I know this is super basic, but I can't seem to find any conclusive answer anywhere, so I'm hoping you can help. I'm about to start querying, and I'm not sure how I should be addressing the agents I write to.
I mean, I know I should use their name, but do I write to "Ms" or "Mr" or do I use their first name? I guess I'm kind of old school in that my mother taught me never to use a stranger's first name unless invited to do so, but maybe it's okay these days?
Is there any advice you can give?
My rule of thumb is to always address agents (or anyone else you've having first-time business communications with) the way you'd like to be addressed. Personally, I'm happy for people to use my first name. It's in my email address, so they should be able to spell it correctly, and it's my name. There's much less chance of someone getting that wrong than if they try to address me using an honorific. Whenever anyone calls me Mrs. I look around for my mother!
You don't want to get this wrong and address an agent as Mr. when they're a Ms. or worse, a Dr. So unless you're 100% sure which honorific they prefer, I wouldn't use one.
Basically you just want to get the name right. There's nothing worse than copying and pasting a query you've just sent to someone else and forgetting to change the name in the greeting. It's pretty difficult to explain that Esmerelda was a typo and you were actually trying to type Abby... And check the spelling too. Some people get really offended if you don't spell their name right.
As long as you make some effort, you should be fine. Don't address the agent as Dear Sir/Madam or To Whom it May Concern or Dear Agent - you should at least take the time to find out their name before you query them.
You just need to show that you've made an effort. And at the end of the day, it's basic courtesy and if you just think about the way you want to be spoken to and us the same language, you'll be fine.
Best of luck with the querying.