Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coverage scams

I got an email from Benjamin last week:

Got a situation with a coverage provider who I paid already, but he does not return emails? He said he was going to have the coverage Sunday. But nothing so far and no replies. And he emailed me last week begging to cover my scripts?????

But he works for one the biggest contest around. Any advice?

Let me just make sure I'm hearing this right. A guy you don't know emailed you and said, "Hey, I'd love to read your scripts and do coverage on them if you just pay me $100 a script!" You sent him the payment and now he's not returning your emails.

I think you got taken.

What was the benefit to you in paying money for him telling you what he thinks? I don't criticize the decision to pay a script consultant, as I've covered that topic before, but I always encourage writers to do their research on the people they pay for their opinions. You say he works for one of the biggest contests around, yet I still don't see how that really helps you. Contests can help you get discovered, but only if you're a finalist.

Always check the credentials of the people you hire to do coverage on your scripts. Ask on other screenwriting boards and do some Googling to make sure that the person is legitimately connected to the agencies they claim. Never pay money to someone whom you haven't vetted, and always consider "How will this benefit me?" For example, if you were to pay me for notes, you could expect that the benefit is that I've been reading for almost seven years, I have a fair amount of knowledge about what makes a screenplay good and marketable, and I can tell you how your writing stacks up relative to what is being sold and represented those days. I might not be able to pass it on to people above me, but I can at least help you improve it.

What were you looking for in sending your script to this reader? Validation? Constructive notes? The hope that he'd use his contest connections to get you an agent? This whole scenario sounds shady for me from word one - when you say that he contacted you. That's almost on the level of responding to a phone solicitation or a spam email.

Let's say some agent or manager reads this blog and emails me with an invitation to read one of my specs. It would be extremely bad form for them to say, "Hey, if you pay $100 for coverage, I'll take a look at it." A reputable person who requests your script won't then insist that you pay a coverage fee.

Having someone who works for a contest read your script MIGHT help - but only if they can pass it on to someone else. True, they could tell you how your script stacks up to other submissions and suggest ways to improve it but why does this person's opinion matter enough that you're willing to pay for it?

I'm not saying you shouldn't pay someone for coverage - but buyer beware. If you don't know much about the person you sent your script to, then how do you know they won't rip you off?

There might not be anything you can do about it this time, but be more careful in the future.

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