Here are some thoughts of mine about the fabled QUERY LETTER. First of all, you must fully realize that if you’re an unproduced or uncredited writer, it’s virtually impossible to get a studio executive to look at anything you’ve written—let alone buy it—WITHOUT having AN ACCREDITED AGENT, ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER or some MIDDLEMAN involved—such as a well connected sugar daddy, relative or famous person to vouch for you.
As I have stated from the beginning of my first blog, you need to spend your time looking for a sugar daddy if you weren’t born into show business royalty. A Query Letter is for people who haven’t yet found a sugar daddy or who are orphans in the entertainment business.
Most Query Letter writers are lucky if they get a photocopy rejection in return. The large majority of these letters just simply are never answered. Very few Query Letters succeed. A rare few do. It’s almost like winning the Super Ball Lotto to even get that photo copy rejection reply.
Query Letters are the hardest route toward getting your toe in the door. You would do so much better to go to an Alcohol Anonymous meeting in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Malibu. But if you want to spend a lot of time on hope and you still believe in the tooth fairy, here is a breakdown for a QUERY LETTER.
The purpose of a Query Letter is to introduce yourself to someone in the business: a producer, a director, a publisher, an agent. Being that they don’t know you from beans, stating that a Query Letter is a hard sell is putting it mildly. But anyway here you go.
One thing you must realize. If you use the words best, great, fabulous or wonderful in this letter, it will take a shortcut to the garbage can. Overselling yourself means you’ve just lost the battle. Underselling yourself means you haven’t a chance of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. See, it’s a hard thing selling yourself. Buy a round of drinks at a bar in Malibu or Beverly Hills will cost less money than you’re going to spend on postage and it probably will net greater results. But for you die hards who believe in visualization, here’s the breakdown for a QUERY LETTER.
First of all, send this to a person with a name and perhaps a title. Sometimes you don’t know the exact person. In that case address it to Director of Acquisitions, Film Development Department, Literary Department or any other such title.
Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself . State that you are a writer and you have a screenplay, novel, or magazine article for sale or representation. Skip telling them how much money you think it will make. Simply introduce yourself and tell what you’ve got that might interest them. Don’t try to be cute in anyway. It screams amateur.
Paragraph 2: What’s your project about? Remember, write as though you’re talking to them and be sure to use a low Fog Index. You must give a log line, which is a 50 word synopsis of your project. Be sure to include the type of work it is (comedy, mystery, adventure, etc. Do not mention the star you want to play the leading role or a director. Your only job is to familiarize them with your project as best you can. Remember not to make your synopsis much longer than 50 words — the absolute max could be 75 words. You will tire them otherwise. They can get the general idea in 50 words and will know whether they are interested or not.
Paragraph 3: Here you tell about yourself. If you have had anything published or produced, here is the place to tell them. Don’t mention minor stuff like you love to cook unless that has something to do with the plot of your project. Don’t overdo it here. They can smell overkill in a New York minute. They would be more interested in what caused you to write the scrip. You can tell them that but keep it short. These people have an attention span of a flea. They get bored toot sweet.
Paragraph 4: Tell them you’d be glad to provide them a copy of your work or the first 20 pages. Then request them to write to you at your address, telephone you at your telephone number and/or write you an email. Don’t kiss up. “I admire you so much or I know you are busy and I appreciate your films so very much. My very, very best to you. Don’t beg. Please, please give me a chance. I’ve had a rotten life and I need this break. I have written my heart out on this project and I’m just asking you to throw me a bone of human kindness.”
That’s it. Now go to the post office and buy lots and lots of stamps. Throw your Query Letters into the collection box and then be prepared to wait and wait and wait for an answer. The chances are you will never hear the first word from 95% of them—make that 100% if you forgot to enclose a self-addressed and stamped envelope. Even if you did, the chances are fewer than 5% that anyone will respond. By snail mail, they’re most likely to send you a photocopy of a rejection letter that has been duplicated so many times it’s almost illegible.
Most Query Letters these days are done via email. Even so, you’ll still be lucky if out of a hundred queries, you receive three electronic rejections. Then again, lightening could strike and someone might actually contact you, asking to see your project. You realize though your eventual odds for selling a script via a Query Letter are about the same as winning a million dollars from Publisher’s Clearing House. While you’re waiting for answers, you might like to hit the bar scene in Beverly Hills or Malibu and see how the fishing is there.
I’m in Norway chasing fjords. Such beautiful scenery. My very best to you.