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5 Ways To Impress A Literary Assistant (Or At Least Not Irritate Them)

It’s been yet more Submissions Insanity this week at B2W Towers, though for once the shoe has been on the OTHER foot as I’ve found myself in hot water for daring to share my last article in an online screenwriting group that I was invited to join and start a discussion?? Guess I didn’t read the admin’s mind well enough! Whatevs, homies. Unlike some jumped-up jobsworths out there in, REAL industry gatekeepers out there don’t want you to try and resort to telepathy … Instead, they WANT you to clear those hoops and get your fantastic submissions into their hands! HONEST GUV! So here’s the lovely literary luvvy Sal Rowberry with her top tips on getting past the assistant … Over to you, Sal!


1. Spell My Name Right.

This might seem straightforward, but take a few seconds to check that you’ve correctly spelled the name of the person you’re emailing or writing to. Nothing gets my back up like reading ‘Sally Rowbury’ or some other strange interpretation of my surname. If you lack attention to detail in your first communication with an agency, what does this say about your writing? In addition to this, if you’re addressing an agent directly rather than an assistant, really take the time to make sure you’re spelling their name right; you don’t want to potentially burn an even higher bridge. MORE: 29 Ways NOT To Submit To A Literary Agent by Carole Blake

2. Do Your Homework.

It’s not difficult to find out whether agencies are accepting unsolicited material or not. Calling an agency up; ‘Just to check if the website is correct’ is a waste of time for everybody involved and doesn’t reflect well on you as a prospective client. The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook is a good reference point for establishing general genre/format details of agents and agencies, and if you can’t find any detail anywhere then a short and brief email will more than do the job.

I would also recommend taking the time to do further research to find out which agencies and agents are appropriate for your type of work. I find it quite irritating when I get emails that are book submissions when we don’t have anything to do with books. As ever, think how these small mistakes reflect on you when you really only have the one opportunity to make a good first impression.

As a side note to this point, in my opinion, you really only have two (three at a push) chances to impress an agent or their assistant. If you’ve been rejected several times, you’ve really got your back against the wall in terms of delivering a sensational script that will get you noticed. With this in mind, always be sure you’re submitting your very best draft or work when approaching an agency. MORE: 3 Tips To Get Your Work Solicited Via Email – And Not Blow It, plus How To Get your Work Solicited 

3. Do As You’re Told

This again might seem straightforward, but it’s shocking how much it’s ignored. Most agencies require a CV, short synopsis and then maybe the first 10 pages of your script. If that’s what they ask for, then for the love of all that is good and holy, send that, and only that in. It doesn’t mean send in five 100 page scripts, a letter of recommendation from your BTEC Media teacher and your own illustrated story board. Don’t be crazy. Be clear, concise, and to the point. It’s infinitely more effective. Less really is more. MORE: The Basics Of Online Script Submissions

4. Blank Carbon Copy (“BCC”) Is Your Friend

If you’re lazy and have decided that you can’t be bothered to send individual messages to each agent you’re approaching (not my advice), then at least use BCC rather than CC in your blanket email. I’m always inclined to delete mass CC submission emails; it just doesn’t look good. MORE: The B2W Script Submissions Checklist (PDF), plus the Submissions Links Bundle of The B2W Required Reading List, plus find stacks more of FREE writing & submissions advice, podcasts & downloads HERE.

5. Don’t Nag!

I know that the waiting game is tough because you’ve sent someone your blood, sweat and tears in email or letter form and you desperately want a response, but nagging can be quite irritating, and eventually it may lead to an assistant quickly skimming your script and rejecting it just to be rid of you. Assistants are talent scouts and heart breakers, and yes, they may be the initial gatekeepers to impress, but they also have a full office assistant job to be carrying on with as well as reading through the submissions pile. After 8 weeks or so, a polite chasing email won’t ever do any harm, but constant calls and emails really won’t do you any favours. MORE: When To Follow Up On Your Submission and Following Up And Submitting After LondonSWF


BIO: Sal Rowberry is an assistant for Micheline Steinberg at Micheline Steinberg Associates. She studied Scriptwriting for Film and Television at Bournemouth University before working at Blake Friedmann and Linda Seifert Management. She is the curator of Sunday Opening Hours, a blog that publishes a weekly interview with writers about their Sunday writing habits. Follow her on Twitter.

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