The best screenplay in the world is useless if you can’t sell it. Here are some ideas for improving your chances of success.
There’s an old saying that it’s not what you know, but who you know. That’s true since if nobody knows who you are, they won’t know where to find you. So rather than complain that it’s all about who you know, spend time getting to know the right people.
The first step is to attend screenwriting conventions. You probably won’t find a high-powered agent from the William Morris Agency there, but you will probably find junior agents looking for build their own career by finding the next superstar screenwriter. Those are the people you want to target because they need you just as much as you need them.
Remember, it’s show business with the emphasis on “business.” No matter what your artistic side may scream, it’s a business and to succeed, you need to learn about marketing.
Here’s what most screenwriters do. They find the Writer’s Guild list of approved agents, submit a query letter to each of them, and most likely never hear back from any of them. The problem isn’t that agents don’t want to hear from you, but that agents receive so much crap that it’s easier to filter out most of it so they can focus on the few screenplays from reputable writers that they already know and trust.
So the key is to find the right customers, and that goes back to the junior level agents who are just getting started. Basically, agents just want to find someone marketable, and it’s your job to convince these agents that you’re the marketable one they’re looking for.
That means advertising. Not necessarily in the Yellow Pages, but advertising your presence so these agents can find you. The easiest way to do that is through screenwriting conventions, but you can also find out what different production companies and agencies have recently bought and sold through Variety or the Hollywood Reporter. If a studio recently bought a new monster movie script, there’s a good chance a rival studio will also want a monster movie script. If an agency just sold a romantic comedy, there’s a good chance they’ll be more open to receiving more romantic comedy scripts. It all boils down to giving the customer what they want and the customer happens to be potential agents.
Learn to market yourself. It’s not as fun as writing a screenplay and coming up with a story, but if you don’t market yourself, nobody is going to do it for you and your killer script will languish in the closet somewhere, unread and unsold. Given that choice, learning a bit about marketing isn’t so bad now, is it?