I recently optioned my baseball screenplay (co-written with Nathan Ives), The Unnatural, to Andrew Lauren Productions. You can read the announcement here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/risky-business/squid-whale-producer-options-baseball-267184.
A few people have asked me how I was able to get this option. I used exactly the methods I describe in the post How to Sell Your Screenplay (in a nutshell). Really, this is exactly how I did it. I wrote a script. I wrote a log line. I wrote a short query letter. And then I started sending that query letter out using the email / fax blast screenplay service that I offer for sale on this site.
I’ll break down the process in a little more detail so you can get a feel for exactly how this works. Nathan, my writing partner, and I finished The Unnatural about the time our previous manager decided to get out of the management business. So we had a finished script, which we thought was good, but no representation. So we wrote a query letter and did an email / fax blast to my list of agents and managers. We had about 15 agents and managers request the screenplay and of those we had one offer to represent us. We didn’t feel like he was a good fit for us, so we decided to move ahead on our own. So we then did our first email / fax blast to my list of producers. We ended up getting about 12 companies request the screenplay but after a few months none of them wanted to option the script. So about two months later we did another blast using exactly the same query letter to the same list of producers. From that we got 8 more companies request the script but again, none of them wanted to option it. We waited probably another 6 months and blasted a third time, again, same basic query letter to the same exact list. The third time we got only 5 companies request the screenplay, but one of those companies was Andrew Lauren Productions who liked it and eventually optioned it from us.
So it took 4 blasts to produce this option. But also keep in mind that I’ve done countless other blasts for many of my screenplays where I NEVER optioned or sold the script. As you can see, it takes a lot of pounding to make this type of cold query letter submission work. It’s literally thousands and thousands of faxes and emails. Four total blasts. And I already have several produced credits that I highlight in my query letter, so for a novice writer it’s probably going to take even more effort than this. In addition, your screenplay may not be as well written as my screenplay, which can obviously significantly diminish the chances of selling or optioning it.
I’ve been selling these blasts now for over a year and one thing I’m noticing is that people are often disappointed in the results. It’s not because they’re not getting any results, every blast I’ve done for people has gotten at least a few companies requesting the script, but it’s because they’re not selling or optioning their screenplay after just one blast. I don’t have exact statistics but I would say overall I’ve probably had to do at least 10 blasts for anything significant to happen. I’ll restate that statistic for emphasis: I’ve probably had to do at least 10 blasts for anything significant to happen. Again, in many cases I’ve done several blasts for a screenplay and it’s just never been optioned or sold, so that’s part of the process.
One other issue that I see from people using my service or making cold query letters on their own is that they’re only definition of “success” is to sell their screenplay, quit their day job, and start a lucrative career as a full time screenwriter. If those are your expectations don’t waste your time or money. Spend your money on lottery tickets. You’re odds are much better.
So what should you expect from these sorts of blasts?
The main thing you should be looking for with these types of blasts is networking. Hopefully some people will read your screenplay and even if it’s not right for their production needs at the moment, they will like your writing. It’s possible they may hire you to do some writing on some of their other projects. But even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll probably be willing to read material in the future from you. So now you’re starting to build a nice network of industry professionals who you can go to with new material. Over the course of months and years these contacts add up and this is your best chance of making it into this business. If you’re consistently writing high quality screenplays these contacts will notice.
I currently have four produced credits on IMDB. Both Reunion and Man Overboard were the result of exactly this sort of networking. In the case of Reunion I sent the director, Doublass Demarco, query letters for some scripts which he liked but didn’t have the resources to produce. We formed a lasting friendship and ended up producing Reunion together a few years later. In the case of Man Overboard I sent cold query letters to a producer who ended up becoming my manager, and then he helped me develop the script for Man Overboard several years later, and eventually ended up producing it, too.
Both Rushlights and Dish Dogs were the result of cold query letters that did result in sales, so it can happen, but people put too much emphasis on that sort of result and ignore the other opportunities.
I don’t think spending a few thousand dollars marketing your screenplays, whether you use my service, another service, or do everything yourself, is out of line. The money you spend marketing your screenplay is really insignificant compared to the potential windfall of selling a screenplay.
So if you’ve decided to try the cold query letters approach, like I have, be prepared to do many blasts. I would do at least four blasts per screenplay, assuming you believe in the screenplay and feel like it has potential. Whenever you finish a new screenplay I would just make this a part of your routine. Start with your own database of industry contacts. If you don’t get any traction from them go the cold query letter rout and start blasting it out. I’ve been recommending that people pitch to agents and managers first, and then go to the producers. It’s always easier to approach a producer if you have an agent or manager, so it might be worth doing a few agents / managers blasts before going directly to the producers.
I wrote a post recently which explains a bit more about the services that I offer. If you haven’t already read it check it out: Email and fax blast service success rate.
If you’re looking to jump start your career check out this page which explains all of these services in detail. Screenwriting marketing tools.
Part of the paid services is getting access to the SellingYourScreenplay.com paid forum, where you can submit your query letter and log line and I will critique it for you. In addition, I have my query letter for The Unnatural and many other high quality query letters so you can see in even greater detail exactly what I did.
Also, I want to be clear, you don’t have to buy my blast service, or any other blast service to make this strategy work. My service just saves you time. I explain how you can build your own database of industry contacts in this post: Getting your screenplay to producers and production companies. Good luck!