05,April
2017

How To Get An Agent, 3 Key Tips!

(Psst: review/rate Nelson Nutmeg on Amazon, thanks!)

The ultimate catch-22 of screenwriting: you want an agent. The agent’s not interested until you’ve got some work. But it’s incredibly difficult to get work without an agent. So what do you do? Here are 3 key tips (plus 2 podcasts and another blog link at the end! For much more practical advice on how to survive in the biz, get our UK Scriptwriter’s Survival Handbook):

Don’t rush it. Agents deal with talented writers every day. The competition is extremely high. Potential clients will have found a way to work in the system without prior representation and may have won an award, or made a well-received short film, or have something about them that makes their profile that little bit more enticing and interesting than ‘you’, a part-time bank clerk in Stockport.

Agents also know good writing when they see it. When you’ve written your first screenplay, the temptation is to approach an agent in the hope that they’ll take you on and start your career. But unless the script is truly a wonderful piece of work and is instantly sellable, this won’t happen. Agents like to represent writers, not people who want to be writers. So if you’ve written one screenplay, great, but write one more to show you’re serious. Write another to display your range. If you think they’re any good, truly, then approach agents to show them what you got.

Write a good query letter/email. Be brief. Three succinct paragraphs should do; one to explain who you are, another to give a little bit of info about your script(s) and the last to express your interest in the agency you’re approaching. Give it a week or so, follow it up with another email (a phone call if you’re feeling up for it). Do not send your script(s) until requested. If they do request to read your scripts, give them a considerable amount of time to read and review. You can expect to wait to up to two or three months to get a response because they’re very busy with their clients. Be patient, be polite.

Get a referral. This is far preferable than an anonymous query letter. If you know someone in the business and they have a solid reputation (exec/producer/director/script editor) then show them your work and if they think it’s good, ask them if they could refer you to an agent. Bizarrely, the agent that seemingly ignored you last week will show sudden keen interest when you are referred to them by someone who’s well respected in the biz. But a referral doesn’t mean instant representation. Expect the normal assessment once your work has been accepted for review.

Naturally, a referral is the golden ticket that is difficult to obtain. Most will rely on the query letter method. This is fine. It does work. Trust in the system. Keep writing no matter what. Rejection doesn’t mean your writing’s no good, it just means it’s not for them. It can be a hard slog just to get on someone’s radar. Be good, be normal, work hard, and results will come.

BONUS TIP (thanks to Sally Abbott): Agents will read referrals from writers on their books as well as directors, etc. In fact a lot of referrals come from their existing clients. Also, agents may think they have a gap in their client list and want to be more representative so be keen to find specific voices – e.g. women and/or writers which are diverse.

A couple of episodes of the UK Scriptwriters Podcast focus on getting an agent, one with me and Tim as we discuss the topic, the other with Jean Kitson (my agent!) about what floats her boat as an agent. Plus, check out my blog post How To Be Your OWN Agent (Even If You Already Have One). For much more practical advice on how to survive in the biz, get our UK Scriptwriter’s Survival Handbook.

(Psst: review/rate Nelson Nutmeg on Amazon, thanks!)

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