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Article title:   How to Market Your Work
First posted:   Wed 01 Sep 2004
Article text:
Marketing your script can take a thousand unexpected turns and can be achieved in as many creative ways. But let's take a look at the most common way it's done and let's follow logical steps rather than leaving it to luck, fate, and the national debt paid out in stamps and ink cartridges while you search for that evasive fluke.

First of all, here's a realistic look at what you face. Before I write this, I want to remind you that it isn't intended to discourage, but to educate. If anything, once you know the reality, you should take tremendous heart in following a plan. So many aspiring writers don't know and won't take the time to learn, thus pretty well guaranteeing failure. Not you. You're willing to learn and to apply what you learn or else you wouldn't have read this page even this far.

Hollywood is the target for every screenwriting hopeful, not just in the chair you're occupying, not just in your city, your state, or even this country, but the entire world. Nowhere is a screenwriting deal more coveted than it is in "Hollywood". So, your competition is tremendous.

Your first assignment in marketing your work is to send a query letter to every director of development and/or vice president of creative affairs in every production company in Hollywood. Don't send to a studio. Studios almost always work with production companies known to them. Query the production company. If they like your work they may try to sell a studio on it, not only for financing, but for distribution. Study the query letter on this site (the link is at the bottom of this page).

Send a query letter that is so beautifully, so professionally written, the reader simply HAS to read the script you describe. But they probably won't read the script. They'll probably ask for a One Page. That terrific story you've taken the better part of a year to write must now be reduced to a sparkling, captivating One Page!

You will no doubt receive an email, or hard mail, note from them, telling you that they are sending you a Release Form. They want you to sign and return it along with your One Page. (Go to "Sample One Page" on this site to see how it should look. The link is at the bottom of this page).

If they LOVE your One Page, they will ask you to send an entire script. But don't buy champagne quite yet.

When your script arrives on the desk of a reader or development person, it will land beside scripts that have been written by pros who've earned their living at their trade for a good many years, those who have fallen out of grace and are trying to climb back in, writers whose work has been submitted by agents, scripts that have come through directors wanting to become writers, producers wanting to become writers, plus gaffers and exras all hoping to crack the field. A good number of scripts have found their way through the good graces of a relative in the business, or a friend-of-a-friend. The rest in the stack of thousands are from writers like you, located around the world. YOUR JOB IS TO MAKE YOUR SCRIPT SO PROFESSIONALLY PRESENTED THAT THE READER CANNOT DISTINGUISH YOUR WORK FROM THAT OF THE MOST SEASONED PRO.

The reader will plow through that tower of written words, opening each script to ANY page, probably somewhere in the middle of the screenplay. They can tell at a single glance whether or not you know the craft of screenwriting. If you don't, the script will be closed and tossed aside, never to be opened again. If you do know, it will be placed in a stack to be read more closely a bit later. And so the process of, not rejection, but SELECTION, has begun.

Let's say that you made it to the second heap; you know your craft. The new stack, taken from the original stack, will now have the first page read closely. The reader is making sure that you know how to set up a screenplay and that she or he can actually 'see' a movie in their mind as they read. If the answer is positive, your script will now go into yet another stack to be read later.

A stack of 50 scripts may be reduced to as few as 7 or 8 by the end of the day, using this method. Those 7 or 8 may go home with the reader that night to be reviewed more closely. This reading will be for story/content.

Notice at what stage the actual "story" comes into play in this process. You could have the best story in the world, but if you didn't make it past the early steps, no one will ever know about it.

Let me add another word of caution here. You may be saying, 'Yes, but that's why I bought software. I know the format's right!" How would you know that if you don't understand the craft? How would you know to override a function if it isn't appropriate for your story? If software were the answer, doesn't it make sense that more new writers would be flooding the market?

Before I get a jillion letters chewing me out for bad-mouthing screenwriting programs, let me hasten to assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. Software is fine. But it can't replace knowledge of your chosen craft. I'd hate to think that a medical student intending to become a brain surgeon would use his knife before he learned about nerves and brain cells! Software simply goes faster than you're prepared to go at this phase of your career. Learn the craft upside down and backwards and THEN go for electronic assistance.

Another thought regarding software.

Let's say that THE miracle happens: a production company wants to produce your screenplay. A big name director wants to direct. A big big big actor wants to star in it - mainly because he's always wanted to work with that particular director. Lordy, child, you have never been so happy. You're so proud. Your momma's so proud. But ... the director gets bogged down on the film he's on and he's going to have to bow out of your project. Well, if he's gone then big big big actor doesn't want to continue either. Your champagne just fizzled. But wait! On yon horizon comes ANOTHER producer! He loves your script! He wants to produce it. You're about to uncork another bottle when he admits that he won't be able to produce it on the six jillion dollar budget the other guys were going to provide. In fact, he only has (his face gets really red, he's so embarrassed) about ten million.

He wants you to take your jillion dollar budgeted script and trim it to fit a ten million dollar budget.

Where would you begin?

Do you know how much it costs to have children in your movie?

Do you know how much it costs to have animals in your movie?

Do you know how much it costs to film on the water? At night? In New York?

Where would you cut? What would you cut?

Software doesn't know ...

It's up to you, the Writer, to know your craft. Learn the BUSINESS of the business if you want to BE in the business.

So, to recap:

  • Blanket Hollywood production companies with query letters (for addresses of production companies, aside from those listed here, go to Recommended Reading on this site).
  • Write a dynamite One Page to have ready to send when the request to do so arrives.

That's the start, but don't expect it to go like greased lightening, even if they love it. I once sold a story that was received by a Director of Development on Sunday evening. He called me on Monday morning and I had a check the following Friday. Is that the norm? Notice I said "I ONCE ..." The norm is from 3 to 5 years of marketing, for you, for me, for even the big name pros. That's why it's critical that you keep from 3 to 5 scripts in circulation at all times.

That's it. Now ... visit the remaining links on this site, study them, and hit the trail with your wonderful work. Go armed with knowledge! Go educated! Good luck!
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Copyright 2005, Esther Luttrell. All Rights Reserved.