You’ve written a great script. Congratulations! But now comes the really hard part, and it’s no less important.
Come up with a great marketing plan!
“But, Brian,” you tell me. “Im a writer, not a wall street guy. I don’t know how to market anything.”
Well, you’d better learn fast if you want to sell that script, especially if you don’t have an agent.
So how do you come up with that marketing plan?
It’s not as difficult as you might think, but it’s helpful to know what people are looking for. If you’ve just written a romantic comedy, don’t worry about sending it to Michael Bey or Jerry Bruckheimer. They ain’t gonna be interested. Try to think of independent or small production shops that have released similar material recently, and gear your pitch towards them.
Now, there is also the slight problem of sending material unsolicited. Most places won’t read unsolicited material, but some places will, and that goes for agencies as well as studios and production companies. There are studio and agency directories that you can buy through places like the Samuel French book stores in Hollywood and Studio City. These are valuable assets to have, and they provide mailing addresses as well as phone numbers, so you can always call a studio or agency before you mail your material to them to find out if they accept usolictied scripts.
OK. I have a list of studios and agencies that will accept unsolicited material. What now?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Create a spread sheet on which you can put the company name in one column, and then a series of columns that have the date you sent them the script, the date you followed up with them, the date you heard back from them, and another for their response.
Follow up? What do you mean follow up?
Well, I’m glad you asked. You should call the company a day or two after you’ve expected that they’ve received the material. If you actuall talk to someone, try to strike up a friendly conversation. Ask if there would be a good time to call to set up a meeting. Be persistant, but don’t be a pain in the ass. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but if it squeaks too often and too loudly, it also gets thrown on the scrap heap.
Do I send anything along with the script?
You’re just full of good questions today, aren’t you? Absolutely, positively always send a query letter along with the script. Just like cover letter with a resume, the query letter fills in details about you. Not only do you have this script that would be perfect for this company to produce, but you’ve also won these awards for screenwriting. You worked as a reader for another agency, and you studied screenwriting at the best film school. A little blurb on what the script is about, and you’ve got it.
Honestly, what are my odds of selling a spec script this way?
Honestly, they’re long. Real long. But help yourself by doing the research. Find out what which studios and agencies are looking for material like the material you’ve written. Write an outstanding query letter that sells you and your idea. Be organized about how you approach your marketing campaign so that you’re not just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.
One last thing to consider is having a professional reader provide you with coverage that you can hand in with the script and the query letter as well. The analysis that companies like mine can also be helpful in showing you ways that your script can be improved before you even send it out.
And remember: The manuscript for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was sent unsolicited to a publisher, who happened to read it, and the rest is history.