Today we have a guest writer sharing with us his experience of what he did after receiving our notes, our friend from the forums, Michael Jennings.
Simply put, he received a positive read from an agent.
Having said that it’s VERY IMPORTANT to note HE took the initiative and did this on his own. We provided the notes on his project, but he provided the determination to follow through with making his story stronger and then find someone who would be interested in it.
This small fact is crucial to more than just screenwriting. If you want to sell a screenplay, start a new business, hell even meet a girl/guy that strikes your fancy, etc., you can’t wait for the opportunity to fall into your lap. If you do, you’ll be waiting a long time.
Go out and GET IT!
It’s going to take work, but anything worth doing does. If you want to be successful at this and sell your work, don’t wait around for someone to ask you to see it, GO ASK THEM to ask you to see it.
(Just don’t be like the former me and get the requests, then provide crappy writing. That never turns out well.)
Selling your story is sales, pure and simple. I can throw tons of business jargon at you, every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’, sales is just a numbers game, etc., but simply put, the fate of your success in anything rests with YOU.
Alright, enough jibber jabber from me, onto Michael’s article.
I recently had the good fortune to have one of my scripts requested for a reading by a literary agent. Though far from being an expert on the subject, I would like to pass along my experience and thoughts on the matter to my friends and fellow writers here on WTR, in the event that it may one day be helpful to someone embarking down the same path.
The absolute most important thing to be done prior to contacting an agent is to have EVERYTHING done and ready to go. Your script must be in its most magnificent form possible. Have a killer logline, synopsis, and outline complete and ready to send. Make sure you have a bio written up, even if you haven’t done anything worthy of pointing to as a writer. Writing a compelling bio was a task unto itself, and would make a great forum topic in its own right. Having never sold any of my writing, I simply made mention of my diverse careers and life experiences and how these have enriched the quality of my writing, then wrapped it up with the usual “wife and kids in Oklahoma” line.
Now, the one thing I have come to appreciate from the WTR forums is that many of us have different approaches to how we write, what we feel is important, etc. I’ve made no secret of the fact that for me, it’s all about storytelling. Yes, even more than arcs, subtext, and character development. All of these elements are just individual points to consider when crafting a story. The story is the car, an arc is the fuel pump. Subtext is the battery. Character development is the crankshaft. The reason I mention this is because here on WTR we have a wonderful resource available to us… quality parts! The quality of our car is dependent upon the quality of all the components that went into it, and the same is true of our story.
When I wrote BURNED, I went back over it many times, scrutinizing, analyzing, refining. I thought I had it about as good as I could get it. I shared it with others to read and get feedback from. But when I posted it for review on WTR, I discovered some areas where I could continue to improve it. I added a new opening scene, clarified some not-so-clear subtext, etc. My good script became a great script, and this is what the agent received. Upon reading it, he told me he loved the story and the quality of my writing, and that he was sending my packet to the agency’s founder for further consideration. I cannot adequately convey how good it feels to know that my script is in its top form while being examined by those in the industry. It may very well turn out that the agency’s needs at this time are different than the types of stories I write, but I know my work is solid. It’s just a matter of getting it into the hands of those who are searching for this kind of story.
The short-and-sweet of agent shopping, as I see it, can be found in the following bullet-list:
• Learn the elements of writing (character development, arcs, plot, etc.) and learn the craft. Go back through the WTR forum postings and immerse yourself in the various perspectives to develop your own philosophies on these.
• Review your works for how well you have applied what you have learned from the forums (and other sources, too). Make the adjustments as needed.
• When you have it as good as you can get it, post it for review on WTR. Take the great observations you’ll get from Roy/Hank (and others) and look at your work from a fresh perspective. If you can find ways to make it even better, do it!
• Have your “extras” ready. (Logline, synopsis, etc.)
• When it’s time to find an agent, DO YOUR HOMEWORK! An agent is someone who is going to represent you and your work. This is a very important person in your professional life as a writer, and you need to make sure s/he is right for the job. Make a list of agents/agencies that are looking for your style/genre of writing, accept new clients, etc. Then, go back through that list and make a short list of the best prospects. Your Top 10 list.
• Prioritize your Top 10.
• Look at the agent in the #1 spot. What do you know about them? What have they sold? Are their sales similar to what you write? Do this for everyone in your Top 5. Is the person at #1 still at #1?
• Craft a query to your #1 agent, custom built for them personally. You need an appeal that has special meaning to that agent. Be sincere with this. The agent in your top spot should be in that spot not because they are at the biggest, most prestigious agency in the business, but because they are the best candidate for what you have to offer. You’re looking to establish a working partnership, not just for what you’ve written already, but for your future works, as well.
• Provide multiple forms of contact info with your query, and respond quickly and professionally with the agent.
• Be patient. Give the agent time to do what they need to.
• Win or lose, express your gratitude for their time and consideration of your work. Keep that good karma growing and working for you.
• Win or lose, learn from the experience. If you’ve done everything right and learned from the experience, that in itself can be counted as a “win”.
That’s it, folks. Use the wealth of insight and advice available to you here on WTR, make your stories the best you possibly can, and find that agent who can best represent you in the industry we all hope to be a part of.
I wish you success.
Thanks for taking the time to write this article for us. We both appreciate the effort. I think you do a great job of pointing out that the finish line is getting reads, not finishing scripts. The success in your approach is a lesson to all of us aspiring types.
Congrats to Mr. Jennings on getting a read and best of luck going forward.
Yes Michael…I appreciate you sharing your wonderful story and congratulations on the good report from all of your effort, not just writing the screenplay, which we all know is an incredible task in and of itself, but diligently following your dream and working it from basically the business side…that seems to take just as much effort or more….
Good luck…and I look forward to your future “Good Reports”….
I’m really keen on seeing that Bio of yours. It’s one of the things that really bothers me when submitting anything- novels, screenplays or articles. My career up to now has been in criminal justice, with seven articles sold to a local paper being my only writing credits. I’m always frustrated filling out the submisison packs,wondering what to put in my bio, how to write a good pitch, etc. Writing a story is so much easier.
Well done. Please let us know how things develop….