Some Key Takeaways from my Interview with Literary Manager ‘Quincie Li’

Hey, everyone. My name is Sam, and I’m the founder and CEO of Get Me An Agent. I’m also a screenwriter working on constructing my Hollywood career, finding representation, and getting my projects made. In addition to Get Me An Agent, I’ve got a grab bag of other projects I’m working on, and one of my favorites is my screenwriting podcast, Screenwriter Survival Guide. In my most recent chapter of the guide, I sat down with the first Literary Agent I’ve ever had on the show: Kaplan/Perrone’s very own Quincie Li, and I thought I’d take a few minutes here to talk about my takeaways coming out of that interview. If you haven’t listened to the chapter yet, I highly suggest doing so first.

So, assuming you saw the running time and completely ignored my advice to listen, here’s the TLDR:

  • Always keep writing
  • Always keep reading other peoples’ scripts
  • Make friends who are also coming up
  • Do this for a long time

That was Quincie’s general advice (although, again, listen to the chapter for way more. She goes far more in-depth). But now let’s dive into some key takeaways from the interview:

Should I quit GMAA and stop reaching out to agents and managers?

That depends. My advice on when to use GMAA hasn’t changed one iota. If you haven’t written (at least) six scripts, and don’t have (at least) two scripts you’d be excited to give to Patty Jenkins if she asked you for samples tomorrow, you’re not ready to use GMAA. The agent search process is extremely difficult. You need to set yourself up for success, and the ONLY way to do that is by having your ammunition at your side. What’s your ammunition? Your scripts.

Write a bad script. Then write another, slightly less bad script. Then write three more of those. Then write a “meh” script. Then two more. Then write an “okay, there’s talent here” script. And so on and so forth. Trust me, I know how absolutely depressing the length of that process can feel. But you NEED to go through it. Every script you write, you improve. That’s just how it goes. I write every day (excluding weekends), and try to watch at least one new movie or TV episode per day to keep the creative juices flowing.

But what if I’ve already written a lot?

Chances are, you haven’t. I probably haven’t, and I write a ridiculous amount. Don’t stop writing. But if you’re at a point where you’re starting to garner some level of industry interest in your scripts, now’s the time to get a GMAA subscription. And I stand by what I’ve always said: a GMAA membership is NOT enough to get you an agent. But it is an excellent first step. Why?

  • It’s a step you can take TODAY. The agent search process involves a lot of waiting. Subscribing to GMAA and starting to reach out cold is a step you can take right now!
  • You’ll get valuable feedback. Your best shot at finding a rep is through a connection. But reaching out to agents and managers through GMAA is a great way to get feedback about what your script needs, and what your writer story needs.
  • You’ll get read. The vast majority of our customers (who follow the tenets) are read by at least one agent or manager within a month. Even if they don’t rep you, they may very well circulate your material and you may get an exciting call from a totally different agent a month down the line.
  • Your real-world connections matter more. Your real-world connections are vital. But I can’t tell you how often I’ve met somebody at an event, lost them in the shuffle without swapping contact info, and been up a creek with no paddle the next day when I wanted to contact them. GMAA offers that ease of communication for over 400 agents and managers.
  • You learn. GMAA is an amazing source of information about the industry. Even with our new DIY plan (shameless plug below), you’ll get vast stores of information about the industry, and especially agencies. Those who are informed win.

How do I build my network?

One of THE MOST important things Quincie talks about is building your network. This is something I struggle with. I absolutely HATE networking, and I’m somebody who needs a lot of personal time, which makes it difficult to make new friends, keep old ones, and also get my work done while finding time for myself. Yikes! To fix this chasm of information, I’ve talked with tons of people better at this than I am and ended up with a massive knowledge base, which we’ve recently published in our DIY Plan. This is a very in-depth look at how to build up your network without smarmy, insincere networking. I’d also highly recommend Jonny Santana’s chapter of Screenwriter Survival Guide, which you can listen to, here:

What happens once I have an agent?

This is something we haven’t touched on much at GMAA. But it’s one of the most fascinating takeaways I had from my interview with Quincie: How to have an excellent working relationship with your agent or manager once you’ve achieved the impossible and found one. As a quick refresher, here’s what she had to say:

  • Always be working on new material.
  • Let your reps know before you start work on a new project.
  • Don’t be afraid to call your reps.
  • You should be willing to pay your rep 10% even for jobs you earned yourself, since they’re actively working on your behalf all the time.

The first point is pretty self-explanatory, but it bears repeating (this is going to be written on my g.d. tombstone): always be writing. Have something you’re developing at all times. If you thought this stops once you find reps, think again. The process is ongoing. Always be writing. Always be writing. Always be writing.

The second point was one of the biggest revelations I had during the entire interview. This had never occurred to me. I’d always assumed you write a script and your manager takes it once you’re done. But Quincie’s advice makes a lot of sense: Agents and managers are much more plugged-in to the industry than writers, and they know exactly what studios and streamers are looking for, while we might not. So if you write a project, then drop it in your rep’s lap with no prior warning, they might tell you the script is unsalable, and you’ve wasted everybody’s time. Excellent advice.

The third point is something I’ve seen a lot in movies and TV: the writer who’s constantly waiting for his/her rep to call but never thinks to call them. But agents and managers are people too, with lots of clients and a personal life, and you may just slip through the cracks sometimes. So don’t be afraid to call.

Quincie’s last point is the only one I’m not sold on. While I understand where she’s coming from, that you are a team with your reps, and therefore any job you get yourself still has their fingerprints all over it, I don’t totally agree. First off, I don’t think you need to pay your agent anything for the jobs they don’t get you. An agent’s entire job is to get you jobs so if you get it yourself, they have nothing to do with it. Managers, on the other hand, are more of a grey area. If you love your manager, and they are instrumental in your development as a writer, paying them for jobs you get yourself is certainly something to consider. If not, well, maybe just pay them when they get you a gig. Of course, it’s not actually up to you, so this is basically pointless rambling. Yay!

So there you have it: My key takeaways from Literary Manager Quincie Li’s chapter of Screenwriter Survival Guide. She dropped knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb, and, if you haven’t listened to the chapter yet, go do it! I promise it will deliver some real value to you.

And if you haven’t listened to the entirety of Screenwriter Survival Guide, go do it! In each chapter or the guide, I sit down with a different screenwriter, director, or other industry professional to talk through one specific aspect of the industry, in the order a new screenwriter needs to know it. For instance, we talked about moving to LA in our first chapter, landing your first industry gig in our second, making the jump to professional writer in the third. Click the below buttons to Followscribe wherever you get your podcasts:

And finally, if you’re curious about starting your screenwriting career and want to find an agent or manager of your own, you could use a subscription to Get Me An Agent. Click the big red button below to get a free month, then use the discount code “survive” at checkout for half off your plan forever.

Alright, guys. This has been a lot of fun. I’m hoping to come back and do some more guest posting from time to time. Until then, guys, remember to keep writing! You can write your way out of anything! Peace.

The Four Tenets of ‘Get Me An Agent’

Finding an agent isn’t as easy as attaching your script to a mass email blast and hitting ‘Send’. If you’re going to really devote time to building a career as a screenwriter, you’re going to have to invest real time into the search, and you’re going to need to go through the query process in a very specific way. That’s why we created our process. We interviewed dozens of writers on how best to develop queries, and have amassed their tips into four distinct categories that we like to call the four tenets of Get Me An Agent.

NEVER send unsolicited material. Always ask an agent if they want to read you.

This is the single most-important part of the query process. T there’s a lot of money involved in the development process, which makes agents very wary of receiving unsolicited scripts from would-be clients, for fear they may be hit with a lawsuit if they produce a series or film with a similar plot or characters. And while this myth of IP being stolen from writers is a very rare occurrence (see our guide on protecting a TV show for more on this), it’s a common fear. If you send your script out cold to an agent or manager, you will almost certainly receive a depressing response like this:

Dear Screenwriter Who Isn’t Going To Be Repped By Us,

Please be advised that Big Name Agency does not accept unsolicited material or requests for representation. The Unsolicited Material you sent us was destroyed unread with no copies kept by Big Name Agency. Please note, the Unsolicited Materials were also not forwarded or discussed with any third parties. Accordingly, any future perceived similarity between any Unsolicited Material and any element in any creative work of Big Name Agency or it’s clients would be purely coincidental.


Underpaid Assistant

Big Name Agency

Not only is this kind of email scary to receive, it also drops your chances of being read by that agent to zero. Don’t give anybody a reason to ignore you. Always send the logline first, and ask “would you be interested in reading?”

Send your script only after at least five friends/coworkers have seen it and given notes.

You probably feel the urge to ignore us on this one. But we’re serious. Even if you’re convinced that your script is the best thing to hit the market since Citizen Kane, you’ve got to show it to at least FIVE friends and/or coworkers (and receive notes from said friendworkers), before you’re ready to send it to agents or managers. Why? Because here’s the painful truth: it’s probably not nearly as good as you think it is.

It takes a script years of development before it’s ready to be made into a movie or TV show. And we know you think you’re the exception. You know how we know? Because we think we’re the exception, too. Every writer thinks they’re the one who’s just “destined” to make it, and that their writing is just so undeniably good that agents will be tripping over themselves to sign them as a client. But here’s the cold, hard truth. Those prodigies are one in twenty-million, and they’re not the vast majority of successful working writers. Almost everybody who’s actually made it in Hollywood did so by working hard, taking criticism well (and frequently), and getting feedback on their work before sending it to gatekeepers.

Have a second script (that meets the requirements of tenet 2) ready to go before you send anything.

We know, this may seem unfair. You have to reach this unattainable level of excellence with not one, but two, scripts?!?! Yes, you do. If an agent and/or manager likes your first sample, they’re going to want to make sure you’re not just a one trick pony. So they’re going to ask you to pull off the impossible… twice. So have a second excellent sample ready to go when you send out the first one.

But what are the requirements for this second sample?

  • It should be roughly the same genre as the first (both in the drama realm, both in the comedy realm, etc).
  • It should be in the same medium as the first (both TV or both features).
  • It should show off a different area of your expertise. If the first sample is an ensemble space opera, make the second one a more grounded, character-based story.
  • Your seconds sample can be a spec of a different show, but your first one cannot.

Don’t even think about reaching out until you’ve written at least six scripts.

We know you think you’re ready now. We know you think you have such a singular, once-in-a-generation voice that you simply must be heard right now. You’re wrong. Even if you have an innate understanding of character, or a lovely, flowery style of writing, you need to write at least six scripts (note, we said AT LEAST) to have even a hope of being ready to reach out to agents.

Do these six scripts have to be excellent? No. In fact, a lot of them won’t be. As we’ve said above, you must have at least two samples that pass the “Five Friends” tenet, but the other four samples will, no doubt, be worse. But what exactly do we mean when we say six scripts? Each script has to be:

  • They must be completed (multiple drafts, to the point where you’ve put it away on the assumption that you’re finished writing).
  • They must be a feature film or a TV pilot script (we love podcasts and short films, but they don’t count for our purposes).
  • They must be written for screen, in the correct screenplay format. If you need more clarification on the screenplay format, check out our excellent guide to writing your first screenplay.

Why are we so cruel as to force you to write six scripts before finding an agent? Because no matter how genius/talented you are, you need to write many screenplays before you reach a level of comfort with the form. That’s the deal, plain and simple. The more bad scripts you write, the less bad those scripts become. Your “best work” after script #1 is several dimensions away from your “best work” after script #6. So write all six (or more).

There you have it: the four tenets of Get Me An Agent. These are not all you need to successfully find a Hollywood agent, not by a long shot. But these are the four pillars we believe are the most important when preparing your query letters. Follow all four and you’ll be well on your way to the red carpet. And if you’re not a subscriber to Get Me An Agent, what’s standing in your way? Start your free month today!