Hey gang, what do you guys think about query letters? Do you think they are a waste of time? Anyone have a good experience by sending one?
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I've had some reads from them but I didn't enjoy sending them out. Nor did the read rate really outweigh the cost of buying the directory subscriptions. Because it's so easy to do it's just too noisy.
The numbers game is not a good one, but well-written query letters can certainly get you in the door. It's very helpful for your query letter to show your credibility. For example, "I'm a finalist in the PAGE International Screenwriting Competition," or "The Boston Globe called my book 'one of the top 10 debut novels of 2014,'" or "I was chosen as the UCLA Samuel Goldwyn fellowship recipient," or "I was one of The Black List's writers to know in March 2015."
If you look at script sales then the outlook is always going to be depressing. That's the big mistake. Setting a goal or expectation like that is fundamentally unrealistic. Plus doing anything that's relatively easy is always going to put us in the most competitive environments. Sending out 10,000 query emails to every prodco info@ address you can dig up, expecting them to read your first screenplay and buy it is borderline crazy. Sending out 50 targeted emails to agents, managers, actors, and/or producers, bringing their attention to a screenplay that's been validated in some form in the hope it might lead to building a relationship and possible representation and/or assignments in the future is far more realistic.
I sent out about 15-20 queries got back two replies one from a manger and an agent to read my latest feature. Next round is to possibly pitch via S32 to managers or agents.
Anyone got an example of a great Query Letter?
@Anthony, wish I could share one but as you can imagine, the ones I've advised on are kept confidential for the writer's sake. I didn't want you to feel like I/we were ignoring you.
@Alverne, congrats! That ratio sounds about right. You're on a good track! Break a leg! You only need one "yes"!
Anthony, while I don't have a great example of a query letter I can offer you the advice I have received and has worked for me. Keep it simple, very simple; Title, genre, Logline, script type, short synopsis, and anything that helps validate the quality of the script or the quality of your writing such as previous options/sales, awards, recommendations, coverage comments etc.
I know VPF.com and I think Script.com has some query letter samples. Also in THE SCREENWRITERS BIBLE has samples.
Do people send query letters for TV pilot scripts? I have two pilots I'd like to use as writing samples, with the understanding that producers/studios rarely actually buy pilots from newcomers. It's kind of a long story how I came to write the scripts (something didn't work out), but I always intended them as writing samples. Now, I'm figuring out just how to use them!
@Marc, the short answer is yes. A TV writer seeks representation just like a Feature writer.
CJ, David - many thanks, will have a look...
@Regina, thanks! Do you recommend trying to sell my pilots to be produced? Of course I would very much like to see them produced, but I've read that's unrealistic. I really expect to be hired to write on other people's shows, using my pilot scripts as writing samples. Would I look like an amateur trying to sell pilots as if I could start out as a TV series creator? How would you use a TV pilot script, as an unproduced screenwriter?
Personally I wouldn't rely on query letters exclusively. I do them as part of my overall plan along with networking, never stop writing, and try to shoot it yourself. =)
I agree with Dan, it's no more a long shot than anything else we do. I have had response from sending them and I do target them to the people I think will be interested. Sending a query for a family film to a horror producer wastes my time and theirs.
@Marc, the short answer is that you should try to submit your original pilots to agents/managers to get representation. The original pilots will most likely be used by agents/managers as a writing sample to get you producer meetings so that you might, down the road, when you're ready, 1) staff on one of the producer's shows, or 2) develop an original idea in collaboration with the producer (with an eye toward selling that original idea with the producer). The original pilot will be secondarily used as a potential new show that can be sold. Ideally, the agent/manager wants to sign you based on an original pilot that can get you a paid staff writing gig, and secondarily, might also have a chance of selling to a buyer.
@Marc, also check out: https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Spec-Scripts-2
I haven't had much luck with them. However, I did send one by email to Zero Gravity Management, who almost immediately requested the script. So never say never.
I've had some good results from query letters, but they work best when you've got a referral.
If you become a script factory, and send out enough, it can work. I've found Georgia over at Zero Gravity to generally prefer Sci-Fi lately, if that helps. I would use the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory if you're hunting agents
… become a script factory… I like…
They work, once you figure out how to present it in a way that shows them how working with you benefits them, as well as you, in the short and long term.
Of course they work. Phillip and Anthony just said that they work. Keep in mind that reputable producers must get a ton of them, so make sure that yours is really great and is something that they are truly looking for. Good luck.
You all are so supportive -- what a tremendous community! Thanks from my writing-ink-tinted heart.
Here's a seemingly helpful post from Reddit Screenwriting: "Get a subscription to IMDB Pro. On IMDB pro you can search for yourself and the information is up-to-date, including what companies are currently looking for writers. You will also find agents looking for new clients. Another good resource is Inktip Pro. They do get feature small production companies really looking for completed scripts. http://www.inktip.com/"
A good query can get you a read. And if they like what you wrote, they'll then ask "What else you got?". But don't beat yourself up if they don't buy your script or sign you. Your script is your resume. If it's good, they'll keep you in mind. It also allows you to maintain contact so that you have an "in" the next time you write something worth querying about.
Marc: I keep telling people that Inktip works. I had a producing team request my script this morning and another producer looking for Texas based story contact me on Wednesday. I aggressively work that resource.
Some amazing advice here. Definitely will take Inktip and IMDBpro into consideration when I'm ready.
I love InkTip! They really do seem like they want to help writers. But.. They are kind of expensive for a new screenwriter just starting out. We can enter screenwriting contests, sign up for paid newsletter subscriptions and other added costs so $60.00 to post a script and then $40.00 to post a logline is a little high and it all adds up really quick! I have had great support from SellingYourScreenplay, Select and I have just recently signed on for a pitch at Stage32 Happy Writers because they offer sales AND awesome service getting your work out!
VPF online is a relatively inexpensive source where you'll get immediate, (within 5 days) response from industry professionals on your query for film, TV, producers, agents and managers. You get to send 5 pitches, (written) to any 5 choices or you can submit 5 queries to the same Prodco - for $50.00! You can pay for coverage, consultation or detailed script consultation - the prices vary,and can get a little expensive... But what it does is give you a personal response from someone at a reputable company or agency... It can help streamline your queries.. I haven't given InkTip a try as of yet.. It was too rich for my blood at the time. I'm in a better place financially, so I may give them a try, thanks Phillip ... other than that I just work my relationship with professionals here on Stage 32, and LinkedIn, and other outlets... It takes patience but it starting to open doors - Oh, and get out of the basement and attend the 'meet and greets' around town, nothing like the personal touch.
I'll have to check that out, but if you submit three times you've paid for a year's subscription to Inktip, and you've only gotten 15 queries. I'm not sure it's more cost effective.
The obvious; if you sent out 30 query letters and you get interest from an agent or producer then it's not a waste of time. Even you get no responses it's not a waste of time because you will know that you have not written a script that people want to read. If you get a "not what we're looking for at this time" response then you have opened the door just a little and you can then pitch your other completed screenplays to them. I can see no downside to sending query letters.
W. Keith Sewell, thanks for the advice. Can you suggest any particular "meet & greets"? I certainly like to get out of the electronic basement!