I’ve been judging a few writing contests lately and have been unpleasantly surprised by the number of typos and misused words in the entries. One or two don’t bother me as much. But many not only pull me out of the story, they come across as unprofessional and show me the author lacks attention to detail. And I’ve heard many agents and editors say that they’ll reject or are more likely to reject submissions with too many errors.
Don’t believe me? Here are a few examples:
Knight Agency Do’s & Don’ts
Four Agents in current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine
So why don’t authors take greater care before sending their work out to be judged? There are so many other reasons a submission might be rejected, why not control the things you can?
On the other hand, how picky is too picky?
I’m revising my commercial voiceover demo, and have been analyzing every word I’ve said in the recordings I’m considering, listening over and over for flaws. In this commercial, the third word sounds too scratchy. In this, the first word doesn’t have the right inflection. There’s too much mouth noise in this phrase that can’t be edited out. Or maybe this product isn’t one that best reflects me as a voiceover talent. Every time I listen, though I hear many things I like, I also hear something new I might want to change. Am I being over-critical? Is there such a thing when the demo will go on my agent’s Web site?
Manuscripts, query and cover letters, resumes, Web sites, headshots and VO demos are our marketing materials. We need to present the best products we can. When are they ready to go? I suggest getting a second opinion, a fresh set of eyes or ears. Have experienced fellow authors review your submissions. Ask my agent(s) to listen to my demo before completing the final version. If your products improve, the additional time and effort will be worth it.
So please, aspiring authors, don’t enter a contest, and definitely don’t submit to an editor or agent, until your work is as clean of errors as it can be.