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 (firstname.lastname@example.org 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 @gmail.com. 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
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