A little praise goes a long way

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While a majority of my focus these days is on figuring things out for the sci-fi adventure revision/overhaul, I’ve also been taking time to read the scripts for films that have had some kind of influence on both my writing and my material.

The ones I’ve devoured so far are THE INCREDIBLES and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. I have scripts for non-animated films as well, but these were the two I started with.

Both were great reads, and also served as fantastic samples of effective writing. I was impressed to the point of wanting to say so on social media, so I tweeted short statements of praise to the writers. Levels of fanboy gushing were kept to a minimum.

Phil Lord, one of the Spider-Man writers, liked it, which was quite nice to see. No word from Brad Bird or Rodney Rothman, nor was I expecting any. That’s not why I did it.

Although they might not always admit it, every writer wants to know somebody liked their work. It’s great when it’s one of your peers, but there’s a special something to when a total stranger tells you “Hey, I liked this.”

Since you’re reading this, I’m going with the theory that you’re on at least one or two social media platforms, and there’s a pretty good chance that a writer or filmmaker whose work you enjoy is as well.

And they don’t even have to be famous. I’ve seen plenty of shout-outs and “This is a MUST-READ/MUST-SEE!” comments for material from other writers and creatives also trying to break into the industry.

No matter who they are, why not send them a quick note expressing your enjoyment? It’ll take you all of ten to fifteen seconds to write, and that’s all you need. Just some nice words. And don’t ask for anything in return!

You might get some kind of response, and you might not. Both are okay. For all you know, despite their lack of response, your comment may have brightened their otherwise gloomy day.

The important thing is you let a fellow writer/creative know that their work had a positive impact on you.

And who doesn’t like to hear that?

Writer, promote thyself (part II)

flyers
You’ve got a lot of competition, so how do you stand out in the crowd?

Used to be that you’d need help promoting your own material. Agents, managers, editors,  publicists, etc.

Not as much anymore.

With the worldwide reach of the Internet, a creative individual can present themselves and their endeavors to a global audience, via a website or blog, ads, tweets, and so on.

Having seen more and more of my writing associates taking the initiative and becoming their own promotions department, I was curious to find out more about HOW THEY DID IT and the results.

Some of the responses are presented here, with the rest coming up in future posts. (And if you’ve done something similar for yourself, feel free to drop us a line to be included).

In today’s spotlight:

Mark Gunnion (MG)
Boomer Murrhee (BM)
Diana T. Black (DTB)
Craig Griffiths (CG)
David Hal Chester (DHC)

What projects are you promoting?

MG –  I’m pretty much promoting my last four screenplays for spec sales, and myself as a writer for assignments and re-writes.

BM – A one-hour TV Thriller/Drama titled HELLBOUND HEROES.

DTB –  I have three completed features, and one of my teleplays is being rewritten as a feature.

CG – at the moment “The Hostage” 

DHC – I’m actively promotiong my two female-driven dramas, TILLIE and BIG SISTER. TILLIE is an adaption of a long-forgotten American book, and BIG SISTER is based on a tragic family event. Both screenplays have placed multiple times as finalists, and feedback has been consistently good. I’m also promoting a Netflix-style comedy PRINCESS. IN REVERSE. It’s based on my co-writer’s book, published by Simon & Schuster, about her unique experiences as a young American wife in Nagoya, Japan in the 1990s.

Do you have a website for your material, or do you post each project on an individual basis?

MG – I use a variety of posting sites to post the full scripts and loglines, and for sharing  – MovieBytes, FilmFreeway, InkTip, Coverfly. And I have my own “Screenwriting Services” page, 500Haiku.com, to post my awards, the posters my wife has made for my scripts, a bio, photo, and my log-lines. I’ve also just joined a new site for writers to swap reads and reviews, attached to Twitter, called SpecScriptShoutOut.com, where you can post similar info. I maintain profile pages and loglines at most of those, to varying degrees, when I can get around to updating them. I also have a LinkedIn page that is split between my day-job (naming new products and companies) with my screenwriting services and news. I also host a Screenwriter’s group on Facebook where I mostly learn from people with more experience, and where I try to make a welcoming place for writers to swap war stories and strategies.

BM –  I post each project individually. However, I may consider a website in the future.

DTB – I have a website but it’s still under construction and I need to do a rethink, because it’s getting spammed via the ‘Contact Me’ page… not sure what to do about that. As I’m also a professional actor, I may have to split the current website and have two … warming up to that idea.

CG – www.griffithscreative.com.au is my site. I don’t do social media. I used to focus on social media. However, that is a stream. A stream needs maintenance. My website is a resource. I intend to start a twitter and instagram for each film. For a few months leading up to release.

DHC – I have a website dedicated to not only my original screenplays, but also my short films and produced screenplays that I was commissioned to write. https://www.davidchester.com/

How do you put your promotions together?

MG – Any time I have anything plausible to announce – Finishing a first draft, or advancement in a contest, or a new poster, or something in the news that makes reference to something in one of my scripts – I’ll do a LinkedIn posting, with some kind of exciting, eye-catching picture (since LinkedIn is visually so boring). When I have a good result at a contest, I’ll often do an email blast to prodcos and managers with the win in the Subject line. I am beginning to work the #Writers and #Screenwriters angles on Twitter, and have made a few interesting connections there. 

BM – Once I complete a project and have gotten feedback from peers or coverage I will focus on a succinct logline, query letter and a one-page synopsis. For a TV project I put together a series bible. I begin by sending queries to contacts in my network who may be interested in this type of project. I then expand my network and research IMDb-Pro for producers and show runners. I entered several TV Pilot contests. I am currently planning on another trip to LA/Burbank for face-to-face pitches.

DTB – I have to go back and complete/review the marketing modules for ScreenwritingU’s MSC and Binge-worthy TV Bootcamp…and get marketing, but until I have this body of work ‘licked into shape’, I see little point. I’ve heard that creating buzz  regarding a specific project via Instagram/project is helpful. I’m yet to explore that option. 

CG – I focus on developing my personal brand. This will work across all projects.

DHC – I create mock film posters for my projects, which includes mentions of placements in contests, and create a page for them on Facebook. I also promote them via Twitter and sometimes on Instagram. I also create a 2-page written pitch, a 1-page written pitch, and 1-paragraph pitches, which are made specifically for including in query letters. I also connect with screenwriters on Twitter and writing groups on Facebook and do subtle promotion on those sites. 

How have the results been from your doing this?

MG – Nada. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I have a response rate to my cold queries around 1-2 percent, not atypical for cold-calling type emails, and similar to what I get from my day-job promotion. Only difference, that approach in my day-job has generated a living wage for over 20 years! While after seven feature specs, I’ve only had a couple of no-pay options, and no sales. I have some interactions with a couple of movie-makers via LinkedIn, and I assiduously work on expanding my contact list there.

BM – I’ve had over 20 script requests. However, this has not resulted in an option agreement at the time of this writing.

DTB – I know when I do get around to marketing, it must be a concerted, documented effort and with timely, professional follow-up.

CG – I used to have thousands of twitter follows. I just stopped. I am releasing a podcast on writing which is also a great channel and less cluttered than other channels.

DHC – Perhaps the best thing to be said is that I’ve connected with fellow writers, some of whom have proved to be incredible mentors for pitching and some whom give notes that are better than anything I’ve received in competitions. I have not received any responses to queries, but I will continue to send them out. I personalize them, and that takes a lot of time.

Do any formats seem to work better than others?

MG – None of them have had much impact, as far as I can tell. I still feel like one voice in a stadium full of writers, all screaming for the attention of someone on the playing field – but pretty much just contributing to the general roar.

BM – I’m looking to personal pitches. I will know more after I’ve pitched in person.

DTB – My greatest success (potentially) has been through LinkedIn via industry connections.

CG –  I focus on helping people. I avoid self promotion. People will want to help you as a source of thanks.

DHC – Posting quick blurbs on Twitter and connecting with certain other writers and following specific hashtags puts me on people’s radar and I get the sense that when the time is right, it could be productive. 

What’s the link for people to find out more about you and your projects?

MG –  Please check out my Screenwriting Services website at www.500Haiku.com, or my LinkedIn page at /markgunnion, and my Twitter feed at @Gunnion – and you can search for my name and see my pages on InkTip, Coverfly, MovieBytes, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten about already (Hi, Stage 32!).

BM – https://www.linkedin.com/in/boomer-murrhee/

DTB – https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianablack1/

CG –  www.scriptrevolution.com and www.griffithscreative.com.au

DHC – My homepage is https://www.davidchester.com People can also find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davidhalchester

Writer, promote thyself (part I)

sandwich board
From the pre-viral era

Used to be that you’d need help promoting your own material. Agents, managers, editors,  publicists, etc.

Not as much anymore.

With the worldwide reach of the Internet, a creative individual can present themselves and their endeavors to a global audience, via a website or blog, ads, tweets, and so on.

Having seen more and more of my writing associates taking the initiative and becoming their own promotions department, I was curious to find out more about HOW THEY DID IT and the results.

Some of the responses are presented here, with the rest coming up in future posts. (And if you’ve done something similar for yourself, feel free to drop us a line to be included).

In today’s spotlight:

Phillip Hardy (PH)
Marlene Sharp (MS)
Manda Pepper Langlinais (MPL)
Jon Kohan (JK)
Robert W. Jackson (RWJ)

What projects are you promoting?

PH – I’m not specifically promoting any project. I’m more about filling a need. Which means looking for producers looking for scripts. Currently, I’m deciding whether to work with a producer who has a first look deal with Netflix. He’s looking to do a family picture surrounding a rodeo star. Recently, I was working with another longtime associate who was shopping a gangster television pilot I wrote. So far, he’s pitched the material to Warner Brothers, Scott Free Productions and Blumhouse. He’s also shopping another true story film project to a foreign production company. I’ve shopped several other projects this year including science fiction, action and comedy. 

MS – My award-winning backdoor sitcom pilot script: BORN IN LA: DOLLS AND ALL is a high priority. I also have several starring vehicles for my dog-child Blanche DuBois Sharp in development.

MPL – I haven’t really been actively promoting anything for a while now. My most recent book was FAEBOURNE, from last October, and though it started out strong, I’ve been struggling to get it reviewed and spread the word. To be fair, I haven’t put as much into that as I could, though. I’ve had writing and marketing fatigue.

JK – A consistent thing I always promote is my screenwriting services. When I have important things to promote, like a new project, maybe a blog post, new video, I make sure I also promote those things as well.

RWJ – My Karistina YA series, Hester YA series, and my memoir Running Scared.

Do you have a website for your material, or do you post each project on an individual basis?

PH – I don’t have a website dedicated to my screenplays. I only have a website for my occasional script consulting activities called The Script Gymnasium. http://www.thescriptgymnasium.com. 

MS – I have a website for my overall consulting services: www.pinkpoodleproductions.com.  Some of my original projects are represented there. Other (non-original, 3rd party) projects on the site are those on which I served in a variety of roles, such as development executive, producer, writer, business advisor, or some such. 

MPL – I have a site/blog and I post about all my work there. It’s easier than having a bunch of individual pages or sites, and it allows people who are interested in one book or story go on to discover others by me. I also keep a Twitter account. I had a number of other accounts but they were time sucks and weren’t giving me good ROI.

JK – I have my own website where I put information about all my projects on. There are many times when I place things on social media or third party sites but I always try to mention it on my own website as well. I think it’s good to have a good “homebase”.

RWJ – I do not have a website. I include a link to Amazon so people can click and go see the books. 

How do you put your promotions together?

PH –  For leads, I submit a two-page query letter with a logline, synopsis and main character arc. I used to do Power Point presentations but nothing recently. Here’s one on YouTube I thought was pretty cool. I also occasionally whore my wares on Facebook, Twitter and Stage 32 using posters I create with Power Point. This includes new projects and announcing film festival placements and wins.

MS – I am a LinkedIn micro-influencer with nearly 10K followers! As such, I post a lot on LinkedIn, plus get involved in many film festivals, trade events, and competitions. I also meet people in person. Because I live in LA, it’s relatively easy for me to connect with folks online, and then continue conversations in person. Face-to-face time is important in establishing lasting relationships!

MPL – Not very well, probably. I have a list of review sites, and I promote on Twitter and spread the word on Facebook as well as my own site. I tap fellow authors for swaps, too (meaning we post about the other’s work). I’ve used Amazon ads in the past, and those did pretty well but I ended up spending more than I made.

JK – When it comes to promoting, I usually do things as simple as sending out a few tweets, Facebook statuses, etc. One thing I learned when I was crowdfunding a short film: don’t be afraid to post a lot of Facebook updates and Twitter posts! Because of those sites’ algorithms, you might share something ten times a day and a friend might only see it in their feed once.

When I want to gain viewers or I’m launching a big project, I’ll usually come up with custom images that I can post on Instagram, send on Twitter, and so on. I will also spend some money to run Google ads, Instagram ads, Facebook ads, etc if the project is big or important enough.

RWJ – I made thirty ads and thirty loglines for Running Scared. I have only three for Karistina and Hester. I would post all of them on Pinterest, Stage 32, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

How have the results been from your doing this?

PH – My query letters have done fairly well. To quantify, I say about a five percent response. The other stuff I do really only gets me noticed by other writers. However, I’ve made some good friendships with other screenwriters.  

MS – Mostly an emotional rollercoaster. I try to think of the process as planting seeds that might grow big and strong at some future date.

MPL – Some better than others. I’ve found that genre works with established audiences do the best. My Sherlock Holmes stuff, my Regency romances – those have dedicated readers who are easy to find and tap into. (FAEBOURNE deviated from the traditional Regency romance formula, which has made it a harder sell.) Having Publishers Weekly BookLife pick one of my books for a review definitely helped boost my profile. The one they reviewed has become my best-selling book ever.

JK – These are things I’m still learning and teaching myself. The biggest thing to learn is when to post things. Every social media app has better peak days and times to post. Some people are more engaging (at least in my experiences) on Instagram and Facebook then they are on Twitter.

So if I’m doing a promotion where I want feedback, I probably won’t waste my time on Twitter. Instead, I’ll do something on Facebook or Instagram. And when posting content on those sites, I’ll promote in the middle of the afternoon on Instagram but at night for Facebook.

RWJ – I have a project called NO REST FOR THE BRAVE. I posted on Stage 32 offering a screenwriter the story rights for $1. Hundreds turned me down, but Gustavo Freitas said yes and took the risk. Now, the movie is in development.

Do any formats seem to work better than others?

PH – Whatever you do, keep it simple, make it easy to read, and don’t bore people with inconsequential details.

MS – Being proactive, thinking positive, and targeting potential partners seem to be helpful tactics.

MPL – I notice a slight uptick when I post on Twitter; the trick is not to overdo it because then you lose followers. Also, you want to have already established yourself within the Twitter community. No one wants this newbie who walks on and just starts peddling their wares. Facebook returns are almost nil; I ended up getting rid of my author page because it did so little and took up so much time. Again, the Amazon ads got some attention, but I ended up paying more than I made back. I’ve heard Amazon has changed how they run them, though, so I might try them again at some point.

Reviews in targeted online magazines and on sites that get good traffic have definitely helped (when I can get them. Reviewers are buried, making it tough to get a coveted slot, or if you do it takes months before they get to your book). I’ve run ads in some of those magazines, too, and seen upticks from those. But it’s always temporary. The BookLife review is the one thing that seems to have boosted my signal. Also, paying to be in the Ingram catalogue (if you do your paperback version through Ingram Spark, you have the option to pay to be featured in the catalogue that goes out to booksellers). Thing is, I used the BookLife review quote to promote the book in the catalogue, so I don’t know if it was Ingram or the BookLife quote that boosted my sales.

I’m super-popular on Quora these days, but so far haven’t been able to parlay that into sales. Need to figure out how.

JK – When it comes to all the different ways I try to promote my work, the best I’ve come across at this point is working through Instagram. If I do a pay promotion, I can really target an audience and go after them. Plus, I can see all the analytics and how many pageviews and web traffic I’m getting.

RWJ – The best thing that worked for me was creating the ad and putting the primary logline on the ad itself. Then I would post my header with a link to the memoir on Amazon.

What’s the link for people to find out more about you and your projects?

PH – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5338286/

MS – There are a few: www.pinkpoodleproductions.com; www.linkedin.com/in/marlenesharp; www.imdb.me/marlenesharp

MPL – I’m online at http://pepperwords.com and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sh8kspeare

JK – You can check out my personal website at www.jonkohan.com or my Patreon page where I’ve been slowly building up a list of supporters: www.patreon.com/screenwriterjon

RWJ – No link. I’m quiet now. Lee Roth and MPMG are slowing rolling the project out.

My two cents on giving my two cents

nickel
Plus an extra cent to cover expenses

After a brief hiatus, I’ve started giving notes again. It’s always helpful to step away from your own material and dive into somebody else’s. More often than not, it’s a win-win situation.

Sometimes there are exceptions to that rule, but more on that in a minute.

The quality of the writing has ranged from just-starting-out to seasoned professional, so my notes and comments are provided with the level of feedback most suitable to the writer’s level of expertise. One writer might still be learning about proper formatting, while another might want to consider strengthening up that second subplot.

One of my cardinal rules of giving notes is to not be mean about it. I never talk down to the writer, because I’ve been in their shoes. I do what I can to be supportive and offer some possible solutions, or at least hopefully guide them towards coming up with a new approach to what they’ve already got.

One writer responded by saying they were really upset about what I’d said, but then they went and re-read my notes, and couldn’t argue or disagree with any of them.

I’ve always been fascinated by the expression “This is a reflection on the script, not you (the writer).” In some ways, the script IS a reflection of the writer; it’s their skill, their storytelling, their grasp of what should and shouldn’t be on the page, that are all being analyzed. After spending so much time and effort on a script, of course a writer wants to hear “it’s great!”, but as we all know, that doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes I worry my comments are too harsh, but just about every writer has responded with “These are SO helpful!”

About a year ago, a writer I was connected to via social media asked to do a script swap. Some quick research showed they seemed to be experienced with writing and filmmaking, so it seemed like a good idea.

I read their script, and didn’t like it. I said so in my notes, and offered up what I considered valid reasons why, along with questions raised over the course of the story, along with some suggestions for potential fixes.

What I was most surprised about was that this person presented themselves as a professional, and maybe I was naive in taking all of that at face value and believing the quality of their writing would reflect that and meet my expectations.

It didn’t.

It also didn’t help that they opted to not give me any notes on my script. At all. Just some snarky retorts. Guess my lack of effusive gushing hurt their feelings, and this was their method of retribution.

Oh well.

Interesting follow-up to that: I later saw them refer to my notes in a quite negative way, along with “this script has even gotten a few RECOMMENDS”, which is always a great defense.

Follow-up #2: we’re no longer connected on social media.

Could I have phrased my comments in a more supportive way? I suppose, but I figured this person wanted honesty, not praise. And like I said, I assumed they had a thick skin from having done this for a while.

Guess I was mistaken.

And I’ve been on the receiving end of it as well. A filmmaker friend read one of my scripts and started with “Sorry, but I just didn’t like it,” and explained why. Did I pound my fists in rage and curse them for all eternity? Of course not. Their reasons were perfectly valid.

Or the time a writing colleague could barely muster some tepid words of support for one of my comedies. I was a little disappointed, but after having read some of their scripts,  realized that our senses of humor (sense of humors?) were very different, so something I considered funny they probably wouldn’t, and vice versa.

I’ve no intention of changing how I give notes. If I like something, I’ll say so. If I don’t, I’ll say so. You may not like what I have to say, but please understand that it’s all done with the best of intentions. My notes are there for the sole purpose of helping you make your script better.

Isn’t that why we seek out notes in the first place?

Send it. Forget it.

master

One of the essential qualities a screenwriter needs is patience. And lots of it. Actually, a ridiculously vast amount of it.

Things never go as fast as you want them to. It’s just the way it is.

Waiting can be tough enough as it is, but when it involves other people and your stuff? Time not only slows to a crawl, but probably feels like it’s standing still.

Once you send it, it’s out of your hands. Absolutely nothing else you can do.

Naturally, you daydream about getting a response in record time. With raving, positive comments, of course. No reason it shouldn’t take more than a couple of days, tops, right?

Anybody who’s been in this scenario knows otherwise. Days stretch into weeks, which stretch into months, and maybe even into years. I know more than a few writers who heard back from a producer over a year after sending in a script. It happens.

When I was just starting out, I couldn’t help but think “What’s taking them so long?”. We tend to forget that the people to whom we’re sending also have lives of their own. It’s pretty likely our stuff isn’t top priority for them, so the odds increase that it’ll get nudged aside for something that is. As a result, your wait time gets longer and longer.

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found sending a friendly follow-up about 5-6 weeks later can be pretty effective. It at least reminds them that you’re still around. Sometimes they’re apologetic about it, and sometimes you might not hear anything at all.

Helpful tip – DO NOT be the writer who’s offended by being treated this way. Non-stop follow-up calls and emails. Complaining about it on social media. A big part of this business is presenting yourself as somebody who other people would want to work with. Acting like this is most definitely the wrong path to take.

So once you send your stuff out, what do you do to divert your focus and attention? Easy. You’re a writer. You write. Not only does it help pass the time, but you get stuff done. How productive is it to keep refreshing your email every few minutes? Developing and adding new material to your catalog is always a good idea.

When they say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” the implications behind it go beyond just how long all of this takes. Hopefully you can muster the strength to keep at it on all fronts.

Have a great weekend. Make sure you write something.