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How To Approach An Agent

Looking for that elusive "ten percent solution"? This article by Robert Freedman and Tim Knowlton offers some guidance.

In this column, we would like to discuss how best to approach an agent. What follows are suggestions based on our knowledge of what works best with us and our colleagues, and what doesn’t.

If possible, arrange for the connection to be made by a mutual friend in the business (preferably one who has read and admired your work who knows — or better yet, uses — the agent). Always write first, unless you have been asked to call by the agent or been told by the "mutual friend" that the agent is expecting your call.

We read all letters of inquiry. Calls almost always come at an inconvenient time, and may put pressure on either or both parties, resulting in an incomplete presentation on your part and/or unfavorable consideration by us.

Remember that first impressions do count. We need to send out work that looks professional, so we look for writers who present themselves professionally. This means more than just being neat, grammatical, and well-punctuated; more than spelling the agent’s name correctly, more than using the agent’s last name and writing an individual, typed letter. Do not send a form letter. Do attach a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Write a straightforward letter saying who you are, what you have written, what has been produced or published, and what are you working on now.

If you were previously represented, and left for reasons that do not reflect badly on you, tell us.

Be simple and direct. Do not try to be overly funny, cute ("Please answer soon, as I can only afford cheap typewriter ribbons, and my scripts are fading fast") or obnoxious just to attract attention. If you have sufficient background, attach a resume.

Be honest; don’t inflate or "puff" your background. We can recognize (we think) this sort of thing a mile away. And, we can check.

Unless "Bob" asked you for it personally (in which case, so specify), don’t say, "is currently being read by Robert Redford" — we will assume this means, "I just sent the script, unsolicited, to Redford at his last-known studio address."

Your letter should reflect your particular writing abilities and should be positive and unapologetic in tone.

However, do not try to tell us how your work is. We assume you think it is good, or else you would not have sent it. Only reading the script will tell us if we like it.

Do tell us — briefly! — the subject matter. We can save you time and postage if we do not respond to a particular topic, or have a conflict with something we already represent.

Tell us what the script is (e.g., low-budget comedy feature film) if you can; avoid "This is currently a half-hour script for ‘Night Court,’ but could be a feature or a novel, if that’s what you want."

If you follow all the above, you will be ahead of over 90% of the writers who approach us. 

Robert Freedman and Tim Knowlton are members of the Association of Authors' Representatives. Mr. Freedman is President of Robert A. Freedman Dramatic Agency, Inc., and Mr. Knowlton is Chief Operating Officer of Curtis Brown, Ltd.