One question I get a lot is “How do I get an agent?” My first reply is usually, “Do you REALLY NEED one?”
This is because, nine times out of ten, the writer asking the question is at the start of his or her writing journey and prizes getting an agent as his/her validation in STARTING that journey, when in reality, agents are not likely to be interested in writers who are just “beginning”. If that is you, then my recommendation would be to a) write a selection of scripts so you have a portfolio and b) collaborate and network as much possible FIRST.
If however you have already done those first two steps, plus have any of the following:
1) Have produced credits (TV or Film, usually paid, rather than collaborations – though if your piece has done VERY well, especially commercially this may swing it for you on the latter. Note agents may not be interested in short film UNLESS it has done spectacularly well on the festival circuit and has won awards)
2) You may be a professional writer in another field (You may have done corporate work or journalism, or have a social media brand, or worked in theatre; you may have written novel tie-ins for existing, successful television franchises; you may have been involved in award winning advertisements or won awards for your newspaper pieces; you may have worked in the games and toys market; you may have a huge online following on Twitter or have a blog with many hits, usually about a fictional work but also about scriptwriting or associated content; you may have created a new media phenomenon or have toured theatres with your play)
3) Recommendations/referrals from producers, directors or other writers (They will have read your work and/or worked with you, so will be prepared to stand by their word for you in this case)
4) Have won or placed highly (ie. Finalist) in any Big Name scriptwriting contests (ie. BlueCat, Scriptapolooza, Red Planet Prize, The Peter Ustinov Prize, Final Draft Big Break, you may have had your work showcased by The Rocliffe Forum or similar – do note UK agents *may* not be interested in contests on their own, but in conjunction in one of the other elements too).
5) Favourable coverage from any big name script reading company (ie. “Consider” or above.)
6) Options or interest from big name companies (note: not free options)
6) Any other deal on the table (ie. a place on the BBC Writers’ Academy; a successful trial script at another soap; a publishing contract; a super successful self published eBook selling many, many copies a week, etc)
Then CONGRATULATIONS! You’re definitely in the market for an agent.
Note none of the above GUARANTEES you one! That’s right – with so many writers around, the average agent can afford to be picky. Harsh but true. And of course, you don’t necessarily HAVE to have one don’t forget, I know several very successful professional writers without an agent. If you DO want an agent, then here are my recommendations for getting one:
i) Meeting as many agents as possible. I’ve had two agents now and I met both in a “real life” capacity before they represented me. The first I script read for; the second (my current agent) I met many times at various events and stayed in touch with over a five year period before he represented me. That’s right! FIVE YEARS. Making really useful contacts in the agent world means playing the long game. Of course, it’s now never been easier to meet agents – there are tons at events like London Screenwriters Festival and of course most are on Twitter. NOTE OF CAUTION: don’t be weird or demanding. The above is my preferred method of getting an agent because it’s what I did and I know it works. However, other Bang2writers have reported the following to work:
ii) Getting to know agents’ assistants or junior agents. Agents’ assistants are more often than not going to become agents themselves, so getting to know agents’ assistants is a great idea. Junior agents are one step up and “agents in training” starting out at a company and looking to create their own slate of writers, who they will then take with them when they get an agent’s post either within that company or another one. The reason these people are good to know is because they are looking ACTIVELY for writers, in comparison to agents who already have their own writers (ie. why would they be looking, when they have a stable of writers already who are earning them money?). Finding agents’ assistants and junior agents is slightly trickier as they don’t get invited to events as often as the actual agents. That said, they sometimes accompany them – so next time you see someone *with* an agent at an event, why not introduce yourself to them? Or why not ring the agency and ask to speak to ‘the assistant of [Agent’s Name]” or the Junior Agent? You can usually check these details out fairly easily on the website first. And yes, DO CALL ON THE TELEPHONE. Most writers hide behind email. If those particular agents don’t like phone calls, then they won’t come to the phone. Sorted. Write a phone script if you must. But don’t invent reasons to call – agents hate it when people ask questions that are answered on their websites in the FAQs. Oh and don’t be weird or demanding, don’t forge.
So, let’s say you’ve attracted the interest of an agent, junior agent or agent’s assistant. Now what?
a) Write an EXCELLENT, non-weird letter detailing your recommendations from showbiz types/wins/corporate work/favourable coverage/deal on the table (but be concise, half to three quarters of a page ONLY)
b) Include your best feature or TV script, plus a one page pitch for it c) Include some brief pitches for other work in your portfolio (ie. loglines or VERY short synopses, one page for all)
c) Include a detailed CV with your wins, options, etc (one page).
d) NOTHING ELSE – that’s right! Do not include CDs, DVDs, flowers, sweets, (even jokey) death threats and DEFINITELY do not include a non-disclosure agreement or release form!
Remember the following:
e) Follow the submissions guidelines and send your chosen agent/s the stuff they want, the way they want. If submitting via email, CC yourself in. If submitting via regular mail, enclose an SAE. Also: make sure your contact details are on the front page of your script and on accompanying material. Nothing drives agents’ assistants more crazy then not knowing who-wrote-what.
f) Make sure you draft the letter and CV METICULOUSLY – most letters and CV agents get are RUBBISH and/or insane.
g) Wait 6-12 weeks and then email or call said agent and follow up, asking politely if they’ve had chance to read your material. If they haven’t, ask politely when you may call back again and note the date they tell you in your diary and call back, again via telephone. If they dodge your call or tell you they’re not sure when they can read your stuff by, wait until they contact you (if they don’t again, there is your answer).
h) If you receive a rejection, email them with “Thanks” in the subject line so they know you’re not freaking out on them and ask politely if you may send another work. You’d be surprised how many writers get a “yes” to this question! If they say “no” but tell you they liked your work, ask if you could come in and meet them or buy them a coffee. Again, you will be surprised how many writers get a “yes” to this, too!
i) And obviously, if they ask you to come in themselves or send more work, then DO SO, but DO NOT PANIC. Of course, there’s always some lucky so-and-so who approaches an agent who has none of the above but has written a something so AMAZING and so COMMERCIAL an agent will bite their hand off despite nothing nothing else about them. However, for every writer this happens to, I’d wager another 99 have to follow the steps here and have a strategy for netting one. So best of luck in your agent hunt!
ON THIS BLOG BEFORE ABOUT AGENTS AND MAKING CONTACTS:
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