Querying-more not less confused



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  • Querying-more not less confused

    I had given up querying before I even came to this board, after a serious, heavy duty effort. Got the usual mix of no response, no unsolicited, not at this time, pass, not our cup of tea -- nothing rude. Nice pre-printed to a scrawl on my letter. Occasionally a small personal touch or send future loglines.

    I had a few requests but with the exception of three, never heard from them again. I didn't follow up as I have been at the other end of the pestering stick and never found it was anything but pestering. Figured if I didn't hear from them, they weren't interested.

    One respected agent requested a script. It was clear from her laughing request that she personally responded to the premise. She politely passed within a month. Another small WGA agent called me several times, I never understood what he wanted me to say. Finally he requested one of the four scripts he had loglines for. After reading twenty pages, he called to pass and then kind of hung on the phone. I thanked him for his consideration and he still hung out on the phone. I couldn't figure out why. Finally, he said "You write a helluva letter." Huh?

    The third was some producer's asst. A WGA agent had passed my query to him. All his converstion was on my machine, I didn't speak to him directly. He called again after he received the two scripts. He was all excited, wanted the other two scripts, was going to pass the scripts he had to the assts of some "A-list" actresses and would be back to me within two weeks. Never heard another word.

    Then out of the blue a request for three scripts, course I haven't heard back from them either.

    Now, several people have indicated they are having an incredibly high rate of requests. Tina nabs an agent with a one page synopsis, course maybe her cover letter was filled with her "innocense is bliss" charming nonsense and they thought they had discovered a unique "voice."

    I'm thinking of trying again. My letters were short. Nothing about myself as it didn't seem to have anything to do with whether I could write a screenplay or not. Just titles, genre and loglines, some with an extra small paragraph. Queried with from one to four scripts at a time. No hype, taught not to "toot my own horn." Polite, simple business letters.

    Would love it if other people would offer advice, what they do or used to do, and from those on the receiving end, what attracts your attention.



  • #2
    Lily, are we sisters? My query responses have been similar to yours. I started to query in March of this year. Short, one page letter on one script, no mention of other scripts and occasionally mentioned a little bit about myself (just two sentences on how my life related to the script). I would send out in batches of 10 or so than rewrite letter based on any feedback. Iâ€TMve a few good responses, though at the moment I only have the script at a production company.

    I got one response from an agent where she asked 6 questions about the story (because my query confused her but also intrigued her enough to ask for clarification). I responded and answered the questions and waited excitedly for her response (she sells and doesnâ€TMt really take on new writers but…) She was still a little confused and decided to pass on reading it. Thatâ€TMs when I got some help with my query. So now I have an even better query but havenâ€TMt sent it out yet.

    Iâ€TMve decided to try another route. I went ahead and submitted my script (and money) to one of those script service companies that if your script â€grades†high enough they pass it along to producers/agents/etc.. Iâ€TMve talked a lot to the companyâ€TMs CEO and figure that even if nothing happens contact wise, Iâ€TMll have feedback on the script and then I can regroup and figure out what to do.

    I swear Iâ€TMd rather write a script than a query (especially if you tack on sending those darn things out).

    Iâ€TMd like to see what other people go through.


    • #3

      I just try being brief, polite with no under-current of bitchiness and it works about 10% of the time which is good enough for me.

      Just my 2 cents


      • #4
        I received a bunch of rejects too (from those who have no idea what they were turning down, of course - ).

        This is what my query letter looks like:

        September 18, 2000

        Mr. Fine Agent
        Be Nice To Me Agency
        100 Not Gonna Reject You Lane
        Hollywood, CA 90210

        &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp RE: SIGN LANGUAGE

        Dear Mr. Agent:

        &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Attached is a brief synopsis for the above referenced screenplay.

        &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp In 1999 and 2000, I was awarded second place on two separate pieces of work at the Heritage Literary Conference in Virginia.

        &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Thank you for your time and consideration.


        Tina Tina Bobina â€" Banana-Fana-Fonina
        100 Hoping Youâ€TMll Call Blvd.
        BumFuct, Egypt 11111
        (555) 867-5309 (hehehe)

        I attach a one page - double spaced synopsis and that's it.

        It had to have been the synopsis that got the attention cause it sure wasn't that fine artistic cover letter I sent. What's worse, (this is embarrassing to admit), I actually went so far with my first batch of letters to say, "This is the first screenplay I've written". Right then and there I'm sure they chucked my stuff.



        • #5
          re:Query Letters

          BHill - I found it much easier writing the screenplays than the query letters.
          I sent out a batch this morning and returned from the post office in total panic. Why? When I write the screenplay I feel I'm writing it for ME. Yeah I want it to be marketable, but I want to really enjoy what I'm writing. Writing the query letter threw me off balance because I felt that I was writing it for a bored reader. Only when I changed my attitude and put my voice into the letter was I satisfied enough to actually mail the dang things. But now I've actually put the word out there that "My Finished Product" is available. It could be requested - or rejected. It's a feeling I didn't have while writing the screenplay.
          Does this make sense?

          And Lilybet - I've also read several query letter success stories on this board recently. Maybe we should take the American Psycho approach and ask those successful queeriers this: Are you using more than a 24lb. paper? What is the cotton fibre content? Watermark?

          I guess the content makes all the difference.

          Chris 0]


          • #6
            Tina, seriously, is that all that you had in your letter? Just a "cover letter" to your synopsis? I'm going to have to try that! Must have been one hellva synopsis, did you "give" away your ending?


            • #7
              BHill- I'm serious. That's all I did. I kept imagining the "bored reader" as smartblawned was talking about and so I decided to just say nothing in my letter. Just give them my name and stuff in case they wanted to contact me.

              In the synopsis. I basically told the story from beginning to end. Even tho I received a lot of rejects, most of them came with notes of "Exceptional synopsis". Honestly, I thought it stunk. I didn't get to say nearly as much as I wanted to. I'm a talker, by Golly, I have things to say. Don't restrict me!

              Now - don't forget, I've sold nothing...I'm just moving in that direction as fast as my little pitiful query will take me.


              • #8
                I guess my approach is a little different. I incorporate my synopsis into my query letters, and I've gotten a bite every time. Personally, when writing a query letter, I try to hook the reader as soon as possible and keep it at only one page. Seems to work for me, and I've never received any negative feedback.


                • #9

                  What Cornell said, with a little addition: I also try to provide a very quick sentence about my background as a writer and what my next two scripts are about. Maybe they won't like the idea of the script I've just proposed, but they might be willing to take a look-see at something else.


                  • #10
                    Re: queries

                    Ok - I concede...my approach is only good if you only have one screenplay to talk about - or if you're a little 'tupid and just happen to have a little bit of good fortune.

                    Go with the majority!


                    • #11

                      There's nothing wrong with your approach, Tina. It's just a little different.
                      I have no major awards to speak of, so I pitch my next ideas instead.

                      If you say you've won 'something', an agent/reader might say 'Well, Somebody liked her work. Let me try it."


                      • #12
                        Re: queries

                        Well, I have not queried anyone in five years. Everyone did not have an internet site back then (wow, I feel old suddenly) and you had to explain to people about dot this or dot that for them even to be able to send email that wasn't aol email, so some stuff has changed. (smile) Aside from that, I figure everything is about the same.

                        If you have more than one script, that's great, it means, if they say what else have you got, you can whip out another script. I wouldn't query with more than one script idea, though, because once they choose one, the other ideas are "ideas they did not choose." The loosers on the buffet table. And they will not be as interested in them later, if they pass on the one they choose, because they have already passed over them for the material they are passing on now. So I'd query with one pitch at a time. And if they pass or say no, hit them with the next one. And the next one. Keep going. But always be hot on one script in one letter.

                        Agents are a pain to get read by without a referal, so I always concentraated on producers. Producers can refer you to agents and agents are snots, was kind of my perspective. And I would query agents, but just not as hard as the producers, I was always fighting for producer reads. I figured, where I was then, they would do me the most good. And could be the key to the agent doors. Of course, one good agent can take you through a whole lot of producer doors, but finding one good agent to take on an out of state little writer no one has ever heard of was a big mountain. And almost all of my agents have come through referals. From producers.

                        Thirty percent yes was a good response rate. That means, out of one hundred queries to strangers, if thirty plus people said send the script, it was a good query. If you didn't get that, you rewrote the query and hit the places that said no again.

                        That was what I and the other people I knew querying thought, anyway. Those were our top numbers from the best of the best in the query game.

                        Queries need to do four things. One, tell them why they should read you instead of the one hundred other people who just asked them for a read. Two, tell them what the story is about. Three, ask them to read you. Four, tell them how to get ahold of you to request the script. Anytime you write a query, look at it hard and make sure each of those four things are in there. The only one you can skate on is number one. If you just don't have a good reason for them to read you, like you don't have a bunch of published credits or contest wins or whatnot that yell "I can write," well then you just skip that part and go straight to what the story is about.

                        My queries were always short. Hi, I am so and so and this is why you should read me. (A couple sentences.) This is what the story is about. (One to three sentences). I'd like to submit the script for your consideration. You can reach me here. Sign out.

                        They were less than a page. I was getting thirty plus yeses, so I was doing all right with those.

                        And I was querying hard to get into places.

                        When you are judging your responses against other people's responses, you also have to take into consideration the caliber of the people you are querying and the caliber of the people other people are querying. If you have been around a while, you are probably doing a lot of research and going after heavy hitters. It can be real discouraging to see someone brand new walk in and say, "Wow, I just sent out ten letters and all ten people said send the script!" And you will think, What the hell? What am I doing wrong?

                        Well, (and I am not saying this is anyone here, I am just saying be aware of this scenario), sometimes you are doing nothing wrong, it is just sometimes new people don't know a lot yet and write to some real low on the totem pole people who are lucky anyone is writing them at all and of course if they get a gramatically correct query letter they are going to say "Thank God, send the script."

                        So keep that in mind and don't have heart attacks if someone brand new gets a whole lot of good responses. I'm not downplaying good responses. Good responses are great. But don't get upset someone else is getting them either and do keep in mind, if you are writing CAA and they are writing a little company with an ad on the internet, what you are going up against is harder and takes more work.

                        Always follow up. Not daily. That is pest behavior. But after a couple weeks, if someone has your script, call. They get busy. You aren't at the top of their agenda. They can read something and get too busy to call and just forget. You need to put in some of the effort here and make up for that and call. At the worst, they will get annoyed but too bad, it's a tough business, this is your job, to stay on top of your own stuff and they know that and should not annoy so easily. At the best, you will develop a relationship of sorts with this person, they may give you feedback or let you know what they thought about the script or you may be able to pitch them your new script and get another read. So follow up. That's important. And if you don't, one of those other hundred people trying to shove through the door will and you will be being a princess alone on the corner, while the person who calls will be getting feedback and maybe another read.

                        Any of that help?


                        • #13

                          You certainly helped me, thanks! You provided a wealth of information.



                          • #14

                            I love it when you go deep, GIG. If that doesn't help, we're fools.


                            • #15

                              Do you still get 30% positive response?