Use anything you like, so long as it’s representative of the type of work you want. Be honest - make it clear that you are reading the XYZ Pizza Advert as a demo of your voice, and that you’re not pretending you were actually paid to do that advert professionally. E.g. “These samples were recorded for demo purposes only and are not examples of professionally paid work”.
The odds are not as low as sending material to a publisher, but then again very things in life are that low. But that’s a whole iother subject.
The chances that someone will listen to your demo are directly proprotional to two factors: how much effort you put into marketing yourself, and how worthwhile you are to listen to. I can’t help you with the second part, but for the first part there’s a simple formulas to follow. Nobody ever follows it, but I’ll tell it to you anyway.
Call Agency X (or any suitable recipient for your demo CD). Tell them you are a good new voice talent and you’d like to send them your details in case they can use you. If you can, find out the NAME of the person who makes the decision about whether you’re good enough to use or not. Make sure you get the SPELLING right.
Send in your demo CD with your nice, short, neat covering letter to the NAME person. Do this early in the week (this is so that the next stage happens without an intervening weekend… you want to do it in the same working week).
Wait 2 working days, phone Agency X and ask to speak to NAME. Whether you get through or not, make it clear the purpose of the call is not to be a nuisance or a pain in the neck, but just to check they received what you sent. The chances aren’t good that you’ll get to speak to NAME, but be as persistent as you can while being likeable, pleasant, charming and NOT a pain in the neck. Be VERY nice and considerate to all of the intermediate people you talk to - receptionist, secretary, assistant etc, as these people could be very important to your success.
If you get to speak to NAME, take up two minutes of their time maximum, check they got what you sent, and say you’ll be happy to hear from them if they have any work for you, and that you’ll check back in 3 months.
Check back in 3 months. And every 3 months thereafter.
That’s it. That’s the formula. Except you have to do it for EVERY conceivable recipient of your demo. A good rate would be to send out 10 demos every Monday of every week for 10 weeks. Expect one success (ie something that leads to someone giving you a trial run) for every 101 attempts you make.
This is a guaranteed formula and it applies to many things - getting a job, getting work as an actor etc. It will definitely pay off before you get to 101 failures. You would think that with it being a ‘guaranteed, can’t fail’ formula that people would use it more, but very few do. That’s people.
At Step (1) of the above, you will often get some ‘negative’ noises along the lines of ‘We’re not hiring any new talent right now’ or ‘Our books are full’ or ‘We already have a large rota of voice-over artists thank you’. Ignore all this. Send your stuff in anyway. If you’re good, you will get work, and if you’re not, you won’t, and nothing else matters. Never be discouraged by anything. Be cheerful and positive, as if your campaign will definitely pay off, just so long as you stick at it long enough. The ‘negative’ noises are nothing personal, it’s just some [del]schmuck[/del] worker in an office saying whatever he or she is paid to say. Remember, every apparent knock back or ‘failure’ is just another stepping stone on your way to your 101, and you will hit success before you reach 101.
Of course, all this effort only wins someone, somewhere giving you a trial, a shot, an opportunity… this is when you have to deliver the goods. I can’t help you there. You can either do something people think is worth paying you for, or you can’t. Only experience will tell.
We all start from scratch! And when you think about it, that’s a darn good place to start from, now isn’t it?