One of the easiest ways for screenwriters to establish contact with agents and production companies is by sending query letters and emails. That being said, the process of writing and distributing these letters is not easy at all! This is because your submission has three main goals to achieve:
- Inform the agent or producer what the story is all about
- Intrigue them to read the script you’ve completed
- Provide a written record that the work has been submitted (necessary in case there’s a dispute over copyright)
When you get a response like “I’m interested in your story and I would love to see your script,” you’ll know that the doors to production have been opened.
Why Are Queries So Challenging To Write?
The query letter is the element that stands between your script and its realization. You’re aware of the fact that you have to make it perfect, but this one-page piece of content can be a strangely overwhelming challenge.
The main challenge is to shift your mindset. You’re no longer thinking about your script as something related to long hours of work, sleepless nights, and ideas that show who you are. You’re treating it like a product from a marketer’s point of view. The producer or agent will want to know how sellable this movie would be.
Since you’re too attached to the work you completed, it’s hard to treat it like a product. Don’t worry; you’ll get there if you follow few simple steps that lead you towards a successful query letter:
1) Make every word count
Agents don’t have much time to spend on queries. The last thing you want to do is make them waste more time than planned with a long, repetitive letter. The usual form of a query letter is consisted of four paragraphs:
- A brief intro. This is where you grab their attention with the strongest selling point of your work. You can briefly explain how you got the contact of this particular agent or producer, and why you’re interested to work with them.
- A paragraph about the script synopsis. If someone asked you to describe your work in three sentences, what would you say? First of all, you need to include your logline!! Next, give hints about the main protagonists and their personal and interpersonal conflicts. Then, you’ll mention the major elements of the plot, as well as the setting and time period. This is the part where you explain why your story is unique and different from any other movie that has been produced.
- A paragraph about your background. In this part, you have to be honest. There is no point in exaggeration; just write about the experience you have with scripts, online publications, or anything else you’ve been working on. Do you have impressive production credits? Maybe you’ve won an award? If you don’t have any impressive background, you can simply be direct and say that this is your first script. Check out The Perfect Screenplay Writer’s Resume: 5 Key Ingredients.
- A call to action. This is the paragraph where you invite the agent to read the entire script.
TOP TIP: The query will include many details about you and the work you present, but it should still be short and straightforward. MORE: Top 5 Submission Mistakes
2) Answer the main questions
The most important paragraph of your query letter (the one that presents the script synopsis) needs to answer the main questions the agent has on their mind:
- What’s the genre of this movie?
- What’s the story about?
- What makes it unique?
- Why should I give it a chance?
- Who would watch this if produced?
TOP TIP: the query letter is all about marketing. You have to get inside the agent’s mind and tell them everything they need to know about your script. Most of them won’t send email messages with requirements for you to clarify something about the plot. They will give your work a chance only if they get their answers through this letter.
3) Follow the submission guidelines!
Before you start submitting query letters, you have to understand what producers want to see in them. Most agents specify the areas of their focus, so don’t try to send a query letter that presents a history fiction script to an agent interested in science fiction.
Once you locate few agents who are suitable for producing your work, write query letters to all of them. That’s how you’ll increase your chances to get a positive response.
However, you can’t send the same letter to all of them. Most agents specify the information they want to get in a query letter or email. You have to follow those guidelines strictly if you want them to consider your work.
4) Personalise the query
When you’re sending a query, you should always address the agent by name. If you make it too generic, the agent will get an impression that you didn’t do your homework and you don’t know what they are looking for.
This query is your first chance to connect with a longterm collaborator. Take it very seriously and personalise the message. You know, like great salespeople do. First they take your name and learn about your interests, and then they use that information to get close to you.
5) Avoid the common mistakes!
- Long paragraphs that get into too much detail. Make them as brief as possible.
- Mentioning too many characters. Limit the descriptions to two or three characters.
- You need to provide a hook, but you don’t have to include the pay off (or ending) in an initial query (NOTE: you do however in longer pitches and one pagers!!).
- Typos, incorrect punctuation, and grammatical errors. You’re a writer, but you also need to edit well. If you need help with this part, check out some writing companies reviews and find a service that provides affordable editing assistance.
- Being too obvious with the statements. “The theme of my script is… The target audience is… The main character is…” Avoid these constructions. A great query letter makes these things evident without emphasising them.
- Including ideas about the way the potential production should be marketed. Don’t try to tell an agent what their job is.
- Mentioning money and budget. Just don’t! MORE: 29 Ways NOT To Submit To An Agent by BFLA’s Carole Blake
If you already have a great project, then you don’t have to worry too much about the query. Just follow the tips provided above, and it will turn out just fine.
Remember: you must never give up. Keep looking for potential agents and send more queries. Just persevere and change your style from time to time … Then you’ll definitely find the approach that works.
BIO: Louise Coleman is a professional freelance writer with wide experience in covering educational, inspirational, and blogging topics. Apart from writing, reading is her real passion from the very childhood. For more information about her you can email her or visit her profiles at Facebook and Google+.