Lots of my Bang2writers contact me, fretting about their screenplay submissions. They worry unduly they might screw them up, which is not surprising considering there’s no “right” way to make submissions... Just multiple WRONG ways.
Luckily, though the submissions process may seem daunting, it’s actually quite easy ... Providing you remember these 10 Submissions Commandments:
1) Do Your Research
If there is a script call going, check the FAQs and submissions guidelines. DO WHAT THEY SAY. Don’t send queries about the submissions guidelines “just to double check”, unless there is GENUINE confusion or a problem.
If there is not a script call going or the website says “no unsolicited submissions”, don’t get bitter or angry. Query instead and get your screenplay solicited!!! Find out how, HERE.
2) Keep It Brief
If querying, 2 or 3 lines is tops. Check out a model query email, HERE. Do not attach anything.
If submitting a screenplay, attach only if that is allowed/encouraged. Otherwise send via the submissions upload system or snail mail (as appropriate).
By the way, you DON’T need to ask people if you can submit stuff if their website specifies the company or individual has an open call going. That just slows everything down and is pointless. If people are INVITING submissions, send them. Boom.
3) Do Not Be An Oddball
I can’t stress this enough. If your query or submission hits the Oddball Radar (every agent, producer or filmmaker has one BUILT IN – true fact), your submission will be ignored or returned.
Being an oddball can include many things. Splurging your life story at people in person or your cover letter is probably the most common, but can include all sorts of other things, such as demands, begging or even supposed jokes or witticisms (humor is such an individual thing). MORE: 29 Ways NOT To Submit To An Agent
4) Send Them What They Want, The Way They Want It
Whatever the person wants and specifies in the submissions guidelines – whether that’s hard copy, PDF, .fdr or .doc, DO IT THAT WAY.
But what if it doesn't say??? Easy - send a PDF. They can be opened by most people.
Two last things: always remember to send an SAE with a hard copy. And with email submissions, ALWAYS name your files with your own name and ALWAYS CC yourself in, so you can know it arrived okay. MORE: The Script Submission Tip That Nearly ALL Screenwriters Don’t Do
5) Send Them What They Want, WHEN They Want It
I can’t tell you how many writers get read requests for their screenplays – and don’t send their screenplays right away!!! They’ll want to rewrite it instead. Some might even make the producer or agent or filmmaker wait three, six or nine months, even more!!! By this point the person who was interested WILL have forgotten all about it.
Do not query or pitch projects you are not comfortable with sending right away. Just don’t. You need to capitalize on read requests QUICKLY – within 2 or 3 weeks, maximum. MORE: Can I Make Some Changes Before I Send My Screenplay?
6) Always include a one page pitch
Unless the submissions guidelines says NOT to, include a one page pitch with your submission. This is a second chance to sell your story off the page, so don’t miss out!! MORE: 6 Tips On Writing A One Page Pitch For Your Script Or Novel
7) Remember there is no “industry standard” for pitch docs and treatments
There’s no industry standard for pitching stuff. Just make sure your pitch doc or treatment READS WELL (as in it’s CLEAR and INTERESTING). You are a writer, remember! MORE: 8 Tips For Perfect Pitches & Super Selling Documents
8) Remember the submission “gold standard”
This is the perfect submission by most (reasonable) industry people’s standards:
- A concise, to the point query email or cover letter
- The screenplay and pitch doc (named file and/or title page)
THAT’S IT. Nothing else. No sweets, smiley faces, bribes or declarations of undying love!!!
If you really want to, you can add a CV or resumé, but keep it brief and writing-related. Not sure what would go into a writing CV/resumé? CHECK THIS OUT.
9) Do Not Be An Oddball
Okay, so this is repetition of Commandment 3. But it’s REALLLLLLLLY important and harder than you might think... That's whythere’s a stack of oddballs in the spec pile and at writing events, freaking agents, producers and filmmakers out. SO DON’T DO IT.
10) Always remember to follow up!
You’re entitled to chase submissions – just don’t do it too soon, or too late... Or you guessed it, in an ODDBALL WAY! 6-8 weeks is about right and covers most bases, whether there’s a deadline or not. For more info on following up on your submissions, CLICK HERE.
- More articles by Lucy V. Hay
- Top 5 Tips for Submitting a Screenplay
- SUBMISSIONS INSANITY: 11 Things to Do Before Submitting Screenplays
Learn How to Tell If Your Script is Really Ready to Submit
You Only Get One Shot at Getting Your Screenplay Read!