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Holy lexicon, do I hate misspellings. And I’m harder on myself than anyone else, though I can be critical of those who should know better (biz professionals) and of those I see in printed books.

I type pretty quickly, though I haven’t been timed for years. If I’m particularly inspired, it’s probably around 100 wpm. But I’m hardly error-free. I can go faster than many since I’m not that particularly concerned about typos. Why? Because I’m a ruthless spellchecker. No, that doesn’t mean I frequently click the button in Word with the ABC and check mark (though I do that, too). I mean that every few paragraphs, I reread what I’ve typed and check for spelling and grammar (and flow, pace, content, etc). Then I type a few more paragraphs and reread the whole thing again. Even for WordPress items, I’m writing them in Word, rereading, proofing, and editing constantly as I go. I do this even after I’ve pasted (what looks like) the final copy into WP: I preview my text and give it another run through or two. Using this method, I catch 99% of the potential typos I make (that sounds like a totally unverifiable statistic and possibly hubris, for which I will likely be punished in the form of a typo in this missive). It works very well, nonetheless.

Until a recent query email I sent.

I researched and researched, using info from agents on their websites and Twitter. I found examples of what others had done. I wrote my query. Then proofed and rewrote and edited and rewrote. Finally somewhat satisfied, I pasted it from Word into an email, rechecked and edited again, typed the subject line, and sent it. I liked it well enough that I copied the text into another email for my next query, ensuring that I changed any info specific to the agent. I copied the subject line, too.

And that’s when the spell checker caught the typo. In. The. Subject. Line.

Dammit.

I had typed “An Illustratrated Children’s book”. Look at it. Look at it! How in the blue blazes did I miss that? Did I also forget to hit the spellcheck button one last time? But even now, knowing full well it’s spelled wrong, weirdly, deceptively, it still doesn’t look that wrong. I have seen far more egregious errors. Perhaps that’s what bothers me the most.

Fortunately, mercifully, in her rejection response, the agent did not mention that the SECOND word she had seen from me had been misspelled nor did she gently remind me of the importance of proofing your submission before sending it. It was the first time I’d hoped for a form letter response!

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PS: How many total typos did I find here before sending? Three, despite having typed this at 3:30am on my BlackBerry in the baby’s rocking chair.

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I’m rereading some of my query letters, and I swear my mind is exaggerating them into weirdly desperate cries for help. Something like this:

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To Whom It May Concern:

Thank you for taking the time to read this query letter. I found your listing while searching for an agent to represent my children’s books.

This is going to be painful. My apologies in advance. This submission represents my first attempt to gain agent representation, as well as my first attempt to become a published author. I have no idea how to write a query letter. I’ve written thousands of business letters and scores of job cover letters, so you can expect this letter to be well-written and typo-free. But with a query letter, I’m lost.

I know how to write stories, but this part of the submission process is just awful. Why? Because the thrill that comes with creating a story and characters just isn’t there when writing a letter. Also, I’m not sure if I’m good enough to be published, much less represented by an agent hoping to make a living. Coming from a small Midwestern town where humility was second nature and bragging just wasn’t done, I never developed a sense of how to sell my abilities. I think my stories are decent, as do my mom and Facebook friends. They all tell me they love my writing. So that’s something.

I spend a lot of my free time writing, and I’ve written a lot of reports at work. And I do have an English degree—in writing even! What I lack in experience, I make up in passion for my craft. Additionally, I have kids and I’ve read them lots of children’s books, so I know what they like.

I’m willing to change any aspect of my manuscript, including characters’ names, gender, or species. I’m even willing to change the location and plotline. I’ve included an excerpt of my manuscript per the instructions on your website. I hope you find it formatted to your liking.

I’m thinking I may just have to blunder along with painfully-written query letters until some poor agent takes pity on me. Well, thank you again for your time and consideration. I promise to try really hard and never complain.

Yours, most sincerely,

Michael Wallevand

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