So for those of you that subscribe to Nathan Bransford's blog, you will know that he usually brings up a few popular or interesting topics being discussed in his forums. I was incredibly shocked (and pleased) when he mentioned a forum topic that I started regarding whether it is better to spend money on a conference (in order to network) or hire a copy editor (to polish your manuscript). It has been an interesting debate, and I've about decided to hire a copy editor to point out my typos, grammatical mistakes, etc. so that I will have the best possible manuscript to submit to agents. Of course, it would be pointless to network with agents (and potentially get requests for partials) if my manuscript is not as polished as it should be.
I was very interested in the heated debate that ensued during the topic's discussion. It seems that some folks think that it is a publisher's job to copy edit a manuscript before sending it out for publication, while others believe that you'll get a major leg up by presenting your best work possible.
I think all this debate should lead to the definition of 'polished.' I think we all can agree that a manuscript should be generally free from errors. And it helps to have had a few betas take passes at it so you can fix anything that is confusing.
But is that it? Is that what agents mean when they say, "submit your best work?"
It's a tough question to answer. You certainly want to put your best foot forward, but I would love to know what my competition is. Am I obssessing when I shouldn't be? Am I going to be pitted against those poor souls who have been fooled into thinking that their writing is good? Am I one of those poor souls?
I always feel sorry for those folks who audition on shows like "American Idol" or "America's Got Talent" and just stink. I often wonder, "Who gave them the notion that they could sing?" I would want to be pretty sure that I had talent before exposing myself to national ridicule. And while the stakes are not quite that high when you submit to an agent, I want to be sure...no certain that I'm not about to launch myself into a shame spiral.
I'm a realist...first and foremost. Personally, I never even considered my writing worthy of publication until last year. It was something that I did to amuse myself, and when I finally got up the gumption to submit to some disinterested parties (i.e. no friends...no family), I discovered that maybe I did have something. Or at least they thought I did. So I guess I won't really know until I start querying. Until then...I'll just keep on writing.
So what is your definition of 'polished'? Do you think you can under polish and still get a contract? Or is it better to err on the side of caution and over polish a manuscript?