Screenwriting and Selling Your Work

After months upon months, you’ve finished your first screenplay. What next? You’re wondering, “What do I do now? How do I find a literary talent agent? How do I approach a talent agent and will they read my screenplay? Is there a specific process I should follow?”

First of all, if you’re new to the industry, it’s very difficult to find a literary talent agent. Established professional screenwriters in Hollywood are constantly working to sell their work or secure an option. There are thousands of screenwriters hoping to break into the industry and there are hundreds of professional screenwriters that are working to sell their work every day. Competition is fierce and the Hollywood pool of writers is huge.

Current economic times will make finding a literary talent agent even more challenging. Most talent agents usually acquire their clients through referrals. However, talent agents can sometimes find you. In this case, the agent may have read your screenplay that was showcased through a screenwriting contest or even won an award. Unless you are friends with an established screenwriter that could put in a word to their agent on your behalf, it may be a tough road for some time.

The margin of opportunity for a first time screenwriter to secure representation is very narrow. If you were to ask professional screenwriters what their advice would be right now, some may tell you to wait a couple of years until our economy recovers. They may say; “Wait until the studios start buying screenplays again.” If you’re willing to accept this advice without further research in the marketplace, you could be selling yourself short.

It’s always a good Idea to gather as much information as you can from multiple sources. Think of Hollywood like the stock market. When the economy is good, stocks are up. When the economy is good, people spend money, movie ticket sales increase; everyone in Hollywood is buying screenplays. That’s why you don’t want to wait…

Now is the best time to be working harder than you’ve ever worked before. Why, you ask? Those screenwriters that told you to come back in a couple of years when the economy turns around; they are schlepping along hoping to complete another screenplay and sell it before you come along with an original fresh idea that sells first. That’s right, keep working on that screenplay and make it the best piece of work you possibly can. You just may be the next big screenwriter in Hollywood.

If your fire is stoked, read on…

Have you ever heard of the saying, “The greater the risk, the bigger the reward?” The risk is spending countless days, weeks, months or even years writing with nothing to show for it. But you already know this, I hope. Let’s get down to the process part of finding a literary talent agent. In order to market yourself and your work you’ll need to have a few completed screenplays. Because the industry is so demanding, you will likely get one chance with each literary agent. You will want to ensure that your material is solid and your very best work.

Next you will want to draft a query letter and be sure to include brief but pertinent information on yourself, your work and intentions. A query letter should be no more than one page.
Example Query Letter:

Now you will need to find a list of literary talent agents that accept solicitations.
Literary Talent Agents:

In the event your query letters generate a response and a literary agent would like to read your script, be sure to follow the industry format standard when preparing your script.

You script should be printed on plain, white, three hole paper bound with brass script brads. Don’t bind it and never put any other information on it other than the title, author and your contact information. Then send away!

On the flipside, don’t wait for an agent to read your script and contact you. Networking is a great skill to practice if you want to break into the film industry. Be sure to get out and meet a lot of people and share your ideas and ambition of becoming a produced screenwriter. Let your friends and family know you plan on breaking into the film industry and you’re scouting for a literary talent agent. The best case scenario; someone that knows someone that knows an agent will get your script into their hands.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
– Walt Disney

Success is the result of our actions based on our dreams.
– David L. Spies


This entry was posted in Screenwriter, Screenwriting, Talent Agents and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Screenwriting and Selling Your Work

  1. David, excellent post. A couple points I’d love to add:
    1. A bad economy, in my opinion, is the best time to strike. Many successful individuals and companies grow from the rebel who risks it all on a venture during a bad economy. Smaller companies, and on a different level, writers who don’t have the burdens of overhead, can often move faster and get more done than those who’ve learned to rely on more plush circumstances to help their productivity.
    2. No risk, no reward. Yes, absolutely right. No matter what your dream is, if it’s big enough, you’ll have to take a substantial risk to make it happen. I say you can’t go wrong by betting on yourself.
    3. Also, just because people aren’t buying screenplays doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write one, or two, or ten. If writing is your dream, your goal in life, you should be writing regardless of the potential of a sale. We all want to get paid, but you can profit from writing screenplays by gaining experience, honing your craft, and pushing your own boundaries.

    Thanks for the great post!
    twitter: @jokeandbiagio

  2. Thanks for the great post, David. Read a very negative post from another blogger this week who basically said that if you don’t live in LA and don’t know the people she knows, then stop trying to make it as a writer b/c you’re never going to make it before her. I like your post better.

    Bad economy? Good economy? Seems as though the plan is the same: do what you need to do to pay your bills, write as much as you can, and surround yourself with supportive, positive people.

    And Biagio – you’re exactly right: if writing is your dream, you should be writing regardless of the potential of a sale.

    Thanks again!
    Julie Keck & Jessica King
    twitter: @kingisafink

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