A screenplay is like a website. If nobody knows it exists, nobody will ever see it and if nobody ever sees it, it can never be sold and made into a movie. Here are some ideas for marketing your screenplay.
The traditional way of marketing a screenplay is to write it, find an agent, and hope that the agent submits it to studios that may want it. That’s fine, but don’t stop there. Everyone thinks that an agent can open doors for you, but until you can prove yourself to Hollywood, agents are going to spend their time opening doors for people who studios already know and trust.
That means if you’re an unknown like me, your chances of getting an agent to open the right doors for you is minimal at best.
Before you start marketing any screenplay, the first task is to make sure it’s the best screenplay you can write. It’s not easy to write a full-length screenplay, but it is easy to write a lousy one. If you write a piece of garbage, even the best agent in the world isn’t going to care to look at it, let alone sell it.
After making sure your script is the best it can be, register it with the Writer’s Guild and copyright it. When you register a script with the Writer’s Guild, that timestamps your script and proves that on a specific date, you submitted a specific version of your script. For greater protection, you should also copyright your screenplay.
The difference between registration and copyrighting is subtle, but important. Registration with the Writer’s Guild simply proves that you submitted a particular version of your screenplay, but it doesn’t necessarily protect your actual story, character names, or plot. Copyrighting does all that and thus gives you stronger legal protection. You can visit the government’s copyright office (http://www.copyright.gov) for more information about copyrights.
After registering and copyrighting your screenplay, you’ll be ready to submit your script. First, go the traditional route. Get a list of Writer’s Guild approved agents (http://www.wga.org) and start contacting them one at a time. Some agents accept phone calls, but most will likely appreciate a query letter with a SASE. Just don’t expect to hear a reply for several months.
Obviously, sending out query letters to agents and waiting half a year isn’t fast enough for most people, so do this and try some other methods.
Despite their stated policies otherwise, many studios will accept scripts if you sign a release form that basically says you won’t sue them if they already have a similar project in their pipeline. Many A-list actors like Will Smith also have their own production companies, so if your script is perfect for a particular actor, get a release form and send your script to that actor’s studio. The moment an A-list actor wants to play a character in your script, half the battle of getting your movie made is almost done for you.
You could also try entering your script in one of many screenplay contests offered. Even if you don’t win, you could get an honorable mention, which gives your screenplay credibility and can help interest an agent.
Probably one of the best ways to market your script is to attend a screenwriting convention where you can pitch to actual agents. Most of them are overworked and buried under script submissions, but you’ll tend to find the junior agents who want to find a hot screenwriter to help their own careers. Plus it gives you a chance to personally pitch your idea. As long as you can behave yourself in public, this method may be the easiest and fastest way to get an agent on your side.
Marketing your screenplay is nearly as hard as writing it in the first place. Where most writers fail is that they don’t market their script. Market it. Not marketing your script defeats the purpose of writing a screenplay, so devote some time to marketing.
After you’re rich and famous, your agent can do most of the marketing for you, but until then, half your time spend writing and the other half spend marketing. If you want to sell a screenplay, it’s the only way.