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Should I send a query letter to an agent or producer for a script that I haven’t written yet?

I’ve actually gotten this question a few times recently:

“Should I send a query letter to an agent or producer for a script that I haven’t written yet?”

This is one of the easiest questions I’ve gotten.  The answer is no. Do NOT do this.

This is a crazy thing to do.  Suppose a producer or agent requests your script?  Are you then going to write the script in a couple of days and send it out?  I certainly hope not.  A script that you spent only a few days writing probably isn’t going to be worth sending to anyone.  But if you spend a few months writing a script that has already been requested the agent or producer won’t even remember you by then and their “yes” will no longer be worth much.

The rationalization I’ve heard for doing this is something like this, “I have so many ideas I want to write I don’t know which one to write first so if I send out a bunch of query letters I can gauge interest in an idea.”

I don’t think this is true.  If you write a good logline and query letter you’ll get some “yes” responses with virtually any idea.  If you send out a bunch of query letters pitching an idea and you don’t get any positive responses it’s not the idea that is bad it’s the query letter and synopsis. 

But suppose you do write good query letters and synopses for all your ideas?  You’ll get “yes” responses on all of you ideas and you’ll have to write several scripts in a few days!

What I find is that a lot of people are too lazy to write the script and they think that by having a deadline (a waiting producer or agent) it will get them in gear to bust out a script they’ve been meaning to write.  I’m very skeptical that this will really work as motivation.

One of the nice things about writing spec scripts is that you don’t have a deadline.  You can work on it for as long as you want and make it the best script you’re capable of making it.  Use this to your advantage.  Spend time on your projects and try and make them as good as possible.

As you mature in your writing career you will hopefully get better at choosing which ideas to write.  It’s not always a matter of which idea is the most “high concept” or “best”.  It’s often the idea that you think you can execute the best knowing what you’re good at.  But you really won’t know what you’re good at until you’ve written half a dozen scripts or more.

If you’re having trouble choosing an idea to write my advice is simple: list all your ideas in a Word document so you’ll have them all in one place and can refer back to them in the future.  Look at your list of ideas and choose the one you’re most passionate about.  That’s the idea that you’ll enjoy writing and that’s the idea that you’ll turn into the best script.

If you haven’t read my post How to write a professional query letter for your screenplay it explains all the basics to writing a good query letter.

In addition, I’ve written many posts on query writing. You can find them all here: http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/tag/query-letters/.