So you moved to LA, you found a starter job at an agency or a studio, you’re writing every day, and… nothing’s happening. After telling your family, friends, and the mean kids at school that you’re a screenwriter, the forward progression has stagnated. You knew it would be hard to get into Hollywood, but you weren’t ready for the endless hours of waiting and the feeling that no matter how close you get, a successful screenwriting career is always just out of reach. We’ve all been there. During these frustrating time, it’s important to find projects to keep you moving forward. And one of the best projects you can embark on as a young writer is finding an agent. So today we’re breaking down 10 steps every aspiring writer should take when looking for an agent.
1. Know your brand
I’ve always hated the term “personal brand”. But finding a way to sell yourself in Hollywood is important. If an agent is going to be able to pitch you to showrunners and/or studios, they’re going to need to know what they’re pitching. Every writer thinks they’re great at Features and TV, Drama and Comedy (and maybe you are), but the best advice I ever got when looking for an agent was to pick a lane and stick to it. Once you’ve made it, you can make all the wonky, experimental projects you want. But for now, pick the thing you do best and make that your thing.
There are two questions you have to answer when defining your writing brand. They are:
- Am I a Feature writer or a TV writer?
- Am I a comedic writer or a dramatic writer?
PRO TIP: Drama writers get paid more, go home earlier, and win more Oscars. So if you’re having trouble deciding, I’d go with Drama.
2. Have a great script
This may seem a bit obvious. But many aspiring writers don’t actually write all that much. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t look for an agent before you have a script under your belt. And the more the better. I’d recommend writing at least six or seven scripts (two or three of which you’re really proud of) before starting your search for representation. But not every good script makes a good sample (industry jargon for the script you’ll send to would-be agents). Here are some things to keep in mind when picking your sample:
- Be Original – If you’ve written a spec script (an original episode of an existing show), set it aside for now. If your agent can’t get you a job on an existing show, they will try to sell your script to make into new show. They can’t do that with a spec script. So write something new.
- Big Ideas – Slice-of-life stories are great. But make sure your first sample is a big idea. Agents are more likely to read scripts whose loglines stand out from the crowd.
3. Have a great script
It’s not a glitch in the Matrix. If an agent likes your first sample, they’ll want to read another. Which means you should have a second great sample to follow up with. If not, they’ll likely forget about you. And try to make your second sample different. It should show another side of your writing. If you went big with the first sample, show a more tender, intrapersonal side with your second. Remember that awesome spec script you set aside in Step 2? Now’s the time to send that. Agents love writers who can capture another show’s voice, since that’s most of the work you’re going to be doing in your career anyway. But always make sure to stay within the confines of your medium (Features or TV) and genre.
4. Have a social media presence
Don’t expect to be “discovered” on social media, you don’t need to be Justin Bieber to get an agent. But agents want to get a sense of your personality and character before they’ll rep you. So in addition to the usual “job interview” test (no alcohol, drugs, sexy pics, etc), make sure to do the following:
- Show your personality in your feed. Have pictures of yourself, your writing, and any projects you’re actively working on. I’ve found pictures with a face in them perform the best.
- Display your work. Anything you’ve written that’s been produced (including tiny web-series and short films) should be prominently displayed on your profiles.
- Have a couple-hundred followers. Agents want to see you’ve got a following. Getting to 200 Instagram followers isn’t very hard if you start following a large number of people. (But be careful. Instagram can lock your account if they think you’re using a bot to get followers)
5. Use your connections
So you know what kind of writer you are, you have a great script, and a another one waiting in the wings. You’ve bolstered your social media with projects and frequent, personal posts. Now what?
Don’t get discouraged when I say this, but the easiest way to get an agent, yesterday, today, and until the end of time, is with strong connections. So don’t turn up your nose at this option. If you have any good friends who are writers, ask them to read your work. If they like it, ask if they’d ever consider showing their reps. Go above and beyond for your superiors at work, especially those you ‘click’ with. Make them want to help you. Eventually, when the time is right, ask them to reach out on your behalf. Ask your parents and their friends if they have connections in entertainment they could connect you to (you may think they don’t, but I grew up in rural Rhode Island and still had three different distant entertainment connections). Here are some other places to look for connections:
- Writers groups, Meetups, etc.
- Your LinkedIn network.
- Alumni of your college or high school.
Nurture your connections, and protect your network at all costs. Don’t reach out to anybody if you think it will hurt your relationship. But most people want to feel helpful, and everybody wants to say they found the next Steven Spielberg.
6. Find agents yourself
Using or building your network of connections is great, but it can only get you so far, and it can easily land you back in the painful holding pattern we discussed at the top of this article. At some point, you’re going to want to actually start reaching out to agents yourself. But how do you find them? There are a few ways (and fair warning, shameless self-promotion ahead):
- IMDbPro – The biggest repository of free agent emails is, undoubtedly, IMDbPro. Roughly one in five agents have emails or phone numbers listed here. Simply search for an agency and go through their Staff List.
- Agency Websites – Some smaller agencies list their agent’s contact information on their websites, but most of the big guys (CAA, WME, UTA, ICM) don’t.
- Using Nymeria and Hunter – If you know the agent’s name but can’t find their contact info, my favorite tools are Hunter and Nymeria. Hunter helps you find all the emails associated with a given domain, and Nymeria is a Chrome Extension that helps scrape emails from LinkedIn profiles (legally).
- Get Me An Agent – Save the hassle (and cost) of combining the above services and do it all easily with Get Me An Agent. Every email in our database is verified to work, and you can search for agents depending on your niche. Plus we can match you with agents who might be interested in reading you. Plans start at $19.99/month (cheaper than Hunter, Nymeria, and IMDbPro).
7. Send the emails
It’s the moment of truth. You’ve got the scripts, and you have a list of agents to reach out to with said scripts. How to actually write the email? Here are some tips to consider:
- Keep it short and sweet – 2 to 3 short paragraphs (1 to 2 sentences per paragraph).
- Include a logline for your script, a sentence or two about you, and something personal about the agent or agency you’re reaching out (so they don’t think you’re sending mass emails).
- DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR SCRIPT. Ask the agents if they’re interested in reading your script, but never send it in the first email. It will be deleted, sight-unseen, for legal reasons.
- Have a personality. Agents get a lot of these emails. Be personable, but not overly chummy. Use correct grammar and be respectful, but use the agent’s first name. Don’t be a robot.
We have a whole article about how to format your cold emails, here.
I suggest using GMass, a free service (if you’re sending under 50 emails a day) that allows you to send emails to many agents at once and adds in the custom bits by default.
8. “Just circling back…”
Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. If you’re using GMass, you caneasily setup automatic follow-ups. I’d suggest sending follow-ups to anybody who hasn’t responded after 5 days, 10 days, and 15 days. In my experience, you get the most responses after your first follow-up (yes, more than from your initial email). Lot’s of times, agents simply forget to respond.
PRO TIP: Say something like “If you’re not interested, let me know so I can stop bugging you”. This will get you a lot more responses so you can check uninterested parties off your list.
9. Keep at it
Remember: you’re playing the long game. Right now, Get Me An Agent has over 200 emails, and that number is constantly growing. Keep reaching out. In my experience, one in thirty agents who respond will be willing to read you. And five-to-ten agents have to read you before you’ll get a ‘Yes’. So we’re talking about sending hundreds of emails. It really is a numbers game, and it’s easy to get discouraged. But getting an agent isn’t impossible. If you grew up outside of LA, like I did, you probably see Hollywood as a mythical city, and becoming a screenwriter as a near-impossible goal. I promise you this isn’t true. I got an agent. I got scripts sold. It IS possible. You just have to keep fighting long after everybody else has gotten bored and given up!
10. Join ‘Get Me An Agent’
Okay, hear us out! You can cut your work in half (especially in step #6) by subscribing to Get Me An Agent. Plans start at $19.99/month, and offer unlimited access to our catalogue of hundreds of verified screenwriting agents. Plus, if you signup for our Unlimited plan, we’ll read your script and match you with agents and managers who are a good fit with your project. You can sort agents by:
- Medium (Features or TV)
- Genres (Comedy or Drama)
Plus, you can talk to a real person on our support team 24/7/365 using Live Chat or Email. If you want a month at half the regular price, check us out on ProductHunt.