Mind your Ps and Q's...not to mention your B's knees

Dear Miss Knark, (ha!)

A few weeks ago I queried an agency electronically and was told to send the first 50 pages via hardcopy to a particular agent. The agent's name was right there on my computer screen, but being a nitwit, I somehow got it into my head that the first letter of the last name was a 'P' when, in reality, the agent's last name begins with a 'B'.

Of course, nitwittingly enough, I didn't realize my error until about two weeks after I mailed said partial (the outside envelope addressed to the same wrong name written on the cover letter, oh, say three times?) to said agent, and now I'm wondering if perhaps she took a match to my gasoline-soaked work rather than bothering to read it? My stupid sister says I should act on just that--send the agent another copy with a note attached, explaining how I'm resubmitting in case she set the first submission on fire. My stupid sister thinks this idea is so funny that it will actually speed up the review process (I told you she was stupid) because it will make the agent want to read my work at once.

My problem with this is that while I do so wish I had gotten the spelling right, I believe that my writing is strong and commercial enough for a good agent to see past the sort of blunder I made. Assuming the cover letter is excellent (it is), I think the agent should keep reading beyond her name, but maybe I am wrong and my stupid sister is right...What's your take?

There Miss Snark was, in her business-like yet fun summer frock. Hat, spiffy shoes. No poodle since this was a biz lunch. Enter editor. Miss Snark rises, greets her by name. All sit. Chat ensues. Miss Snark is warm, gracious and focused. She's on her game. Since she's read all the sales and networking books, she knows to use the editor's name - not often, but certainly more than once or twice in the course of the two hour lunch.

The bill arrives. The editor pays. Miss Snark sees the name on the credit card. It is NOT the name she has been using. The editor never says a word. Ever. Not even to this day.

Excrement occurs. It's not the end of the world. You will recover. Your work will speak for itself. It's an annoyance but it's not a deal breaker to miss one letter in a cover letter, particularly since its a requested partial. It will not hurt however to email a quick "oh my dear dog, I spelled your name incorrectly, very sorry."

We've ALL done this. There's not an agent in the world who hasn't called someone by the wrong name at least once and the older we get the higher that number goes.


Anonymous said...

What about sending out a partial with the wrong postage?

After I mailed my partial, I realized I'd not added the new postage rate, and the partial would arrive, postage due.

I feel like an idiot. Do I send the difference in the mail with an explanation?

TwistableSim said...

Wow, *my* face was turning red just reading your response. Yikes!

Patrice Michelle said...

OMG, did that really happen to you, Miss Snark? I think I would have been speechless!

A couple years ago, I was editing a query letter in email when I hit the wrong set of keys (stuuupid Windows XP!) and bam, my email sent BEFORE I had a chance to change the agent's name and addy at the top of the letter. Needless to say I stared at my computer in disbelief, thinking, OMG, that DID NOT just happen to me!

I sent an immediate second email to the agent apologizing and telling her I understood if she just hit the delete key. She requested a partial. So, yes, things do happen and you learn from them...like NEVER edit a query letter while you're IN your email program. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. Are you saying this guy was using a stolen credit card? Is that how editors operate?

Bill S. said...

I had to laugh at this one. When working as an art agent a fairly well known, and very saleable artist, (you'd have to pay upwards of $4000 for one of his small, heavily discounted, entry-level works) threw his hand toward me with a "Hi Phil". I made a play of looking over my shoulder as if to check he wasn't addressing someone else. "It's Bill," I told him. " Not Phil. " He was genuinely embarrassed. He apologized. He was a sharp networker and he beat himself up for having got it wrong. " De nada," I said. " Our mom does it all the time. " It's true, my brother's name is Phil. Our house would often fill with the refrain, especially when Mom was looking to catch up with one of us for having scoffed all her chocs or drunk all her gin, " Bill?! I mean Phil! Bill! Billy Philip, Billip Philly! " She's 74 and she still does it now and then. But back to the artist...a potential client...The next time we met he got it right first time but then, with nerves I think, soon slipped into calling me Phil. I let it ride. The next time we met, in a gallery filled with friends, colleagues and associates,I approached him and said, " Just call me Phil." He laughed. We became good friends. When we became better acquainted I asked him why he called me Phil and not Bill. " Damn it! Because you look like a Phil."
"OK, " I said. " I'll do you a deal. You can call me Phil as long as I can call you Big." His real name was, still is, Al.
" Why? " he asked.
" Do I have to spell it out? " I replied.

Oliver Dale said...

Thank you for "Excrement occurs."

I now have to clean coffee off my monitor, but it was well worth the effort.

Annie Dean said...

To Bill / Phil, I feel obliged to point out that if you want to say "De nada" in that instance, you're actually saying 'you're welcome', which doesn't make a lot of sense. I think you meant 'No problema' or 'no me preocupa' or any number of other pity Spanish phrases. But NOT De nada.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I thought "de nada" meant "it's nothing". Goes to show.

Anonymous said...

I thought "de nada" meant "it's nothing". Goes to show.

Me too.