Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ask The Editor: Editors' Names

QUESTION: There's conflicting advice in the writing world about when sending out a manuscript whether to address it to a specific editor, when they change so quickly, or whether to simply write: "Dear Submissions Editor". What's your opinion?

Carol Gordon Ekster
"Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce"
Boulding Publishing fall 2008

ANSWER: Every time I see this kind of question, I think about all the mail I get at my home addressed to “resident” or “occupant.” Talk about depersonalization. That kind of mail gets tossed immediately, and as authors, we don’t want to invite that kind of dismissal of our treasured work.

So, no, don’t send a query to “Dear Submissions Editor.” A submission package is an indication of our professionalism, and if we don’t take the time to find out the current editor in a publishing house, that brands us as amateurs. It only takes a quick phone call to get the name of the editor to whom your query should be sent. They seldom move before a query could reach them, unless you wait weeks or months to mail it.

It is also important to get the spelling of said editor’s name correct. Not that I am implying you would not, but when I worked as an acquisitions editor, I received queries addressed to Marianna Millar, Mary Miller, MaryAnna Mills. You get my drift.

Seeing my name misspelled did not hurt my feelings. I’ve been in the business long enough that my hide is pretty tough and my ego is under control. What the misspellings said to me was that the authors were not professionals and did not take care with details. So, should I take their work seriously?

In the tough world of marketing we face today, it behooves a writer to make sure she has not done anything to make an editor reject the project without even reading the proposal.


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, she loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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  1. Good points. A SERIOUS no-no is a mis-spelling of an agent's name. Also it's important to do your homework on what the pub house or agent is about, what they do and like and are looking for. That way you can personalize your query letter. Just don't overdo it and come off as too presumptuous.

  2. I agree. It depends on the publishing house or agent. Some do only want the letters generally addressed, although I believe they are in the minority.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. You made some good points. I would personally always check with the agency or publishing house, but it's always good to have a reminder.

  4. BTW, I had trouble reading the author info part. The red print on that background was hard on my eyes.

  5. Great post! Names and accuracy are so important - and it seems like the "little things" and details have a big weight these days.

  6. I've definitely found that a personalized query gets the most attention. You don't even need to make a phone call-every agency or publishing house site usually has a listing of their agents and editors, a brief bio, and what kind of submissions they're specifically looking for (sci-fi, etc). I think the last part's even more important-you don't want to send your thriller to the guy who handles historical non-fiction.

  7. Thanks for all the feedback on this post. It is always good to have input as none of us has the absolute last word on anything. Through a good exchange of ideas is how we learn.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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