I was checking out the Done Deal Pro boards recently when I came across a posting that mentioned a blogger whom the poster had met at a pitch seminar. The post mentioned some advice that seemed interesting and provided a link to that blogger's site, so I decided to check it out. I always enjoy finding new blogs and pointing out new points of interest for my readers.
After checking out the site I decided not to link to this person, or name them for reasons that will probably become clear in a moment. As it turns out, this individual was not just a blogger, but their site mainly operates as a coverage service. I don't take issue with that. As I've said before, there are plenty of rational reasons to pay someone to critique your script. I urge people looking to purchase some services to do their research and truly examine what they hope to get out of the experience, but I see nothing wrong with it.
Screenplay consultants have often been painted as unscrupulous jackals who prey on hopes and dreams of aspiring writers. I think that it's unfair to tar all such consultants with that brush. Surely there are a more than a few services that are a waste of money, but I'm led to believe there are more than a few that are above board as well.
This is why I was so dismayed when I looked at this blogger's services and saw the following:
"Query Letter Formatting/Writing/Editing - $75."
Are you fucking kidding me?
Look, your money is yours to burn. If you want to spend $200 or $600 for studio-style coverage, who am I to judge? But $75 to read a query letter and help write another one is nothing short of outrageous.
As it happens, I wanted to compare this individual's prices to one of the more reputable screenplay consultants out there. I went back to the earlier post and decided to check it against The Script Department, and guess what? For a mere $75, The Script Department offers a "Query Letter Review." Yep, they'll read it and tell you if it's any good. $75 for what probably amounts to five - no, I'll be generous - TEN minutes of work. Considering how blind queries rarely work, that's only slightly more effective than just burning the money outright.
It gets better. For another $75 bucks they'll review your logline too. Yeah, so for a grand total, you can have professional readers look at less than a page of writing and give you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. That's almost as stupid as paying thousands of dollars to someone who's never actually written a screenplay so that they can teach you how to write!
I'll be blunt. Any writer who's so desperate for that kind of validation that they'll pay $75 to get it isn't ready to play in this game. There are tens, if not hundred of books that can help you craft a sharp query letter and a strong logline. Honestly, if you've read more than one of those books and you still can't distill your script into a strong logline then chances are your story isn't that good. As for query letters, just Googling "How to write a Query Letter" will probably lead you to more than enough sites that can walk you through the process and provide examples of strong query letters.
Coverage on a script is one thing. It gives you a fresh pair of eyes and probably would even offer a few suggestions on how to improve weaknesses in the material. But "query reviews" and "logline evaluations" - particularly at those prices - might not be a scam, but they're a colossal waste of money.
For about five minutes I considered setting up a PayPal account and offering both services for $10. Truth is, I felt sleazy even taking that much money and I figured that most of my readers would be smart enough not to spend money on them anyway. Still, the sheer greed on display there couldn't help but motivate this editorial.
It's your money. Spend it however you wish, but please spend it wisely.