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.

10 Tips for Crafting The Best Cold Emails to Agents

One of the most arduous parts of being an aspiring screenwriter (or aspiring anything in the Entertainment business, for that matter), is reaching out cold to agents and managers. We all want reps, and we’re all doing the same things to get them. How do you stand out? What are the best things to do? How about the worst things to do. The big no-nos. Today, we’re going to break down 10 Tips for Crafting The Best Cold Emails to Agents (or managers). And don’t forget, if you’re not already a member of Get Me An Agent, join today to make the experience that much easier (we’ll have some more shameless self-promotion at the end). But first, here are the tips:

What to do

These are the best things to do to craft the best cold emails.

1. Keep it short and sweet

Agents and managers get tons of these emails. We all think they want our life story. They don’t. Keep your email short and to the point. I usually have a few sentences about myself, a sentence or two about the agent and why I’d love to work with them, and I cap it all off with my project’s logline.

But don’t forget the sweet part of the equation, either. Show your personality. Don’t be a robot. You’re not applying for an internship at a bank. If an agent or manager is going to rep you, they’re going to do so because they think you have a unique voice that can make them money. Have a personality. Throw in a few jokes. Be informal but not too informal. If the agent’s name is “Brad”, call him “Brad” (not “Mr. Pitt” on one hand, or “Dude” on the other).

2. Pick the right sample

Firstly, make sure you proofread your sample like a million times before you send it in. And make sure the first 10 pages or so are killer. If an agent doesn’t like the first ten pages, they won’t read the rest. And the reverse is also true: If they do like the first ten pages, odds are they’ll read to the end. Make sure you’ve had notes done on your sample. You only get one chance once somebody offers to read you, so don’t send your first script. Wait until you’ve got something really good.

PRO TIP: A successful showrunner once told this to me. If somebody offers to read you and you think your sample would be much better if you work on it for a week or two, tell them that (maybe not if you’re reaching out cold. If you’re reaching out cold, get it good before you start emailing).

Don’t pick your Slice-of-Life sample to send to managers. You want things that pop. Loglines that will make them go “Hell yeah I want to read that.” Don’t worry so much about selling this sample. Just make it something they’ll remember. Which brings us to…

3. Have a killer logline

This one is important. You’re not going to be sending your actual script in the first email, so make sure your logline pops. Here are some keys to crafting the best loglines.

  • Irony. Loglines should have an element of irony to them. A logline like “a depressed housewife deals with the day-to-day lives of her children” is boring. It’s expected. Take instead, “After waiting decades for her children to move out, an empty-nester works to find purpose after her children leave the house”. This logline has an element of surprise. This mom was waiting for years for her kids to leave but finds her life pointless once they’re gone. I’d read that script.
  • Specificity. You want your logline to express the uniqueness of your sample and your voice. This is an example of a bad logline for a popular show: “An out-of-work sitcom star muddles through his post-fame life”. This is boring. It doesn’t tell you anything interesting about the project. Consider it’s actual logline: “BoJack Horseman, a fat horse, was the star of the hit television show “Horsin’ Around” in the ’80s and ’90s, now he’s washed up, living in Hollywood, complaining about everything, and wearing colorful sweaters.” This logline tells you the exact specifics of what makes this show unique. Much better.
  • Set-up. Knock-down. You want your logline to have the cadence of a joke. The first half of the logline should send the story in one direction, and the second should knock down that expectation. Read the book Save The Cat for more on this subject.

4. Personalize the email

This is a numbers game, don’t get us wrong. The more people you reach out to, the more will respond. But that doesn’t mean you should send out bland Copy-And-Pasted emails. If you use a service like GMass (outlined below), you can customize each email without writing a new email for each person. Look into each agent you reach out to (if you’re a Get Me An Agent member, we include links to LinkedIn, IMDb, and each agent’s website with each email) before you send the email. Look through their clients (you can find this information on some agency websites, or with a service like IMDbPro) and find at least one who’s worked on a project like the one you’re pitching. If you like any of their clients, tell them! And if you personally know any of their clients, reach out to the person you know and ask them to put in a good word for you.

5. Use GMass

If you’re sending out mass emails (which I’d recommend doing), use the service GMass, which allows you to send out mass emails customized to the person in question. With GMass, you can personalize the email and send follow-ups. And no, they didn’t pay us for this 🙂

You can find GMass here.

6. Send Follow-Ups

This one’s pretty straightforward, but super important. Many people won’t reach back out the first time you email them. Either because they think you’ll stop bothering them after the first email, or because they literally just forget. They’re people too.

I usually make a point of sending three to four follow-ups, roughly five days apart. In my second or third follow-up, I start to mention how I’ll “stop bugging them” if they respond. I tended to get the most responses at the first follow-up email.

NOTE: I would not recommend following up more than, say, four times. Keep in mind these are people you’ll hopefully have to work with some day, and you don’t want to annoy them to the point where they remember down the road.

What not to do

Just like there are plenty of ways to craft the right email, there are many ways to guarantee nobody will read you.

7. Don’t send the sample in the first email

If you come away from this article with only one lesson, let it be this! If you send your sample in the cold email, before they’ve asked for it, NOBODY WILL READ YOU. This is all because of the fact that many aspiring writers attempt to sue TV Shows and Movies for copying their ideas, despite the fact that this rarely actually happens in the industry. To protect against this, almost every agency and management firm, studio and production company, have a policy to immediately destroy any unsolicited content. People try very hard to get around this. I worked for a famous director at a well-known production company a few years back and somebody showed up on our doorstep with a paper bag full of canned goods. Confusedly, many of us fished through the bag only to find, hidden under all of it, a crappy Avengers-knockoff feature. That wasn’t important to the article, just a funny story.

Point is, always ask the agent if they’d be interested in taking a look at the script. Anything else is a recipe for an empty inbox.

8. Don’t use your vanity email

We all have fancy websites with cool Parallax effects and all of our projects lined up in one beautiful spot. And many of us have our own vanity emails ( type of thing) — Quick aside, that’s not a real email — But, even though it may seem far more professional to use your fancy website email, don’t. Use GMail!

GMail has many faults, but bounce rate isn’t one of them. I can tell you from experience: Using GMail has the most delivered emails. Many 3rd-party servers’ email clients bounce every fifth or sixth email. And even if your email does make it through to the agent or manager in question, they’re far more likely to delete it immediately because it looks like marketing.

9. Don’t be sleek

This is an extension of number 8, but it’s really important. We all have a tendency to try and be as professional and sleek as possible. Fancy email signatures, nice headshots, professional inquiry subject lines. I’m telling you right now: cut it out. The best subject line is this: “quick question”. The best signature is your first name and maybe a link to your website. And, as previously stated, the best email is Agents and managers are just looking for reasons to turn you away, sight unseen. The more you look like a professional corporate entity sending out mass emails, the more they’re likely to ignore you and move on to the next email. The emails that get responses, in my own experience, are the emails that are friendly but reserved, personal but not stalky, professional but not corporate.

10. Don’t be a one trick pony

What does this mean? You shouldn’t be reaching out to reps until you’re ready. This means you have not one, but TWO or more samples you’re super proud of, samples you’d show to Stephen Spielberg himself if he asked to read you.

Because here’s the thing: let’s say an agent agrees to read you. Then gets back to you and is interested in taking the next steps. YAY! Now what? Now they ask for a second sample. And you’d better have it. Because they’re never going to rep you off of one great thing. Don’t spend your whole life writing the next Great American Screenplay. Write fifty good screenplays, take the five best and polish them till they’re excellent. Here are some tips to consider when picking your backup samples:

  • They still have to be good. Your main sample should be your best, definitely. But it shouldn’t be so much better than your backups that they’re indistinguishable. Make sure you’ve got at least two scripts edited to near-perfection.
  • Be different. Any prospective agent wants to see versatility. Don’t send them two takes on NCIS. But don’t be too different either. If you send one My-Brother’s-A-Zombie comedy, don’t send a gritty Handmaid’s Tale-esk show as your backup. Show you have range, but also that you still have a defined voice. They need a way to sell you.
  • Pick a lane. This may seem like a polar opposite to the above tip, but it’s not. As somebody famous once said: Show me a writer who can write anything and I’ll show you the writer who doesn’t know their voice. If you send a half-hour pilot for your first sample, don’t send a feature as your second. Agents need to know how to pitch you.

And that’s it. Ten useful tips for writing those cold emails to agents. While nothing’s guaranteed in life, following these 10 tips will put you well on your way to getting repped. And here’s a bonus tip:

11. Subscribe to Get Me An Agent

We’ve got plans from only $19.99/month and over 400+ verified Hollywood lit agents and managers in our system. Each email in our system has been verified by our team, so you know it’s real. Plus, with our Unlimited plan, you can send us your script and we’ll Match You with up to five agents and five managers who’d love to read your script. What are you waiting for?