How to REALLY get an agent

Probably the most frequent question asked by screenwriters is “How do I get an agent?”

I’ll skip the usual advice like ‘have a bulletproof script.’  That goes without saying.

But one thing I keep hearing over and over again is contact the Writers Guild; they have a directory of agencies that accept unsolicited material.

Whoever tells you that hasn’t seen this directory in quite some time.

When I hear ‘directory,’ I think ‘phone book’.  This is a double-sided piece of paper.

I contacted each agency to find out their submission policy.  And then the fun began.

Some don’t accept unsolicited material anymore. Okay, that’s acceptable.

Some want you to send your query by fax.  Wouldn’t you expect an agent to use email?

Some places don’t represent writers.  WHAT?  Then why are they on the list in the first place?

Some of them want you to send your letter with a SASE, which is still okay (see email question above).  Of the 15 or so I sent out, I got 3 back.  Keep in mind agencies get literally hundreds, if not thousands of queries a week.  What, no interns to handle this sort of thing?  I also got 1 or 2 about 6 months after I sent the query. I’m guessing they were cleaning out the closets.

If the Writers Guild wants to be a good resource for writers trying to break in, they really need to get on the ball and maintain a solid database of agencies.  True, the list of those that accept unsolicited material is constantly shrinking, but they’re still out there.

If you think your script is really ready and you have a killer query letter, you’re much better off with the Hollywood Representation Directory.  You can get a hard copy or subscribe to it online.  Most big libraries should have it, so be prepared to work the copy machine.

My former writing group chipped in and we bought a recent edition on sale.  I went through the agent and manager sections with a highlighter, marking down who accepted unsolicited queries.

Of the 200-plus query emails I sent out, I got about 30 responses, including 10 asking to read the script.  Most of them passed, but one guy optioned it.  Nothing ever came of it, but it was closer than I’d ever gotten before, and once I have another script ready to go, I’ll do it all over again.

-Brief LUCY update:  Closing in on the midpoint, including finishing a much-needed action sequence.  Thrillsville, baby!