- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- How to Write
Securing a Literary Agent as a Screenwriter
Books on screenwriting
in the trunk of your car?
As all serious writers know the literary agent is the guardian to the kingdom. Literary agents are equally aware of this, if for no other reason, than the millions of writers begging for entrance. One has to imagine that it is pretty overwhelming as the thousands of writers compete with letters and smiles to be your best friend.
To further complicate this, Hollywood being what it is – or at least what it promises to be on the silver screen, and on the TV shows covering the red carpet events – a fairytale land at the end of the rainbow with bikinis and pool parties and fancy people that lay about all day with good tans and waiters hopping from continent to continent on private jets… many would-be writers are more interested in the lifestyle than the commitment required to be an artist – a master of the craft.
Now, not only does the literary agent have to navigate the smiles and fake relationships, they have to sift through piles of garbage thrown together by wanna-be rock stars and dilletants with no real interest in how two words can be placed together. Not being a literary agent myself, I can only guess, but I would assume that literary agents feel nauseous at the thought of meeting another new writer.
It makes sense that literary agents have no interest in the thousands of writing competitions or millions of query letters. They use the buffer of recommendations to find new writers, and I wouldn’t blame them if it weren’t for the fact that having friends in the right places doesn’t follow a prerequisite of having talent. This is especially true as the ambitious head out in search of the right friends.
Enough sympathy for literary agents. What about all of the talented writers that can’t get anyone to read anything? All avenues of communication have been cut off, other than moving to Los Angeles and networking.
The only way to truly guarantee that you have a literary agent is to kidnap one. Even then, however, through kidnapping them you have most likely eliminated any usefulness the agent might offer. Still, kidnapping an agent does eliminate a lot of the chance and waiting. Immediate results. “Read this now asshole, and give me honest feedback.”
Assuming that kidnapping a literary agent is not an option, or at least it is something that you are not willing to consider as an option, and assuming that you are looking to sell a screenplay, you have to create a situation where someone who can sell – or buy - a screenplay will actually read yours.
For years I have heard the same thing. Move to Los Angeles and network. Meet a literary agent, or someone who know a literary agent – a producer, actor, office assistant – and get them to read your script. For years I’ve stubbornly resisted, and I am at the same place, “how do I get someone with the power to make these decisions read a script?” I ask this question as if the answer is not right in front of me. I ask, “What is a different answer?”
I am opposed to the idea of networking. It seems like an insincere thing to do. Why would a person pursue writing – dedicating themselves to both the craft of writing and to the pursuance of truth - and then hang a “for sale” sign around their neck?
As I get older, the answer to that question becomes clearer and clearer. The answer is because you need to eat. You need health insurance. You need a place to live. You need clothes, a phone, electric, water… a mode of transportation. A computer or paper and pen.
At a younger age, I would shake my head at the admission of such needs, but at a younger age, although I was growing, I was not necessarily growing old. As I was aging, it was arriving at something. As the joints begin to hurt for no reason, as a healthy vitamin filled diet is something that I have to consider, as I can’t stay awake, as the hours of productivity have shortened, as the prescription for my glasses need to be strengthened again, I realized that I have turned the corner. I am no longer simply growing, but growing old. I am no longer aging toward something, but away from something, unaware of the spike when it happened.
The “for sale” sign is necessary, despite what my younger arrogant self might think.
All the advice from professional writers and literary agents alike is consistent. Learn to write and get to know a literary agent either directly or indirectly, whatever that takes. Unless you have access to money to produce your own movie, don’t look for the alternate ways to get someone to read something. If you are not willing to move, make phone calls, leave the house, and do what it takes to get someone to read a script, then now would be a good time to start investing your time in an alternate career – or planning a kidnapping.
Other articles on "how to" as a screenwriter: