This article about literary agents and managers for writing with cinematic appeal is part two of a series. It reveals how writers and authors can get their work picked up for stage, TV, or feature film. It also explores important differences between the publishing and movie industries. If you haven’t yet read the first part of the article, click here: Good News for Writers and Authors about the Publishing Industry–and the Movie Industry.
As a reminder, explained in part one of this article, Hollywood is a tougher nut to crack than New York. In other words, it’s easier to get your work noticed by literary agents pitching books to publishers than it is to get agents and managers considering your writing for TV, stage, and feature film.
Most literary agents (90-95%) who represent authors, including the best literary agents at the top literary agencies accept unsolicited submissions. That’s how most of my successful coaching clients (the majority of them self-described “nobodies” as writers when they found me) have been able to get agents. It’s not about referrals (click here to read my article about referrals).
So, the question now is…
How Can Authors Get Literary Agents & Managers
in Hollywood to Read their Books?
The list of options below has suggestions about what you should (and shouldn’t) do if you believe your writing has potential for TV, stage, or feature film.
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Get a job in the mailroom at a big agency with its hands in the movie industry such as ICM, Trident Media, or William Morris Endeavor. A fair number of people have made it this way, making connections and looking for (or creating) opportunities.
I don’t recommend this option.
There are easier ways.
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Pay a company that says it will put your writing in front of movers and shakers and decision-makers in the movie industry. The companies that offer these services claim they’re going to put information about your project in some catalog or industry newsletter, or that they’re going to pitch your project at some industry event somewhere. All you’ll have to do is give them your credit card information and they’ll do everything else. I don’t recommend this option, either. I’ve heard about—and seen—services like this. But I’ve never seen one with success stories. If you know of one(s), please click here to post a comment for me and let me know so I can recommend them.
Any time you’re thinking about doing anything with anyone—a coach or consultant, an editor, a website designer, a social media expert, a literary agent, etc.—please look for success stories and testimonials. In the publishing industry, especially, you should shy away from anyone who tells you something’s going to be easy, you can simply pay your way to success, or you won’t have to work hard to make it happen. I wish I could tell you that making it in the publishing industry or the movie industry was as easy as giving someone your credit card number. That can certainly help sometimes, but you’re still going to need to do some things yourself.
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Make connections with influential people (writers, actors, directors, producers, agents, managers, etc.) at workshops, forums, conferences, fairs and festivals, award shows, galas, etc. Like the previous option, this strategy isn’t for everyone. You might not live in an area where these events take place. You might not have the money to travel to events like this. And, you might not have the desire, personality, or confidence to schmooze at industry events or black-tie affairs.
If you like this idea, however, it can pay off. Though you don’t need connections or referrals to get noticed in the publishing industry, the world of TV and feature film is more of a secret society. Knowing someone can make a difference.
That said, there are events like this for the publishing industry as well. Click here to read my two-article about writers’ conferences with tips about how to “pick up” a literary agent. I’ve attended, and participated in, events like this in New York City and Los Angeles, countless other cities throughout the United States, and abroad. At times I’ve been a keynote speaker and one of the main attractions. But, other times, I’ve just been a face in the crowd, mingling and making connections.
Networking can make a difference in every industry, and it can be fun if you have the right attitude and/or you do it with a friend.
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Get a literary agent to pitch your book(s) to publishers.
Don’t worry, if you’ve already tried to get an agent and haven’t been successful yet, there are more options below. But, please note, it’s never too late to improve your pitch materials and re-query literary agents who’ve previously rejected your project(s).
Getting a literary agent to pitch your book(s) to publishers is the best way to get your work pitched for TV, stage, or feature film. That’s because successful literary agents try to sell film rights for properties with cinematic appeal, or they partner with a sub-agent or co-agent who does it for them. If you get a literary agent—or already have an agent—who doesn’t know how that works, or doesn’t have those types of connections, that’s okay too. In that case, the agent will probably give your film rights to your publisher and your publisher will try to sell them.
That’s better than nothing.
At least, in my view.
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If you’re a screenwriter, you can submit your work directly to literary agents and literary managers who accept unsolicited submissions. There aren’t that many, at least compared to the more than 1,000 literary agents who accept unsolicited book submissions.
But there are some.
I don’t offer 1-on-1 assistance in finding or suggesting agents or managers for screenwriters (just book authors). I also don’t assume liability for anything any website or agent you use does or doesn’t do. However, you might find the following interesting and helpful.
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Enter a contest or competition.
I know, you might think this sounds like buying a lottery ticket. A ridiculous long shot. But, hear me out. One of the best ways to get your writing noticed if you’re an author or screenwriter is to win or place in a contest or competition. It’s harder, obviously, to win or place in the biggest and best contests or competitions, with thousands or many thousands of entries. However, some contents and competitions only have hundreds of entries—or less.
To me, this option is akin to a writer submitting articles or short stories to literary journals, newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs. etc. If you do it enough, and you’re a good writer, you’re going to learn along the way and become more and more successful. Some writers are very shrewd about this, entering many contests and competitions. If you place or win in any, the movers and shakers and decision-makers are going to notice you.
If you win or place in a contest or competition and an agent or manager doesn’t call to take you to lunch, at the very least, you can mention your contest or competition win(s) in your pitch letters to agents or managers. Obviously, the more prominent the contest or competition, the more likely it’s going to get an agent’s attention. However, multiple wins or accolades from smaller contests and competitions can have a similar effect.
More often than not, you’ll have to pay a fee to participate in a contest or competition. However, the investment is often nominal. And, some contests provide feedback. That feedback can be valuable since the people evaluating and judging contest and competition entries are often well-established and well-respected agents, editors, authors, etc.
Like anything else, when it comes to choosing the best contest(s) or competition(s), take your time and do your homework. The same way I hope you’d approach choosing the best coach, editor, agent, or anything else. You and your project are unique. Spend time on Google typing things in like “list of best contests competitions screenwriting screenwriters” or “list of best contests competitions authors.” Add one or two extra keywords with your genre(s) as well to see what comes up.
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Two Recommended Contests
Judges include: Editor of The Paris Review, a quarterly literary magazine that has published works by Jack Kerouac, Phillip Roth Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner; a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who’s been the series editor for “The Best American Short Stories” since 2007; the Book to Film/TV and Publishing Coordinator at The Gersh Agency who focuses on developing, packaging, and selling material for feature and television; a literary agent with Abrams Artists Agency representing creators of well known film and TV titles such as It, HBO’s Sharp Objects, Bad Moms and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; bestselling authors; etc.
Deadline: December 15
This Cinematic Book Contest is for authors who believe their book has potential to be adapted for TV or feature film. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize and introductions to Hollywood literary agents, managers, producers, and development executives at studios and publishing companies. The runner-up will receive a $500 cash prize and introductions to agents, managers, producers, and executives as well. And the top 100 quarter-finalists will receive special mention on the contest host company’s website when it announces the winners early next year.
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Deadline: December 16
This Cinematic Short Story Contest is for short stories (not scripts) with cinematic potential. The grand prize winner will receive $1,000 and personal introductions to literary agents, managers, producers, and publishers. The top five finalists will be shared with the contest host company’s network of 60+ literary and entertainment industry professionals. The runner-up will receive a $300 prize and introductions to agents, managers, producers, and executives as well. And the top five finalists will have the option to have their stories published on the contest host company’s website and have them shared with their network of literary magazines, agents, managers, publishers, producers, and studio executives.
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Why Am I Promoting These Contests?
I met the co-founder of the company hosting these contests, John Rhodes, a while ago and I was impressed. HIs company, ScreenCraft, helps screenwriters and book authors trying to get noticed for TV and feature film. What’s special about him is that—like me—he has lots of success stories as a result of his work. As I explained in this article, there are countless coaches, consultants, and service providers promising to help authors and writers. But it’s hard to find good ones—with lots of high-level testimonials and success stories.
For example, here are just a few:
- ScreenCraft Fellowship winner Ryan W. Smith went on to co-write a film that just sold to Netflix for a reported $30 million at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
- Colin Dalvit & Andrew Lahmann won the ScreenCraft Action & Thriller Screenplay Contest and they were signed by literary manager Josh Dove at Intellectual Property Group. Intellectual Property Group is the literary management company behind such clients as Oscar-winner Paul Haggis (Crash and Million Dollar Baby) and Dennis Lehane (writer of cinematically adapted novels including Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone).
- Nick Watson was a ScreenCraft Pilot Launch semifinalist who subsequently signed with literary agent Manal Hammad at Abrams Artists Agency. He has since written for Hasbro Studios’ “Littlest Pet Shop: A World of Our Own,” and most recently on Season 2 of TBS’ animated comedy series “Final Space.”
- Nancy Duff won the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship and subsequently was selected for the Meryl Streep-backed Writers Lab for Women, as well as the Universal Pictures Global Talent Development & Inclusion program.
- Chris Osborn won a $10,000 grant from the ScreenCraft Film Fund for his short film True Blue which he wrote, produced and directed. It went on to be accepted to numerous festivals around the world (including New Orleans, Maryland and Atlantic City) and won the Audience Award at Indie Memphis Film Festival in 2017.
John Rhodes, the co-founder of ScreenCraft, is an independent film producer with experience on many sides of the industry. He worked for Open Road Films’ acquisition team, acquiring and releasing such films as ‘The Grey’ starring Liam Neeson and ‘End of Watch’ starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Previously he worked as a creative executive at Media Talent Group for clients including Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman. John got his start in the industry as a development assistant and story editor at OddLot Entertainment, helping to develop such films as Academy Award-nominee ‘Rabbit Hole,’ the Cannes award-winning ‘Drive,’ and the sci-fi epic ‘Ender’s Game.’ John graduated with a Master’s in Media Business Management from the Universidad de Navarra in Spain and a BA in English Literature from the University of Dallas in Texas.
When John originally reached out to me, it was to ask if he could pay me to promote his contests. I said no, because I don’t accept advertising. There’s nothing wrong with advertising. It’s just not how I do business. So, instead, I took John to lunch to learn more about him. I then told him I’d promote what he’s doing simply because I like it, it seems reputable, and I thought a lot of my followers might appreciate it. A lot of people recommend other companies and service providers, but if they’re getting paid to do it…well, it doesn’t mean much.
Just remember the deadlines for the contests are approaching fast.
If you want to participate, don’t hesitate.
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Click here if you want help to give yourself the best chance to get a top literary agent, publisher, and book deal. Register for an Introductory Coaching Call to get 1-on-1 feedback and improve your pitch material and/or writing.
Question or Comment?
Click here (no charge) to see The 50 Questions Authors Ask Most (along with answers to the questions) and/or post your question or comment. Click here to see our Guide to Literary Agents. And, click here to see some of our best tips to help you Find a Literary Agent and/or Get a Literary Agent.
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