Thursday, June 6, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Can I sign queries with my preferred name?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm an agender writer currently preparing to seek representation for my novels. My preferred name is different from my legal name. How do I sign my query letters? Would it be unprofessional to put something like (Preferred name: such and such) after my legal name? I don't know how to navigate the situation and would appreciate any advice!


Two Names

Dear Two Names,

I really don't feel like you need to use your legal name at the query stage.  You're beginning a relationship here, and you want to relate to the agent the way you feel the most comfortable, as the person you see yourself as.  Until you're signing any legal paperwork, there is no reason not to use the  name you use in your everyday life.  It's not a pen name you are using, its the name you identify yourself with.

When you get an agent, you're starting a relationship with someone who is going to work very closely with you, hopefully for a very long time.  Why would you start a relationship with a name you don't use?

If you are an #ownvoices author and want to mention this in your query because it's relevant to the story you are pitching, you could reference that this is your preferred name, not your legal name, and the reason why, but don't feel like you have to.  It's something you can talk to the agent about if you get to the point of having "the call".  And even then, only if you feel comfortable doing so.

The only time you need to use your legal name in this circumstance is when you are signing legal documents.  And by the time you get to that point, your agent will already know you by your preferred name, and will continue to identify with you using that name.

Hope that helps!  And good luck with the agent search.

X O'Abby


  1. Yeah, wouldn't worry about the real name until it gets to the legal point. Although she could call her preferred name a pen name.

    1. Who says they're a "she?" ;) But I do agree with you on this. I'm trans and I never use my legal name on queries. Publishing companies always address me as "Nathaniel" and a "he" because that was what was on my website and didn't ask questions when I signed with my legal name.

    2. "What's your legal name?"
      "No. Your legal name."
      You can keep right on asking. But that's what the social worker wrote down on the paperwork. I love when people argue with me over it. Like they expect me to come up with some other name?
      Oh right! Silly me. I forgot that time someone called me Sir Stewart Tabbington VonPrecious the Third. My bad. Like... what?
      Ha ha ha.
      It needs to be easier for people to be known as the name they use. I mean, I still don't understand how people get names at birth before you've actually ~done~ anything. "Oh look, the baby was able to exit the womb and can move around! Obviously a warrior."
      Uhh... okay. Righty. But hey, whatever culture or ritual floats your boat to get a name. But I don't think people should be stuck with it if it doesn't suit them. (Another argument in favor of name givers, who don't show up until someone actually has lived enough to have some idea of who they are and will be.)

      Laws need to catch up to the reality of our world.


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