There are a whole lot of things new screenwriters need to do before even thinking about getting an agent or manager. Are you putting the cart before the horse?
Many new screenwriters think getting an agent is a top priority. The question comes up so often in the screenwriting forums that it inevitably garners snide, joke, or funny gif responses.
Yes, representation is important to a professional writer. But you must be ready long before you start thinking about this step.
Where are you in the process? Start with tallying how many completed screenplays you have on offer. By ‘completed’ I mean perfectly formatted, polished for spelling and grammar, and that have been sent out either for paid coverage or extensive notes through script swaps with an experienced writer.
If your answer is one or two, you’re not ready to seek out representation. Most managers will expect you to have three to five completed scripts ready to shop and more material in the works. The inevitable question in a pitch meeting is: “What else have you got?”
Second, how many of those completed scripts have advanced at well-known screenwriting contests?
If you can boast one or two significant advances at Nicholl, Austin, or Page you can start pitching representatives directly. If you win a prestigious contest, managers and agents will find you.
Until then, work on your craft.
Perfect, polish, and pitch
- Hone your loglines and synopses until they sing.
Your logline is more important than your title. It’s the first, and usually only thing that any potential producer will read. They will request the script only if they like the logline.
- Swap scripts and collaterals with other writers and learn how to respond to notes.
Join online discussion forums about screenwriting (Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn and Twitter) and offer to swap scripts with other more experienced writers. Also Zoetrope and Script Revolution offer script hosting for feedback. Learning to give and receive notes will improve your writing and help develop your network.
- Learn to research.
There are some superb websites out there, run by both companies and individuals, offering stellar information. Problem is, there are millions to choose from. And like all information on the internet, not everything you find is both true or useful.
- Join hosting sites like Coverfly, InkTip, or the Blacklist where you can showcase your work.
These are excellent for testing your loglines to determine which version of your logline attracts more views, or for pitching directly where appropriate.
- Respond to calls for screenplays from sites like InkTip, SYSSelect, and Screenwriter Staffing.
Refine your query letters and practice written pitches.
- Pitch to Stage 32 or Virtual Pitchfest.
These require deep research and equally deep pockets. Some of the above services offer limited free access. But most require a monthly membership fee.
- Look at Roadmap Writers for opportunities to pitch directly to managers.
They have a solid track record for signing writers with managerial representation.
- Sign up for newsletters that inform.
You know the drill. You find a website, either through a link on a discussion board or a web search and they offer you a free something to sign up for their newsletter.
I sign up for all of them. But only some are worth my time. Lucy V. Hay’s Bang2Write is one of my favorites because every entry into my inbox is informative. Here’s Lucy’s take on mistakes writers make when looking for agents. Note that she’s in the UK, where agents are like managers in the US.
- Read the Trades.
Especially, The Tracking Board. You’ll hear time and again that “screenwriting is a business.” Understanding the rest of the business our pages contribute to is a large part of educating ourselves as screenwriters.
What will a manager do for me?
An agent will sell your script, probably without even reading it, and take a flat rate 10% fee. It’s not a close relationship.
A manager is like a professional parent – he or she will work with you, read your scripts and give you actionable notes, encourage and advise you and organize meetings.
Neither agent nor manager is paid until your property sells. While the agent fee is fixed by law, manager rates are negotiated at the beginning of your contract but fall between 10% and 15%.
So get cracking on polishing your portfolio of screenplays until they gleam. Then, and only then, start thinking about representation.