The biggest hurdle for any aspiring writer is to get the attention of executives and agents. And once you have their attention, getting them to read your script is a whole other hurdle. Unfortunately, there is no easy or effective way to overcome this and despite what others may have told you, writing a query letter is not one of them. That isn’t to say that query letters haven’t worked in the past, but the chance an executive or an agent taking the time to read your letter and then proceeding to contact you about your script is very very slim. They’re simply too busy or too apathetic or too pessimistic or a combination of all three . Your best bet is that a hungry assistant who is looking to impress their boss reads your query letter and contacts you on their boss’ behalf. Here are some tips on how to write your letter in a way that will give it the best chance of being read.
1) Always keep in mind that the person reading your letter has very little time. If you can’t capture their attention in a matter of seconds, they will toss your letter in the garbage. And even if you capture their attention after the first few lines of your letter, it’s usually still not enough to make them want to read your script. Assuming your script is worth reading, your objective with your letter is to give your reader more and more small pieces of information about your screenplay until it gets to the point where the only thing left to do is to read your script. Here are a few important steps and pointers to submitting your query letter.
2) Send by email if you can. This makes it harder for the reader to “throw away” and easier for them to contact you if they need to.
3) Be quick and to the point. Don’t waste words on your introduction. State that you want to submit your screenplay for consideration and get right into it. The reader doesn’t care who you are or what your accomplishments are. All they care about is whether or not your script is good. Sorry, that’s just the way cynical Hollywood works. So don’t waste your introduction describing yourself and listing all the awards your screenplay has received. NOBODY CARES.
4) Make sure your script is the final draft of your absolute BEST work. Do not submit works in progress and don’t give the impression that the script still needs work. Of course, if they happen to contact you and ask you to develop with them, you should always be open and willing to re-write.
5) Only send ONE project. Do NOT send them multiple loglines of your various projects to choose from. This is suicide. People only have time for and are only interested in your BEST work. If they want more, they will ask for it.
6) Make sure you have a great title. There’s nothing more off-putting than a submission called THE UNTITLED JOHN DOE PROJECT.
7) After you’ve given your one-lined introduction stating your intentions to submit your script, provide an AMAZING logline (emphasis on AMAZING). The idea is to grab the reader’s attention with as little effort as possible and compel them to read further. If your logline accomplishes this, your next step is to write a short paragraph (4-6 sentences) summarizing the plot of your screenplay. From here, you should provide a 1-2 page synopsis of your script. Write this section like you would for script coverage. Again, don’t leave anything important out of this section. Gives as much information as you can. If you still have their attention after reading your 1-2 page synopsis they will contact you for the screenplay. They might even contact you after reading your first summary paragraph if your concept is that good. At the end of your letter you can include a one pager that includes your bio, credits and awards if applicable.
8) Be sure to convey the entire story including the ending. DO NOT tell your reader that they have to read your script in order to find out how it ends.
9) Don’t state your WGA registration number on the title page of the script. Nobody cares and it looks amateur. BUT be sure to put your phone number and email address on the title page. You want to make it as easy as possible for whomever reads your script to contact you if they like it.