Monday, May 2, 2011

Reader question - How do I get people to read my script?

Jessica wrote in with this question:

I just wanna thank you for your blog it's been so helpful. I'm new to writing and i'm mainly just starting to write as a hobby.

Do you have any advice on how to get agencies to read my spec scripts? Just to be clear I'm not asking you top read my script I saw the warning.

Getting your script read is hard. The best approach is to get your script in through a personal contact. If you've built up credibility with people, they're more willing to read your script or pass it on to someone who will read it.

But let's say you don't know anyone who works in the business? Well, your options are limited. You're probably reduced to sending out query letters. Most people will tell you that's a waste of time, and it can be - unless you're willing to put in a lot of effort and be smart about who you query.

I recently did a round of querying myself, so I can offer a little bit of advice. First, an IMDBPro account was invaluable. With that, you have access to production company addresses and staff lists, agency addresses and - most useful of all - lists of every agent at each agency and the specific clients they represent.

Also, it's more likely that you'll get responses from managers - especially smaller managers - and smaller agencies than large agencies like CAA, ICM and so on. I got a list of many managers in town and using IMDBPro, I looked up each company and looked at each manager there. I took a look at every one of their clients, assessing if they seemed to have a preference for a particular genre of writer as well as if their clients credits suggested they were willing to take on younger writers.

From that I whittled down the list considerably until I had about 8 pages of agents and manager names. In cases where a particular company was a good fit and there were several agents and managers who looked like reasonable targets, I ranked the individuals at each company. I kept notes on specific clients of their and if applicable, referred to their works in my query letter.

Then over several days, I sent queries. When it came to companies when I identified multiple "targets," I always waited at least a week, often two, before looping back and querying a second manager at a particular company. Give people a chance to respond.

So basically, if you don't have any contacts, you'd better be prepared to do a lot of research. Write a concise query letter. Briefly introduce yourself, explain any relevant history (such as if you've won any contests, or have a distinction that might be noteworthy to potential representation. (In my case, one of the things I hit was my history in development and as a script reader.) Give a brief pitch for your script - don't tell the whole story. Your goal is to entice the target to read your script. Going through it plot point by plot point isn't always the best way to do that.

Lead with the hook, maybe talk about who the main characters are, and make sure it's clear what the genre is. Thank them for their time. Be polite, be concise and make your story sound as interesting as possible.

Queries are often a crapshoot. I got a fair number of requests from mine, but often you won't hear anything back.

Good luck!


  1. Great information.

    Did you use email or regular mail?

  2. Thank you so much for this, Does this process, or your advice, differ for TV specs? I've been working hard on my first spec for the past month and, other than submit it to contests, I'm not sure what to do with it when I'm done. I'm sure I can find books on the subject, but I thought you'd have the most current information. Thank you again!

  3. Hel - I've done both. Lately I had better luck with e-mail queries.

    Ill - I confess I really don't know about TV specs. I imagine the same principles of research apply though. Amanda might have some better insight. There might also be something on Jane Espenson's blog.