Query Letter Tips

For unproduced writers one of the most effective ways to get your foot in the door and have someone read your script is a query letter. But many times because of very simple mistakes, the letters go straight to the trash. And even the letters that get read are often passed on because of how the letter is crafted. With some very basic tweaks to how you are approaching the letter and how you craft it, you can get your script noticed and hopefully read! 

Have a script ready to go
This may seem like the most basic advice ever. But we get letters all the time that say they will have a script in the next six months. Or they have an outline/treatment we have to read immediately. Do not send out query letters unless you have a polished final script. You only get one chance to wow us so make sure its your best shot.

Get someone to read the letter
Before you even start to write your query letter, make a game plan of how you will someone to read it. Ask every person you know if they know someone who works for a studio, production company, etc. Even if the acquaintance is an intern. Your letter has a much better chance of being read if there is a personal connection—no matter how far removed.

This is the hardest thing to do but it will make all the difference in the world. Executives get hundreds of unsolicited query letters and most go straight to the trash for a number of reasons. First, there are legal issues if for some reason we end up doing a movie that is similar to yours. If something even looks like a letter and we don’t know who it came from, it goes straight to the trash. Unfortunately the letters that do get past us are 99% of the time, very poorly written and those go in the trash as well.

But if someone we like and trust gives us the letter, we will actually read and consider as A.) we want to do right by our friend and B.) we assume that this recommendation means something and the idea could potentially be a good one.

This leads me to the next tip, which is:

Know Thy Reader
Don’t just submit your letter to every shop in town. I know it was hard enough to just find someone to read your letter but make sure you have something they want. Read the trades and track what type of projects companies make so that you aren’t submitting your horror film to a company that does mostly comedies. When we get letters like this, it feels sloppy and lazy. 

And because we have egos, we want to you to know our company. It can be as simple as mentioning you just read that we just bought a book to adapt and that the author was your favorite in high school. Or maybe your script has similar themes to that book we just bought. It doesn’t have to be a rehashed background check on the last ten films the company did. By connecting your script to the company, it makes us feel like we are getting something special that you only sent out to a few targeted places.

Which then leads me to the next tip…(I’m sure you can guess what this is)

Target a Few Places
Don’t blanket the entire industry with your letter. Pick a maximum of ten companies to submit to–preferably five—and give those letters all your attention. By only focusing on a few submissions, you will be able to individually craft letters that address your knowledge of the company. You will have more time to do thorough research on these companies and your targeted letters will reflect that you put some time and effort into your submission. You will also be able to spend more time on the contents of the letter than just trying to get out as many as you can. In the second part of these tips. I will address how to craft the perfect letter to maximize the potential of companies requesting your script!

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