The one question I get asked most often from up-and-coming writers is how do I get an agent? Most people will tell you not to worry; if your work is great, the agents will find you. Frustrating, but true. But there are other strategies you can use to land that all-elusive rep. (Spoiler alert: they all require blazing hot material.)
Come in First
Win a highly-regarded contest or festival. Be selected to participate in a television writing program or fellowship. If you’re thinking that sounds hard – you’re right! And so is getting an agent. And so is getting staffed. And so is selling a show. And so is making a show. That’s Hollywood. But you can set yourself apart by writing a killer spec script and getting it read by the right people. These top screenwriting competitions are a great place to start.
Agents love to sign clients who have a track record of success. An overwhelmingly enthusiastic public response to your play, one-woman or man show, or stand-up routine can become your calling card. Agents love to stay up on trends and will want to capitalize on your momentum. Not into the live-performance aspect? A million hits on your YouTube video over the weekend will suffice. Whatever medium you choose, the point is to create original material in your authentic voice that resonates with audiences. Big audiences. It becomes proof of the hunger for your talent.
Use Your Network
Agents are inundated with script submissions. And whose script do you think they’re more likely to read… someone they’ve never heard of, or someone who has been vouched for by a person they respect? One of the best ways to get your script read is to have a friend, teacher, industry professional, or acquaintance send it to an agent or manager they know along with their personal recommendation of your work. But be careful: you can only make this ask once of each person, so make sure your material is the best it can be.
Have a Job in the Entertainment Industry
Having a job in the industry grows your network and gives you credibility. If you’re working in development or current, or for a showrunner, at a production company, studio or network you’ll be in touch with top agents on a daily basis. You can form real relationships with your colleagues and, when the time is right, ask if they’ll read you and consider being your rep. They’ll be more inclined to sign you knowing a showrunner, producer, or director saw something special in you when they hired you.
Send a Cold Query E-mail
I never used to think this could work… until two of my clients got their managers through cold emailing. It’s not the first choice, but it’s definitely a viable choice. Get IMDb Pro (you can sign up for a free trial) and get the names and contact emails of all the smaller agencies and management companies. Then, send a short, compelling e-mail that includes the following:
Let them know how you’ve been successful.
Say something that shows you’re memorable (but don’t lie or make something up).
Tell them you’re looking for representation and give them the log lines for two of your projects. (Say, “I’d be happy to sign a release if you’d like to read my samples.”) Read this to write a killer log line.
Make the message brief and engaging.
This approach though, is not for the faint of heart. My client who got three managers asking to rep her sent out 90 emails. From those, she got 11 responses asking for a writing sample. Of those, only 3 asked for a meeting, but each of those three asked to rep her. It’s a numbers game, so be prepared to put in the foot work.
How did you find your agent? I’d love to hear from you. Tweet me @CaroleKirsch!