I’ve read the feedback on all the online sites, BL, Inktip, ISA, et all, and found none of them seem to be worth the money or effort. So, in your humble opinion, for someone not located in California, what is the best way to approach an agent, manger or producer? Send a logline only? A logline and synopsis? Hold their children hostage? Threaten to send them back if they don’t read it?
If you don't have feet on the ground in LA, then I'd first try reaching out through any connections you might have through your college's alumni network. The next thing I'd do is research managers and (assuming your script is low budget enough) smaller producers who might accept queries.
And if I struck out there, I'd probably use the Black List.
It used to be a bad idea to approach managers and producers via email but that's more accepted now. I say do email or snail mail. The key is to keep it brief. Introduce yourself succintly. Don't ramble. Don't give any more information than is absolutely necessary. If there's a reason why you might be of interest to them, say it here, but don't take more than two sentences or so to get there. (Example: "I used to be an analyst for the CIA covert ops division, and I've brought some of that experience to my spy thriller spec.")
Don't send a synopsis. Keep it to a logline. I wouldn't go into more than a three-sentence description of the story. Hook them, intrigue them and don't overwhelm them with details. The people you are reaching out to get a LOT of emails a day so if they click on an unsolicited email that's five dense paragraphs long, they WILL skip it.
Take it from someone who just went through his inbox and by-passed a number of emails from readers telling their life stories. Brevity is your friend. (And in the case of the long emails I was getting, many of them asked things outside the scope of this site, or asked questions that we've answered a number of times before here.)
Queries tend to have a low success rate, but if you're not in LA, that's one of the few options available to you.
I've been following your blog and youtube/twitter channel for a while. Always appreciate the frank advice you give, and would like your quick opinion on something.
I heard an interview with Corey Mandell who said that since it's difficult to judge when your screenplay is "ready" (and most screenplays aren't anywhere near the level they should be), it's helpful to pay a few studio readers to give professional coverage "off the books" so you don't burn any bridges if it receives multiple passes.
Do you recommend this approach? How many readers would be enough? How much would be a fair amount in a situation like this?
I would not pay more than $150 for standard studio coverage from a reader. As longtime readers know, for cases like that, I always refer people to Amanda Pendolino. She knows her stuff and she's got the work history that ensures she'll be looking at it the way the "first filters" at all agencies and production companies would.
I've talked about coverage services before, and that includes what to look for in a reputable coverage service, and how much feedback you should get before you know you're ready.
Eventually, after you've written several scripts and read many, many more, you'll get better at judging the quality of your own work, though it's rare to become fully objective.