spelled just like "girl" but with a "p" and pronounced like "Pearl" as in Pearl Harbor.
Chumplet - Sandra Cormier says
Nobody gets Chumplet wrong, except the one who called me Crumpet. Oh, and there's the one who called me Chump, and Chumpie.
Wait — even I'm not immune…
Bangalow Accommodation says
Blank hurts but pray tell – who is Vicki Bujur?
Vivian Dixon Sober says
I think people want to believe that you are their friend and that you actually know them by name or want to know them because they write on your blog. They query you, and, bam! Reject. Should they be surprised?
People should do research on you and your company before they even bother to query you.
Anyone who calls you out of your name has an unrealistic expectation of you and from you.
Every one should be professional. Don't you deserve that much and even demand it? It is all about respect and professionalism.
You see someone who recognizes you. "Hey, Nate, you my dog. Right, we be bloggin'. I'm John Doe. You know me. Skin tight."
Things that make you go "Hmmm."
Vivian Dixon Sober
Julie D says
Very funny! I was such a wreck when sending out queries that I not only painstakingly made sure of the correct spelling of the agents name and the agency, but I re-read my query each time, even though it hadn't changed!
I managed to find an agent who overlooked much for the good of the product, in spite of my best efforts.
(D as in David, OLCE, M as in MARY, A, S as in SAM, CHIO like OSCAR)
I know this post is years old, but it brought a smile to my face during a gray week so wanted to chime in.
I recall the best impression I ever made with someone's name (we won't mention the others) was when I was introduced to someone in a business setting with the last name "Schneckenburger." I spelled it back to make sure I understood and because I knew I'd need the spelling later.
She responded somewhat surprised. "Yes, that's perfect!"
Without skipping a beat I quipped. "Well, it's the common spelling isn't it?"
We both laughed, and I knew I'd made my best first impression ever.
Perhaps I should look for a literary agent with the last name Schneckenburger ;).
At any rate, thanks for the smile. Have a great day, Vicki 😉
I… CANT… STOP… LAUGHING… i feel your pain Vicky!!!!
Novel Software Creator says
Really funny post. As someone who'se gone through the world with the name 'Katja Brenke' I've learned to brush off errors, both in spelling and pronunciation, even when trying to make things easier for people. My favourite was:
"My name's Kat."
Person writes down 'Cat'.
"No, with a 'k'"
Writes down Cak.