Query Letters: A Necessary Evil Or A Waste Of Time

When Should I Start Sending Query Letters to Agents and Managers?

Stressing Query LettersWe get asked this question a lot!

You’ve probably heard about actors, actresses and models getting their big break by an agent at the coffee shop, stopped at the traffic light, on the beach! A good look and a charismatic vibe can be spotted a mile away. But how do writers get noticed? Are you supposed to work your abs, get a fit bathing suit and hope your script gets discovered while you strut your stuff? I don't want to disappoint you, but it's not gonna happen!

There are various opinions on the matter of query letters. I personally believe that unless you write the sexiest query letters ever, there are probably more productive ways to spend your time. A good query letter is to a writer like a good bikini is to an aspiring model. If it exudes confidence, charisma, charm and a strong writing voice, it will get noticed… by someone. 

Anything less than a stellar query letter

is a waste of time. But even with a great query letter, I wouldn’t suggest making them a big part of your game plan. It is thankless work that will only rarely lead to an agent or manager. And even in that instance that your amazing query letter does grab someone’s attention, maybe they give you a call, and maybe after reading another script or two they offer to send your work to a couple of producers, you will still be a hip-pocketed client, and most likely not with a top agent.

Can you imagine the top agent in town finding his clients through query letters? Probably not, right? Most good agents and managers are too busy making deals and taking care of their clients to be sifting through query letters looking for a needle in a haystack. And on that rare occasion that a manager or agent does sign a new client, I promise you they came referred by someone they know and trust, or perhaps just owe a favor too, and not because they were wowed by a query letter.

So after writing 8 hours a day, what else should you do with your time?

Remember that you are the CEO of your brand. Now start acting like one. There are a million things to do to keep your company and brand growing, beyond writing.

Don’t exhaust yourself writing query letters. They are but one tool in your arsenal. If you are looking for something you can do to better balance your time writing, I suggest creating a presence for yourself in the industry. Until such time as you find a manager, agent or publicist to do it for you, you have to think like one of them. It is important to network and be a part of the business by staying on top of the daily news, reading the trades, studying trends and knowing the players (companies and individuals). Don’t just know that Universal is a great studio for your project. Know that Marc Platt Productions is the perfect production company at Universal for your project. And don’t just know that Marc Platt runs the company. Know that Adam Siegel is best positioned at the company to read your script. Don’t just be a student of film, be a student of the industry.

Speaking of students, go to your local film school and inquire from the faculty if there are any talented directors or aspiring producers you might be able to speak with. Get to know them, throw some ideas at them, hash out a short script and go shoot it. Maybe they are looking for their thesis film to make, or their directorial debut after graduating. Whatever it is, get involved.

Find something to ask, a reason to call and place phone calls to executives and producers, agents and managers. Don’t be a pain, but find a friendly reason to call. You may not get a lot of phone calls back, but that’s not important. Practice pitching yourself. Speak to the assistants and become their friends. They won’t all be assistants forever, and you never know where they may end up.  Invite them to meet for a drink, invite them to a stage reading of your work, and eventually invite them to read your script. It’s called legwork and it is hard, but it pays-off.

Create a presence through social media. Facebook is essential, but for filmmakers it’s important to have an Instagram and YouTube channel as well, to really show what you can do.

When you are not writing, but want to keep busy it is tempting to send out query letters because it is active. But as much as sending out query letters, spend your time creating a presence, networking, studying, reading and you will heighten your chances of not just being in the right place at the right time,  but being prepared when that time comes. Some call it luck. I call it hard work. The harder you work, the more often you will find yourself in the right place at the right time.