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ADVICE FOR SCREENWRITERS

Screenwriters need advice to write and market scripts.    Movies, film, TV, stage plays, Hollywood marketing, screen writing, playwright, script writer, query letter advice.

WELCOME TO SCREENWRITING

  So you want to be a screenwriter?  A novice always respond positively, but there is a lot of frustration in this business; more than you may have bargained for.  That's the bad news.  The good news?   There is a lot of money to be made in the entertainment industry that drives many into writing for stage, television and film.  Here's some advice you can use.

BOOKMARK THIS PAGE NOW, SO YOU CAN RETURN TO IT

#GET THE KNOWLEDGE

#QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

GET THE KNOWLEDGE

1.  The first thing you must do is read books on how to write and format scripts.  Click here for listing of books.  Consider the cost of books as a business start up expense, as starting any business requires knowledge and money.  Read as many books as you possibly can, but note below on the book listing page, the book recommendations.  Using these books will get you started very quickly.  There are many outdated books on the market, so start with the recommended books first.  You don't want to waste your time reading every book in print.  You need to spend most of your time writing, not reading.  Start with the recommended books and you will jumpstart the process.     

GET THE PRODUCT

2.  Forget about selling ideas to Hollywood, despite what you have read or was told.  Only pro pitchmen can do this who have deep industry contacts, in most all cases.  You need to have two completed scripts.  Yes, two.  No agent, producer or production company will take you seriously if you are a "one script wonder" as new writers are tagged in the trade.  So, you have your work cut out for you.  It's a major mistake for most new screenwriters to write only one script and begin the marketing phase with that one script.  Occasionally you will hear stories about someone who sold his/her first script, but that's why it's in the news -- it's very rare to do so!  Write at least two scripts then begin your marketing.  However, if you do have a great script and it has ranked high in a screenplay contest, that one script may be all you need.

PROFESSIONALLY MARKET YOUR SCRIPT

3.  How do you market scripts anyway?  Who buys them?  How do  you get an agent?  Do you need an agent?  How do you package a script?  What are firewalls?  The new writer will need a marketing plan with strong advice and instruction to get the finished product into the buyers' hands to make the sale.  This is where Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book come into play.  It's a book totally dedicated to helping you clean up your scripts, prepare and package the script professionally so you can sell them.  Most screenwriters and playwrights fail miserably in the marketing phase, as they can't penetrate the firewalls.  If you are tired of rejections... get this book! 

SCRIPT EVALUATION

4.  Don't use friends or family members to evaluate your screenplay or stage play script.  They will only compliment you.  They don't understand the marketing process.  They do not comprehend what constitutes a good script or not.  Use other experienced writers.  You can join a local writers club, but this will certainly be of little benefit if experienced screenwriters are not members.   You may need to use outside professional script evaluation services.  The cost is high in many cases.  If you are going to pay good money, you may as well use the best.  Another method you can use is to submit your scripts to screenplay contests.  Click on the links page and you'll find some evaluators and contests on the internet.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book has contest and evaluation service listings you can use.

SCREENPLAY CONTESTS

5.  Screenplay and stage play contests can be good, but many are bad news.   Most won't take you anywhere near the realm of Hollywood success you strive for, despite what they promise in promotional sales brochures.  But they do serve a purpose!  You can submit your scripts to see how they rank with others.  If you rank high in the top 100, or better yet in the top10, you can use this ranking in your query letters as a powerful incentive to have your script accepted for a reading.  Don't go hog wild spending tons of money on these contests.  Some are quite expensive and promise the moon feeding on your desperation for success at any cost.  You can easily spend $600 or more each year with all the contests. Just submit to two or three.  The lowest cost contest is the Writer's Digest Screenplay Contest.  It's not the most prestigious, but it is a legitimate contest, costs about $15 per script and is read by established industry professionals.  Exactly what you need to evaluate your scripts!  You stand a better chance here to obtain a higher ranking, as many scripts submitted are from rank amateurs with no basic screenwriting skills.  If you have read a few books on screenwriting, then submitting your script to the contest you should rank fairly high!  Remember, a high ranking will increase your odds of success in a mighty way.

COMPUTER PROGRAM

6.  You need a computer program.  I have used Scriptware, but First Draft is also a great program.   Don't waste your money on macro programs that convert word processors into script formatting programs.  Not that the product is defective, but the word processor will always rule and that is where you will get into serious repagination problems.  Slug line headers will float and often will not print what you see on the screen regarding slug line location.  They will hang anyplace they want and will totally ruin a script's visual format.  This will result in repeated industry rejections due to improper formatting.  A terrible experience I went through with these programs.  Sure, the professional script formatting programs are expensive, but they work wonderfully locking-in the pages so no floating occurs.  I'd pay $1,000 or more for a good script formatter program anytime for the ease of use and peace of mind they give.  Fortunately, most only cost about $250.  Before you buy, ask if they have a competitive upgrade price.  You could save $100 or more if you have a scriptwriting program on the list.   I used Truby Studios Blockbuster program for compiling story elements of the screenplays I was writing and even this program qualified for the $100 discount upgrade price, but you have to ask for it!  Using any story design program may qualify.  Always use dedicated professional screenwriting formatting programs.  It makes writing the script easy and you just know it's going to look right when you print the script.

PRINTER

7.  You need a 300 dot per inch laser printer.  No need for color printing, whatsoever.  If you plan to use a color printer make sure you never print any other color but black in the script.  Don't try to get fancy by using brown inks for dialog or use red ink for slug lines, etc.  This will only deliver quick rejections for improper formatting to industry standards.  You can't use an ink jet or dot matrix printer for submitting scripts.  Again, you will receive a rejection or not be taken seriously.   Use the 300 d.p.i. laser and relax knowing your scripts will be printed and presented professionally.  I currently use a Hewlett Packard LaserJet-4, and a Tektronics Phaser 740-Extended.  It's overkill for screenplay use, but reliable products. 

SCRIPT COVERS

8.  Never use fancy script covers.  The higher class they look, the worse your rejections will be!  Hollywood is a bland industry when it comes to script appearance.  The pros submit very bland scripts.  Amateurs submit great looking scripts only to be tossed into the rejection pile.  It's a firewall filtering system to weed out the bad scripts from the professionally written scripts.   Hollywood does not operate like a typical business. Appearance means nothing.  Just use a plain white or manila cover on your script with no label or handwriting anywhere on the cover or spine.  Never bind the script with any other method than using brass brads.  If you perfect bind, spiral bind, or use any other binding, you will not pass the firewall and receive a rejection.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets  will help you in all these areas on submitting scripts to help you penetrate numerous firewalls Hollywood has erected to keep you out of the money.  Most new writers use three brass brads because two do not allow the pages to fold over properly.  But know this --  most pros use two brads.   So if you want your script to appear professional, use two brads.  Readers are acclimated to reading scripts with only two brads and they know amateurs submit scripts with three brads.  If you were the reader looking in the script pile, which script would you take from the stack? 

FIREWALL

9.  Did you know that using the wrong postage stamp on your query letter can give you a no-reply rejection?  Sure can!  Many agencies also have their own firewall systems to filter out the thousands of query letters they receive.  Letters with "business stamps" such as the postal service standard "American flag" stamp will get your mail opened and read.  If you use fashionable stamps with flowers or Elvis or whatever, your letter will be sorted out and placed in the unimportant incoming mail slot.  This is only one firewall.  There are many firewalls in Hollywood you must know about.  These barriers are used to filter out pros from amateurs.  Are you submitting queries and scripts properly?  Are your scripts being repeatedly rejected?  Order Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book now and learn how to get your scripts sold!  

QUERY LETTERS

10.  Do not use the same query letter format or concept as you would use for the book industry query letter.  Hollywood will likely reject the query if you follow the query letter format described in how-to books on query letter writing.  Big mistake here!  Book publishers enjoy long query letters, but Hollywood despises them with a passion.  Shorter is better.  How short?  It used to be 1-page, then it went to three paragraphs, now it's down to one paragraph and heading to a single log line!  This means you need to learn how to write high-concept log lines and keep any paragraph you write short, short, short or face another rejection!   Industry people are too busy these days.  Every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally wants to be a screenwriter today and the industry is simply flooded with hundreds of thousands of letters and scripts.  It's hell for them.  It's like being swamped with spam junk E-mailers with get rich quick offers.  It robs them of valuable time.  The firewalls are erected so they can see right away just by glancing at an envelope if it is worth opening or tossing into the rejection heap.  Do not underestimate these firewalls!  If you do, you will certainly fail to gain access to Hollywood buyers.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book absolutely helps you break through these firewalls! 

NO AGENT

11.  It is said you must have an agent to sell a script.  Not true at all.   Don't you believe it.  You are more powerful than any agent, that is, if you know how to market your scripts. Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets shows you how to introduce your script directly to production companies, producers and movie stars.  Then when you have the sale ready to go, you'll have your pick of agencies to choose from!  You have to learn how to work in reverse.  If you follow everyone else you'll end up like everyone else -- lost in the crowd!  You don't need to move to Hollywood to sell scripts.  It's certainly a major factor to live in Los Angeles, but you can sell your movie scripts no matter where you live.  If you prefer to work in television, especially sitcoms, you have to move to L.A. at least to establish yourself, in most all cases.  Freelance by distance writing is available, but only after you have established contacts.  Some TV shows do not require you to move to California.  You may need an agent to sell a script to a major production company, but you can make the deal first, then get the agent to formalize the transaction.  So, if you are focusing solely on getting an agent, you're barking up the wrong tree. You don't need an agent to market your script!

WRITING

12.  Writing is writing, except in Hollywood.  Everything you have learned about writing is tossed into the wind.  From business letters to perfected college-level grammar is thrown out the window.  You have to teach yourself to write with extreme brevity and at the 12th grade level.  Fancy writing will get you into trouble in Hollywood with fast unmerciful rejections!  Many excellent writers with great stories are rejected due to novel-like writing styles. Screenwriting has it's own style and you must learn it or fade away.  Fact;  most top-level novel writers do not know how to write a screenplay and they hire a screenwriter to get the job done when adapting a novel for film.  Production companies hire screenwriters all of the time for this purpose.  So, just because you have written novels or magazine articles or books don't even dare believe you have the ability to write a screenplay.  It requires specialized training and skill to write a good screenplay.  Read books first about screenwriting before you attempt to write a screenplay.  Read author scripts so you can get the feel and the format right.  It will save you many moments of heart-breaking grief.   Rejection is part of a writer's life.  With Hollywood, rejection is something you eat every day.  It's hard enough as is than to be writing scripts that will certainly be rejected due to improper protocols not being followed.   

AUTHOR SCRIPT

13.  Beware of buying scripts from bookstores.  Many writers make this mistake when trying to learn how to format and write scripts.   I know many screenwriting books will tell you to read as many scripts as you can, and you should, but be careful what you read is not what you are sending to agents and producers!  Scripts sold today are "production scripts" not "author scripts."  The novice screenwriter often picks up a production script and thinks this is the format for submission.  Dead wrong!  You have to write the author script.  This is the only acceptable format for a spec script.  Break this rule and rejections will be your desert.  If you want to read an author's script click here.  I made the same mistake many years ago and I had to retype the scripts over again which took me weeks of work to do.  Very frustrating!  Don't write a script unless you know how to write an authors script.   You'll save yourself a lot of misery here.

SPELLING

14.  Don't rely on on your word processing script formatting software to check grammar.  You have to read the script to edit out the errors the computer will not catch.  Example: the words; there and their are spelled correctly but can be easily misused.  You are only allowed two misspelled words in a 118 page script.  These will be forgiven, any more and they will not be viewed favorably.   You would be surprised how many scripts are rejected due to misspelled words, tens of thousands per year!

MASS CONFUSION

15.  The more books you read about screenwriting, the more confused you may become.   The older screenwriting books have many errors in them.  If you follow their advice, rejections will be forthcoming like a tidal wave.  Everyone is going to tell you something different in each book and that is where the confusion arrives.   The question is, who's right?  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book sets the record straight, so you'll know what is considered a properly submitted script.  The book is updated to stay current with the latest trends.  It is here in the submission process where most all screenwriters fail.  Good scripts go nowhere if they can't comply with industry standards.  Yes, you have read time and time again that a good script will float to the top like cream and be discovered, but it just does not happen.  A good script is as good as a bad script, until it sells.  Does the screenwriting process and marketing procedure make you a bit confused?  If so, you certainly need Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets to get you moving forward.     

HOLLYWOOD HAS ITS OWN RULES

  All this is just the icing on the cake!  Hollywood has its own rules, rules many do not even know of where writers certainly fail, due to the lack of inside knowledge.  When you are bitten by the golden Hollywood film bug it's like gold rush fever.  Your adrenaline takes over and you write your heart out, page after page, script after script.  Then one day, one year down the road or more, you discover you are not making it.  Nobody wants your scripts.  It's getting harder to get anyone to respond to your query letters.  The dream is dying on the vine and depression and anger sets in with total frustration and despair.  Some become desperate and seek alternative creative measures to get their foot in the door using gimmicks.  Then that fails, too.  What to do?  The problem boils down to one thing, everything you have been doing has been unprofessional.  I know this sounds hard to believe, but the sooner you realize it, the better off you will be in this business.  That is why I wrote the book, Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets to help you, the screenwriter, elevate to a professional level, so you can make it after all!  No matter how good your script is, if you can't get it past the firewalls it is as good as sitting on your bookshelf. 

"When you are tired of the rejections and are ready to quit, get the book!  If you are new to screenwriting read the book, so you won't make the mistakes we have all made and regret to this day."

James Russell          

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
1.  I just finished my first screenplay.  What do I do with it now?

  The first thing you should have done is purchased The Screenwriter's Bible a "must have" for every screenwriter.  This is the book that shows you how to format and structure your script.  If you haven't read it, now is the time to buy it.  You will not be disappointed!  This book insures you will write your screenplay properly and it will meet industry standards.  It's a mistake not to read the book! 

  The next step is marketing.  Screenwriting is all about marketing!  You need to sell the script!  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets is the book to "package" your script professionally and get it to the production companies, producers and agents.  Click links below to order Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book from Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.  Or click here to order from the publisher.

Amazon.com   Click here.

Barnes & Noble  Click here.

2.  Where do I go to get my script evaluated?

  There are many services and most are expensive.  The best low-cost, though a bit slow, is to submit your script to the Readers Digest Screenplay Contest, or other respectable contests.  But don't go overboard with these contests as you can spend a small fortune trying to rank with them high placements.  The contest do serve a purpose to see how your script ranks with others, but even low-ranking scripts have found big money sales.  Contests are not an absolute, as the opinion given on the script evaluation to merit its rank is subjective.  The evaluator may hate the script, but you could still sell it to somebody else at a huge sum.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets has a listing of Script Doctors and many give deep discounts to readers of the book. 

3.  I keep getting rejection letters.  What can I do to stop this?

  The odds are the query letter is defective if it is failing to obtain the desired results -- the script being requested by the agent or producer.   Never try to "sell" the script in a query letter, as it's a huge mistake.   The purpose is to "entice" the agent, so they will request the script.   Try changing your query letter, shorten it.  Less information about yourself and more on the story.  Most query letters are way too long and are simply looked at and tossed into the trash as appearing unprofessional.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets shows you how to create query letters for the film industry.  It's different for the book industry and this is where a lot of book writers fail trying to use the same approach.  It does not work.  If the script is requested and you still receive rejections?  Try editing the script.   Have the script evaluated by a professional so it will be marketable.  Send the script only to agents and prodcos who specialize in the genre you have written.   There's more to it here, but this should help.

4.  Why send a spec script of another show to a television producer?

  Boredom is the prime reason.  Imagine yourself, day in and out, reading and writing a specific show and dozens of spec scripts are arriving in the mail to read.   It can burn you out!  So, this is why many show producers want to see "another show" as a writing sample.  Of course, stick with the same genre.   If the producer is airing a comedy then send a comedy script, not a soap opera.   The writer/producer can tell from your writing style and form if they wish to contact you to write an episode for them.  Some producers do require spec scripts based on their show, but the general rule is to send a sample script of another show.  This may appear to be a waste of time writing a show you don't care about, but it's your calling card and resume, so it does have great value to reveal your writing talent.   In fact, everyone knows everyone, so your script may end up being passed on to the other show's producer and they may buy the spec script.

5.  Is it always best to have an agent?

  Generally, yes.  However, scripts are sold without agents all of the time, too.  Having an agent will open doors to opportunity, but you still have to knock on the doors marketing your product.  Unless you are established, marketing will always be your prime focus, as you try to sell your scripts.  If your script is good, it's going to make waves and sell.  Agents help gain access to the buyers, but in the book, "Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets" it explains how to present and sell your script without agents.  Once the deal is made?  You'll have your pick of any agent you want to represent you. 

6.  Do producers want to see a completed script or will an outline suffice?

  If they have a policy of seeing outlines, then an outline treatment is fine.   Most everyone who is not established in the industry must have a finished product to present, and many agents, movie stars and producers and directors want to see a completed script ready to go.  Every screen and television writer has completed spec scripts and so should you.  I don't bother with treatments, focus on writing good query letters to market the finished product.  No time wasted with treatments that are extremely difficult to sell anyway, it's like trying to sell ideas.  There are many ideas, many promises and dreams in this business and few quality scripts to be sold.  Do not try to take shortcuts.  Sit down and write a completed script, then start on your second, third, fourth.  Usually, by the time you have finished between four to six scripts, your writing has matured to the point it is marketable.  Many believe you can write one script and make it in this business, but it is very rare to do so.    

7.  I want to adapt a book into a screenplay.   How do I do this?

  It's not a good idea to work on other writers copyrighted material.  Many novice writers fall into this trap, wanting to write other peoples material, and fail miserably.  This is not to say it can't be done, but it's complex business here!  Best advice is to write your own story.  Even if the author and agent give the rights to do so, the publisher may not, and your time is wasted.  If the publisher gives the green light, in writing, your script still may stall in the negotiation phase with the buyers, as too many hands are in the pie, each wanting big cuts for profits.  Save yourself grief and write your own material.  Anyway, it's the agent's job to make these deals, not the writer and the studio that buys the script or idea usually hire their own writers and that will cut you out of the deal, too.  It's just not worth playing around with such things; falling in love with other peoples dreams.  If you really want to do it, you can.  It's not impossible, but be prepared for a lot of legal haggling.  Adaptations by unknown writers are terribly hard to sell!  If you do this, you should be paid to write the script by the publisher or studio.  Doing it without pay is very risky, as you may never earn a dime for your efforts.  Generally performing your own adaptation of a book can be done.  First contact the book publisher, not the author, as the publisher traditionally owns subsidiary film rights.  Negotiate from there.  You could ask for an option, but it likely will be refused.  They want big money to purchase story rights!  How much?  Tens of thousands of dollars.  Do you have that sort of cash and still risk no studio will film the screenplay?  Basically, the major studios build these adaptation deals, not individual authors.  Best advice is to get your heart away from any adaptations and simply write your own story.  It's much too difficult to obtain success.   

8.  Why must I have completed scripts?  Can't my ideas sell?

  Ideas sell in Hollywood by industry pros who are known to produce a finished and marketable product.  Most all writers must have completed scripts.  This industry is based on promises and dreams, yet few can deliver the goods.  There is only one way to prove you can deliver and that is to present a finished script ready for production/sale.  Outlines, treatments, synopsis, sample scenes and queries mean nothing without a finished product.  If you want to sell something, you have to have something to sell -- a tangible product.

9.  How do I market my script?  I don't know where to begin.

  Marketing is an involved process, secondary to good writing but primary to success.  Many screenwriting books explain how to write a screenplay, but the marketing function is left out.  There is good reason for this, as marketing is a separate process and quite an involved subject matter. "Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets" focuses tightly on the marketing process.  You will need this book, one day or today.  When your scripts are constantly being rejected, buy the book and get your marketing done properly and eliminate the errors in your scripts other screenwriting books do not cover.

10.  Where can I buy books on screenplays and plays?

  Click here for books.  Click here for film/TV scripts and plays.  It's okay to read every book you can get your hands on about writing, but there is danger to this madness.  You may be reading and not writing!  Yes, read the books to gain knowledge, but do not stop writing your scripts and plays!  Also, be aware many of the older books are totally outdated and have not been revised to reflect the new standards in the industry regarding formats and submission requirements.

11.  I'm leery of sending my scripts out due to possible theft.  What do I do?

  Every writer fears theft of material. We are all in the same boat.  Yes, ideas are stolen and taken, but you can not copyright an idea!  Incredibly, though you may want to believe otherwise, theft of material is very, very rare.  The liability is too high for the thief, so it just does not happen as much as people think it does.  All you can do is copyright your script with the Library of Congress and register it with the WGA (Writer's Guild of America).  After this is done, you can decide to shove your script in a closet to never see the light of day again or you can get it into the mail and into buyers hands.  Stop worrying about theft!  Just get your scripts out there.  If theft happens, it happens, but you can't make a sale without exposure of your material.  Odds are, theft is not going to occur, especially from WGA signatory agents and studios.  Novice writers are often paralyzed by fear of theft and just can't seem to let go of their scripts.  Don't even think twice about it.  Copyright and register the script and mail it with confidence it will not be stolen.  

12.  I plan to quit my job next month and write screenplays for a living.  Any advice?

  Don't quit your job!  It takes years of writing to get into this business for most writers.  You could quit your job and move to Los Angeles, get another similar job and try to break in from that angle.  A better alternative is to become a freelance magazine or newspaper article writer.  The odds of making sales are much in your favor.  As you write to earn a living, you can be writing spec scripts on the sideline until you make sales in feature or television.  It's a process. 

13.  I don't have a college education.  Can I make it in this screenwriting business?

  Yes.  Many agents and studio executives have never been to college, and those that have, don't apply advanced logic anyway.  All that matters is a good story.   If you can write a marketable story, you can sell scripts.  You can learn screenwriting by reading books and by doing.  You can take college-level classes in theatre and film, but it is not necessary.  Many established screenwriters advise to not attend a film school. Why?  It can ruin your natural creative talents to conform with what is taught.  It's a two-edged sword.  Film school can teach great things, too.  Life holds a secret; pure determination and the ability to not quit until the goal is met makes one successful. 

14.  Should I write a script like a novel?   This is my first script.

  No.  Screenwriting is a visual medium with a limited number of pages (110 to 120) and the type is set ultra wide.  You couldn't even get the first five chapters of a novel into a 120 page screenplay script!  Even experienced novelists often hire screenwriters to condense their novels.  It is quite difficult to learn both forms of writing, but not impossible.  Point is, to have your script go anywhere, it must conform to Hollywood acceptable standards.  Read books on screenwriting and read scripts before you begin to write your screenplay.  If you don't, you'll be wasting your time.

15.  What makes your Screen & Stage book different from other screenwriting books?

  First, the book does not compete with other screenwriting books.  It complements them!  There are many fine books describing structure, formatting, dialog, theory, etc.  The purpose of these books is to help you write a powerful story.  The purpose of Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets is to help you sell the screenplay!  It teaches you all the right things to do.   Your script is written and presented professionally to drastically reduce rejections.  Once you have been in this business for awhile and have collected your fair share of rejections, you'll eventually realize you are failing the marketing process.   A screenwriter who does not have Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book as a guide will certainly obtain constant rejection and will be forced to quit screenwriting as a career.  Many writers fail the marketing process miserably.   After you write the script you have to sell it.  You can't market scripts if you don't know the procedures.  The book focuses strongly on getting your script into the key buyers hands and receiving good coverage reports so it can be purchased.

16.  What can I do to get agents and producers to read my scripts? 

  Stop doing what everybody else is doing!  Everyone is reading the same magazines, the same books, the same advice on the internet, writing to the same agents and producers at the same time, etc.  What happens is a pattern develops; as thousands of writers follow each other.  All the query letters begin to look the same and the scripts now read just like everyone else's scripts.  Hollywood is flooded and they develop a new firewall to quickly identify these query letters and scripts.   Automatic rejections is the end result for the writer.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets helps you develop unique and powerful query letters and tightly written scripts exploding with visual action on each page, and much more!  Every agent and producer will tell you, "I'm looking for something different, something to catch my interest."  You must do something different than all the thousands of other writers knocking on the same doors.  You can't continue to compete with others like this and expect to have your scripts be noticed.  You'll just become another number.  Perhaps, number 110,001 who wants to sell a script.

17.  The book eliminates competition?

  It certainly does!  Competition always exists, but the book allows you to cut through the masses of submissions and end up right where you should be, the script on the buyers desk!  Knowledge is the key.  Knowing how to write and format the script to create visually exiting movement.  Having query letters that simply kicks the agent or producer into action to request your script is what the book will do for you.   The author is a screenwriter and a marketer of consumer products.  Marketing is a unique talent and every screenwriter must learn how to market their product or face eternal rejection.  The great masses of screenwriters flooding the market with their scripts simply causes trouble for the better writers to get their scripts read.  The book will teach you how to eliminate the competition.  And you don't have to move to Los Angeles to do it!  A well-designed query letter will generate the request for your script.  The well written script will be ranked highly on coverage reports and be sold. 

18.  Agents keeps rejecting my query letters.   Why?

  Many reasons.  They may not be accepting new submissions or you are writing them at the wrong time of the year.  They may find your query letter unprofessionally written, dull or laden with numerous other errors unprofessional writers often make.    Rejection is part of this business, get used to it!  But don't keep sending that same query letter out, change it, make it better.  Distill it down to one four-line paragraph!  Marketing is futile for the writer who does not know the rules of the game. 

19.  How long should I wait to contact the Agent/producer after sending my script?

  A long time.  Some writers will advise you contact the agent/producer in two or four weeks by phone.  Never call!  Just write a brief note, and this means one-paragraph.  Include a S.A.S.E.  Do not e-mail!  Send the letter within the postal service.  Better yet, don't bother the agent or producer, period.   If they like your script they will contact you.  Just move on to the next assignment on your mailing list.  Once you are labeled a "pest" your query letters and scripts will be rejected.  They do have a blacklist file.  Keep your name out of it! 

20.  How do I get to know writers who can help me get an agent referral?

  First, you need at least six scripts under your belt before any screenwriter will take you seriously.  Don't even consider this option until you have proven yourself.  You should also have had at least one of your scripts ranked high in a screenplay contest.  This gives enhanced credibility.  Obtaining the referral is one of the last stages in the marketing process.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets explains the procedures.  

21.  What is the proper format and structure of an outline?

  Forget the outline, as they are just about useless for the feature film spec script writer.  You can't beat a good query and cover letter. A one page synopsis is predominately used when submitting the script, or included with your query letter, if required.  There's really no absolute format for the outline, except the outline is often a much longer document, describing just about every major scene in the script. Generally, each scene equals one paragraph.  It can be up to 30-pages long, typed single-spaced.  There are books on screenwriting that explains the process, fact, most screenwriting books cover the subject of using outlines.   However, for new writers, they are a total waste of time for feature film submissions.  Some agents still like to use them, but rarely they are deemed an absolute requirement. Television leans more to an outline, when submitting a proposal to write a script for the production company.  To clarify, professional and established writers often use outlines to generate a green light to write the script. They can do this because the principles know the writer can deliver on the promise.  New writers normally need to write and complete the script, so the outline process is by-passed since you have a completed script, an outline is not needed.  For most writers, it would be better to write the entire script than waste time with writing an outline.  There are many people with ideas, but they have no script.  Hollywood needs completed scripts, not dreams latched to promises.  Blockbuster software by Truby Studios will print the outline nicely with no extra effort required, if you used the program to generate your story structure.  It's a good software program. 

22.  It is said that to get someone to even look at your screenplay you must at least already have two under your belt.  My question is how can we get agents to look at our material?

  Agents will evaluate a single screenplay, though they prefer the writer have not just two, but three to six screenplays! The more scripts a writer has, the more serious it reveals the writer is.  If you click on our links page, you will find many screenwriting sources that list agencies open to new writers. The key to getting agents to request your script boils down to one critical element: a good query letter!  There is nothing that works better.  This question is not easy to answer in this forum, as it enters the involved process of screenplay marketing.  This is why we publish a book on the marketing process, as performing professional submissions is a fairly complex procedure and full of firewalls to keep amateurs out of the loop.  When you know how to penetrate these firewalls, marketing opportunities increase and agents will take you seriously.  Once an agent or production company reads your query and requests your script, the script and the submission package must be presented professionally or it will likely receive another rejection.   

23.  I have been offered representation by an agent that I was referred by the "Writer's Guild of America" web-site, and I was told that the cost to send out each script was twenty dollars. I'm not certain if this is money that I have to put up front or if it's money that the agency recoups upon sale of the script. Basically my question is this: Is it standard that the writer pays for the postage up front?

  Yes, it is true the new writer will pay for the postage, making photocopies and other expenses incurred by the agent. Here are some ideas to cut that cost down.

A. Take the agency deal. If they sell your script for $100,000 or much more, $20 or $300 will be nickels and dimes.

B. Ask the agent if you can make photocopies of the script, so they don't have to spend time, labor and material costs printing and assembling the scripts. If you ask print shops for a discount to three cents per page you will likely get it, if you are at least printing five to ten or more scripts.  You can buy shipping envelopes cheaper at shipping supply distributor warehouses (see phone book Yellow Pages).  You can save a lot here, but this assumes the agency wants to deal with all this hassle you may cause them. It won't hurt to ask, but if they object, do not try to convince them otherwise. Just go with their program.

C. Postage? You're stuck with that expense. No way to bargain out of it, but you can obtain a written agreement, the money will be returned to you if the script sells. Most agencies do this. Yes, it is expected at some agencies for the new writer to pay when scripts are shipped, pay a specified sum in advance, or billed to you monthly.

D. These "pay as you go" fees to the writer are usually charged to "new writers." Once you sell a script, they don't charge these fees. Why should they take on a new writer, foot the bills and go broke? Why should you have to pay when the agency will make a commission on the sale? Well, the agency is already paying the bills with employee wages and rent. All they want you to pay is postage, shipping envelopes, copy fees, phone calls, courier fees, etc. It's a fair trade, as long as expenses incurred by the agency are limited, so they can't hit you with a $1,000 bill. You don't want those sort of surprises.  Get an estimate from the agent.  Ask them to work within your budget.

E. You can save your budget by requesting they not "shotgun" the market by sending out 30-scripts or more and then send you an obscene bill.  Ask them to just circulate 4 or 8 scripts,whatever number you feel you can afford to keep in circulation. 

F. There is no way to tell if the agency is legitimate or just making money processing scripts for a fee. I tend to doubt they are laundering scripts, but one never knows.  Script mills do exist.  Just because a link is found on a prestigious web site does not mean the firm will deal fair and square. You could surf the Web screenwriting sites to see if negative statements are mentioned about the firm.  Then again, a lot of negatives are posted on web site discussion boards, so take posted advice with caution, especially if the commentator uses a fake name and e-mail address.   Some writers are vindictive.

G. Ultimately, it is a good deal. You have an agent that wants to take you on!  If they do their job well, you'll be laughing all the way to the bank.   If not, they will be a stepping stone in the learning process.  I suggest you take on the risk, as they are taking you on as a risk, too!  It's catch-22.

H. You could just say no and retain the situation you are in now, or say yes and foot the bill and give yourself and your screenplays a chance. Agents can open doors for you to get the scripts read at major studios.

I. Obviously, the agency is charging you for time and labor, but not too much. When you add up the cost of copies, covers, brads, labor of assembling the scripts, writing cover letters, buying shipping boxes, S.A.S.E. envelopes, affixing postage, etc., twenty dollars is reasonable. Well, it's an investment in yourself and your script. That's the positive point of view... and it gets you the exposure you need to sell the script.  Consider the fee a payment for the agent for taking you on and a fee for using their Hollywood contacts.

  I hope this answers your concerns. In my opinion, with the limited information you have given me, and in regards to how the industry functions, you should take the offer.   Just because you now have an agent does not mean you can sit back and relax, you need to get moving, and fast! You still must contact production companies, directors, stars, studios and producers.  If not?  The agent may drop you!   Our Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book explains the marketing process in great detail.

24.  How come we can't get coverage reports so we can fix our scripts?

  A few reasons. 1)  Agents and prodcos are not screenwriting schools, so they don't take on the advisory role to those they do not represent.  2)  Liability is another reason.  3)   Coverage reports often upset the writer so much they fire off nasty letters of rebuttal.  The industry does not need this sort of abuse.  If you receive a rejection, it will not hurt to write and ask for the coverage report.  Explain that you will not rebut it, to only use the report to improve the script.  Some agents will send it to you, others will not.  Don't forget the S.A.S.E..  You may lose a few dollars in postage from agents that will not respond, but from those that do respond, it will be well worth the price to have those coverage reports.  Don't get angry when you read it, the report will be pretty harsh and may even be insulting, in many cases.  4)  That's the 4th reason coverage is not sent to the writer.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets has a query letter you can use that will generate coverage reports from agents and prodcos that traditionally are not given to writers. Knowing why your script is rejected is important so you can fix the errors.

25.  How do I protect my work before submitting to agents?

  Easy.  Write to the Library of Congress, Copyright Office, Washington DC and ask for form PA with instructional guide.  It costs $30 per script. Next, register with the Writer's Guild, ask them to send you instructions o how to register screenplays.  See our screenwriting links page for the WGA link.  Never send your scripts to anyone until you have performed both registrations.  You normally don't need to wait until you receive a registration number from the copyright office, as it can take months to arrive.  Simply mail the application and then proceed to get your script registered with the WGA.  The WGA will only take a couple weeks to process.  When you receive your WGA registration number, then you are ready to make submissions and your work is protected.

26.  Where can I obtain free advice?

  Visit our Links Page for writers, as you will find guidance and advice on these Websites.  Have a question related to marketing your script?  Write us! E-mail.

27. I am new to screenwriting and I don't know where to begin.  Please help!

  Visit our general writing links and books page.  You should read books on how to write screenplays and subscribe to the screenwriting magazines.  You can attend schools, but you'll still need the books and magazines.  Essentially, this is how it all begins.  Now, write your first script, starting today.  You'll need a professional script formatting program such as Final Draft, Movie Magic or Scriptware.  They may be expensive; but, are well worth the price as they are your primary business tools.

28. Must I have majored in English to write a good script?

  Certainly not!  Many writers with High School diplomas are making a great living and some even without any diploma!  Scripts are written in the 12th grade level as a industry standard.  Screenwriters are imaginative storytellers, not novelists.  Basic spelling and grammar is essential, but even these rules are often bent in the writing of the script.

29.  Is it true writers are earning money and never had their movie produced?

  Yes, it happens all of the time.  Many writers scripts are optioned and never produced.  The income they obtain is simply incredible.  Very few scripts are actually made into movies, but the optioned scripts outnumber them hundreds to one.   You can make an excellent living with option income and never see your movie on the big screen.  There are many unknown screenwriters making tremendous incomes with option sales and you will never know who they are. 

30.  What is the difference between the Writer's Guild of America West and East?

  Nothing.   They are the same organization (screenwriters labor union).  Just that if you reside east of the Mississippi River you belong east.  You can still work out west.   That's about it.

31.  Please explain using the ellipsis and the double-dash in dialog.

  The ellipsis (...) is used as a pause... a slight change of thought.  The double-dash (--) is used as a serious and abrupt interruption of thought.  The less -- you use -- of either... the better!  This rule is not chiseled in stone, but it's a good style.

32.  How many times must I rewrite my script before sending it out?

  Until it shines!  It will likely never be ready, really.  Writers are never satisfied with the finished product because it can always be improved.  You just have to come to a point where you feel somewhat comfortable to submit it.  If you are not sure, best bet is to use a script doctor to fill in the holes or hash it over with another pro writer.

33.  I read your script marketing book and it was great.  Exactly what I needed!  Why didn't anyone else think of writing a screenplay marketing book?  I'm curious. 

  I don't know.  Some screenwriting books touch on the subject of marketing, but none were totally dedicated to selling scripts.  There's a ton of books on how to write a screenplay.  When I first started out in the business I kept searching for that book on how to market and sell a script.  As years rolled on I just decided it was time to write Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets.  If I didn't?   The book likely would never have been written.  A lot of screenwriters know how to write, but they need to know how to sell what they have written or the script goes nowhere, fast!  Too many writers have quit due to failing the marketing process.   It's just my way of helping out.  That's all, really.  I'm sure writers have tried to write a marketing book and found it a daunting task.  I found that writing this book wasn't easy to piece it all together.  At times I felt like giving up myself, but I knew writers would benefit in a big way if I finished the book.

34.  When will the next edition of your book be available?

  It's available now!  The first printing was a small prepress version.   You can read about the first edition here.  

35.  Can I submit scripts to state film commissions?

  1) No.  Your state's film commission is an entity to attract production companies to film in the state's location.  They don't read scripts.  2) Some film commissions do offer screenplay contests.   The rules, of course, is a major proportion of the script's locations must related to their state.  This is the only time you can submit a script to a film commission.   They usually advertise for scripts in screenwriting magazines.

36.  Why is it agents do not want writers to call them on the phone?

  They are terribly busy people.  They work so hard it will make your head spin just to watch them in action!  It's a real hustle of a lifestyle to be an agent.   If they had to answer hundreds of phone calls each day they would not have any time to pitch scripts.  Never call an agent unless they ask you to call.

37.  I have never heard the term "firewall" by anyone.  Where did this term originate?

  There are many secrets to marketing a screenplay you will never read in magazines.  They do a great job, but the magazine can't possibly delve into deep subject matter.  Articles are very short, and many diverse articles appear in each issue, so it is impossible to cover marketing scripts in that medium.  It would require a year's worth, or more, of the entire size of the magazine to equal a book!   Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets is the first and only book in print totally dedicated to marketing and selling scripts, so you will certainly learn terminology you have never been exposed to before.

38.  Is it true a query letter can be rejected just because the wrong postage stamp is used?

  It happens more than you realize.  A smart agent, and most all are very, very smart, will look for those postage stamps with Elvis, Santa Clause, etc and toss those envelopes aside for a rejection.  It may seem incredibly trivial to the writer, but when marketing your script, you have to be businesslike in every manner possible.   There are a thousands of unstable and unprofessional writers trying to break into Hollywood to sell scripts.  Agents know, from experience, who is professional and who is not the moment they look at a letter.  They are not going to waste any time dealing with unprofessional people!  The postage stamp you use can mean the difference of your query letter being read or tossed aside.  It's a very real firewall filtering system being used on a daily basis in the industry.  In fact, you do the same thing when filtering your own mail looking at the postage stamps.  If you find first-class postage you save it.  If you see bulk-rate, you know it's junk mail and quickly set it aside.  The postage stamp you are using on your query letter may be screaming to the agent or production company, "Junk Mail Is Here, Throw Me Away!" and they do just that, send you a rejection while others who know how to submit professionally get their letters read and responded to with great satisfaction.   Screenwriters need to learn how to become polished businesspersons to get a script sold today.

39.  How come they don't teach script marketing in film school?

  They are now beginning to use our book as a teacher's guide for classroom instruction.  Years ago, marketing was simple.  Just write a good script, submit it and results happen.  Today, with the hundreds of thousands of query letters circulating in the mail competing with each other, many good scripts simply do not get read!  Most all queries are filtered so quickly they don't even get past opening the envelope to be taken seriously.  See answer # 38 for one reason alone!  That firewall blocks you from even submitting your script to be read.  Then there are other problems.  Assume you are asked to submit, but when the reader sees the script it is tossed away for instant rejection without even turning to page three!  They know an unprofessional script when they see one!  There are so many firewall filters in the industry today that only the pros know about.  For good reason, too!  The industry does not want your script!  They only want professional writers who have the knowledge and skills to present them selves properly and can get the job done.  Our marketing book teaches you all about these firewalls and how to perform professional submissions and a well written script... the way they want to see it.  Film schools that do not teach marketing of the script are performing a disservice to their students.   It's no picnic getting constant rejections after rejections when you know you have the talent and a good script and nobody will give you a chance.   

40.  Can I trust my agent and producers to do me right?

  In this business, which is essentially built on trust, you can not trust anyone!   The writer is at the bottom of the pecking order and you will be wronged.  If you don't like that idea, then consider not writing for a living!  All writers are burned here and there in many diverse ways too numerous to list here.  Your material will likely never be stolen as that is tangible, but your agent can pull some real nasty tricks on you and we do cover this in the book since it is related to marketing of scripts.  Don't worry about these things, as things happen when they do and there is no use trying to build up defense strategies or lose sleep over it.  Just keep submitting your scripts and get the thing sold, that's what it's all about anyway.   Everything else like royal treatment, fame and honor are about as long lasting as a wisp of smoke in a Santa Ana wind.  There are laws, lawyers and the WGA labor union to protect your rights.  What more do you want?

41.  I was told many screenwriters could not pass a high school English test.  Is this true?

  It is true.  Unlike writing a book, a screenplay allows for grammar rule bending and twisting and turning.  One must not get carried away with this though.   Many writers are selling scripts that would be instantly trashed by a book editor.   Improper grammar usage is one reason why scripts just don't make the honors lists when it comes to literary art.

42.  When do I use Voice Over and Off Screen?

  VOICE OVER (V.O.) is used in the character que and OFF SCREEN (O.S.) is used in description.  The rule is easy; V. O. is used when a "voice" of a character is heard, but the character is not seen on the the screen.  O.S is used in description where "no character voice" is used, but rather an explosion, phone or doorbell ringing that is not visually portrayed on the screen.  Be aware, you should use very few of these directions and use them only when absolutely necessary to ad "dramatic impact."  Use too many and the reader will know for sure an amateur is submitting the script and you'll receive a bombardment of rejections.

43.  What is an author script?

  It is what the author/screenwriter writes, not a production shooting script.  A shooting script has scene numbers, a lot of directions, camera orientation, etc.  A spec script must be an author script.  Our book explains all this.  Scripts you buy are shooting scripts, so don't try to follow that format when submitting a script.   Why?  Rejections galore!

44.  Can I hire a screenwriter to write my script for me?

  Yes, you can.  It is better that you write it yourself because the hired writer will want credit for your screenplay and according to WGA rules will likely prevail in favor of the hired-gun if you challenge the credit entitlement.  It's also going to be very expensive to hire a pro screenwriter!  Better bet? Find a writer (with credits if possible) who will co-write the script with you and share the risk and rewards.   It's called a collaboration arrangement.

45.  Will you evaluate or co-write my screenplay?

  No.  We are not in the script doctor or collaboration business. 

46.  I called a few agents and found them to be rude.  Are most all like that?

  They are upset you called them.  Never call an agent unless they call you first.  You are breaking a major rule of business protocol; effectively destroying your career before it has even begun.

47.  A producer called me and wants to read my script.  Should I send it to him not knowing who he is?

  You can fret about who and what this character may be and worry that he will steal your ideas.  That is what is going through your mind, right?  As long as you copyright and register your script with the WGA you have protected yourself to the maximum.  What more do you want?  You may want to insist on not sending the script to a post office box, but that is no protection anyway.  You could send the producer an author release form, have him sign and return it then send the script, but don't count on any producer to sign it.  You just have to shovel your fear into the furnace and mail the thing.  We all face these fears.  Ideas are not copyrightable.  You may believe your story is incredibly unique, but it really isn't as unique as you believe it is.  Some scene elements may be and those will be covered by copyright.

48.  How long should description be?

  Preferably two lines, no more than four.  Remember the rule; more white space on the page.

49.  I have read very heavy blockbuster movie scripts, but screenwriters say not to write like this.  Why?

  The script you read is a shooting script, or was adapted for print publication, or was a "work for hire" and that means it is not a spec author script.   New writers must write and submit an author script.  If you don't adhere to this rule you will never obtain excellent coverage reports from readers.  That means rejections will just be a way of life for you.  The script is not a book, it must be very easy to read with a lot of action-oriented visual imaging.

50.  No matter how much I try, I keep finding spelling errors.  Why?

  If you are writing your script with a word processor, you will find that the corrections are sometimes made on the screen, but when printed they still have not been changed!  It is maddening and it happens more than a writer would like to believe.   This is just one reason why it is critical to use dedicated professional screenplay formatting programs.  The programs are expensive, but essential.  Don't rely on a spell-checker as they will not identify misplaced words; there, their, they're are all spelled correctly, but may be gramatically wrong.  Print your screenplay on paper then read it.  The eye can easily miss spelling errors on a computer screen.   The word gramatically in this paragraph is spelled wrong, it should be; grammatically.  By the way, a screenplay can get by with three spelling errors.   Any more than this and you are asking for a rejection.  Every writer, every editor and every proofreader misspells a word here and there.  Humans are not machines, we all make mistakes!  Ninety-eight percent of all books published have misspelled words and improper grammar. 

51.  Any good advice for a screenwriter trying to sell the first script?

  When you write, focus entirely on the main character.  I mean focus like mad!  Every emotion at every moment in time must be felt and inserted into the script without actually saying how the actor feels.  Just keep putting the main character in a box that is sinking fast with little chance of escape, then when he escapes put him in another box with greater danger than the last.  This is a character generated screenplay and that is what actors are looking for... challenging roles to display powerful acting skills with great action and suspense.

52.  I am having a terrible time getting my script read.  What is the secret?

  Marketing!  Writing the script and selling a script are two separate functions.  There are many books to teach you how to write and format a script, but there is only one book in print "solely dedicated" to marketing a script, Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets.  And yes, there are secrets to getting your script sold.  Writing a screenplay is a complex endeavor to get it right, but who is going to teach you how to sell your screenplay?  You can read magazine and Web site articles, but they can't possibly delve into all of the fine details related to selling a script.  If your screenplay is not being accepted by your query letter, then your query letter is at fault.  A query has but one purpose, to get your script accepted for a review by the assigned reader.  The book has many query letter examples you can use.  Do they work?  They certainly do!  But your cover letter can blow it, too!  The book also has sample cover letters you may use.   If your script is constantly being rejected it can be many things wrong.  The book covers the errors and omissions with a checklist coverage report you can use before you submit your script.  They say good writing gets a script sold, but in the real world it's good marketing that gets a script sold!  Both methods are required.   There are thousands of writers with great scripts that can't get past the firewalls.

53.  Will your book guarantee I will sell my script?

  No book can guarantee you will sell your script, not one book ever published can promise you that, not even from star screenwriters!  But we absolutely guarantee you will see an immediate positive response rate from your script submissions and save more money than you paid for the book or we refund the purchase price of the book. We are the only publisher offering a screenwriting book with a money-back guarantee!   How many books have you purchased with not one element of a guarantee?  We know the book is powerful and effective and will deliver on the promise, so we are not worried you will be returning the book asking for a refund.  Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets is a technical textbook specifically dedicated to selling your script with step-by-step instructions, illustrated with sample query and cover letters and much more!  The book does not explain boring marketing theory, it tells you what to do right now, today, with the script you have in your hands to get it sold.  That's the power of the book!  Trying to sell a script without sound advice and instruction is futile.  When you are tired of the rejections, read this book!  There has been a dire need for a book like this and now it is available.

54.  How can I get the camera on my character or an item without giving camera directions?

  Easy, just say "Karen's eyes water" or "Clock reads 4:30" or "Finger stirs hot tea."  You get the idea.  This tells the director to shoot tightly without you giving formal camera shot directions.  When you do these things, make sure it is absolutely essential to the story.  New writers tend to unfocus from the story and concentrate on camera directions.  You are visualizing what you want to see on the screen, but this distracts from the most important element of a screenplay, "the story."  Tell a good story and let the director and other creative talent do their job.  Scripts are rejected for this one mistake alone!   You need to realize the industry has incredible talent at its disposal who have great ideas to make your "story" come alive in a powerful way; artists, directors, special effects, set design, casting, you name it.  Don't intrude into these fields where other professionals reside.  Why?  It labels you as an unprofessional.

55.  I was told agents do not read query letters anymore.  If so, how does one break into the business?

  It is true some (not all) of the major agents are too busy and not interested in reading the tens of thousands of query letters arriving in the mail from new writers, but a good query in the right hands can get you recommended to the major agents!  Agents that are not top-level, but still signatory to the WGA, are still reading query letters and they have power to get scripts sold.  Just because a few elite agents use a query firewall system does not mean the query is absolutely dead.  There are many avenues to marketing screenplays and the query letter is only one method.  Don't forget, production companies and managers are seeking scripts and they will certainly read your query letters.  The query will always be an important marketing tool for new and established writers.  If it were absolutely 100% correct queries are not being read, then high-level agents would not be authorizing their annual listings requesting writers to submit query letters.  Publishers submit to agents each year authorization forms for an agent to be listed in books and magazine listings.  The top agents are still participating!  Every writer will tell you a different way how they obtained entry into the business.  That is because there are different ways to get in.   There is no set formula or procedure that works for everyone.  This is why you must explore all of the entry points.     

56.  What screenplay are you writing now?

  Never tell anyone what you are writing!  It will drive the fire out of the story and you'll never finish the script.  I am not avoiding your question, it's just that it is true if you tell, you lose.  Keep your project hushed until you finish it, even then, just get it into the marketplace and get on with your next project.  

57.  How many pages in a sitcom script?  Movie?   Movie of the Week?

  Screenplays are timed at one page per minute of filming.  For a two hour movie this will calculate to 120 pages.  Of course, you should reduce your script between 110 to 115 pages.  Why the reduction from 120 to 115 pages?  To save money in production cost.  A sitcom is 1 1/2 pages per minute.  For a thirty minute sitcom 45 pages in the norm, but you can go up to 60 pages if you keep your descriptions to only a single line in length.  Best advice?  Do not exceed 45 pages.  Sitcom scripts have more white space on the page, due to formatting and the employment of mostly dialog.  A movie of the week (MOW) times out the same as a screenplay in relation to page count, but commercial breaks inserted as scene acts creates more white space.  The script may be 115 pages long, but have only 110 pages of actual dialog and description.  Professional screenwriting software will format the film, sitcom, MOW or stage play script for you automatically.

58.  I plan to quit my job and write for a living.   How do I proceed?

  Don't!  To make a living writing requires years of practice, just like learning to play a musical instrument.  Take your lessons and as time evolves your writing begins to sell, then it becomes evident you can quit your day job because you have so much work offered to you.  This may not be the advice you wanted to hear, but you should consider the writing bug is like getting bit with gold fever where reason leaves and only desire remains.  In the mean time the bills will pile up and drive you back to a full-time job, then the writing spirit dies and your dream never comes into reality.   Keep working your day job, keep writing and enjoy your life.  Don't forget you can write magazine and newspaper articles and books, too.  Screenwriting is not everything, so don't limit your avenues to success. 

59.  I would like to write for a career.  What options are available to me?

  See answer # 58.  It is not easy to break into the screenwriting business.   It will require a tremendous amount of time, energy and perseverance to break in.   In the mean time while pursuing your screenwriting goals, you should consider writing a book.  Getting a book published is hard, too, but there are thousands of publishers to submit your manuscript.  And, there is big money to be made with royalties in books equal to and beyond what you could earn selling screenplays over the long term.  You also call the shots and retain a lot more control over the content.   When you sell a script, you lose all control as to what happens to the script.   The movie you wrote will be revised so you may not even recognize it as being yours!  Plus, the book subsidiary rights can be sold to the movie industry.  Now you have the book's royalty income along with selling the subsidiary rights, which you receive royalties on those sold rights, too!  You should explore writing for magazines and newspapers as a staff writer or freelance.  See our page, Advice for Book Authors if you wish to explore writing a book.

60.  Name the major reasons scripts are rejected?

  The answer would be too long to give here, so let's just sum it up to one major reason for script rejection.  The reader can tell in the first five seconds just by looking at a script if it is written by a seasoned professional or a new writer.   When the presentation is unprofessional, the script is rejected without even being read.  This is one of the greatest firewall's in Hollywood, so your script must look professional.  But once the reader gets past your title page it has to deliver the goods by remaining professional on each page.  It's not just formatting that gets your script rejected, it's your writing style and the story structure that will give you grief.  Those elements are considered by the reader as being professional or unprofessional.  You must learn how to submit your query, cover letter and your script in a professional manner to have your script taken seriously.  There is no getting around this.  If you fail to elevate your script to industry standards it just won't sell.  It will never be given an opportunity to reach the executive level.  

61.  I was told it is possible to earn a living in screenwriting without ever selling a script.  True?

  Of course.  Studios have hired many writers as staff writers to write or rewrite other stories and the writer never sold his own scripts.  Your screenplay should not be marketed as a separate identity to yourself.  Use your script as your business card to obtain employment.  So, by trying to sell your script, you may obtain employment offers.  It's routine in the industry.    

62.  How can I get an actor read my script? 

  This technique is not to be used by novice writers, no matter how good you think your script is!  There are certain things you must do to your script before you submit, and the script must have ranked high in a screenplay contest, or be highly recommended by a producer, director, agent, writer, etc., to get the attention of the actor to even read it.  If your script has ranked high in a contest, then you can contact the Screen Actors Guild to inquire who the actor's manager is, then submit your query to the manager, not the actor!  SAG's phone: (323)-549-6737.  If SAG won't tell you who the manager is, then ask them who the actor's agent is, then ask the agent who the manager is.  Do not send your script.  You must submit a query letter.  

63.  What form do I use to Copyright my screenplay?

  Form PA.

62.  Do you have more advice for screenwriters?

  If you want to sell your screenplay or stageplay read books on how to perform the marketing process.  You may have an excellent script, but if you can't sell it?   This means you are failing the marketing process.  Go to our  Books for Writers page.  Writers study like mad on how to write, but they don't study sales technique and they fail to sell their scripts.   It's that simple.  Read our book Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets.

63.  I can't seem to get an agent.  Any alternatives?

  Yes.  There are many alternative routes you can take.  One route is to use the services of a Talent Manager.  They are not agents but they do represent screenwriters for submission to actors, producers, directors, studios, etc.   If they like your script they can sell if fast and make arrangements for you in all matters of getting the script sold.  Our book Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets covers this topic and lists managers willing to give readers of the book special consideration.

64.  Do those script writing programs really work and are they worth the price?

  Absolutely.  I wouldn't dare attempt to write a script without one.   It is wonderful to have a computer program to perform all the pagination and formatting for you and convert the script automatically from an author's script to a shooting script with a click of the mouse.  They do so much more than this, so they are certainly worth every dollar spent. 

65.  Which page is the most important page in the script?

  Page one.  This is the first minute in your movie.  It's about the only page an agent, director, producer or movie executive will read, if you don't grab attention.  A script reader will consider the first ten to fifteen pages to be important.  Actors tend to like the last page, since this is the final impression they will leave on the audience.

66.  I want this one agent badly, but they keep rejecting my queries.  Any advice?

  Find out what directors (or producers) they have worked with indirectly with writers they do represent.  Send the agent a query saying, "This script is for director______."  They will request the script.  If the script is not good, they will hate you for doing this.  If the script is great, they will love you and sign you up.  Best to make certain the script is good by having it professionally evaluated and enter it into a screenplay contest to see how it ranks.  If all goes well, then submit the query. 

67.  Are you accepting screenplays and plays for publishing?  If so, how do authors benefit?

  We will consider produced and unproduced scripts for publication.  See our manuscript Manuscript Submissions Guidelines and Advice.  The published writer may benefit with increased exposure to the market to attract an agent or production company and earn royalties on individual script sales.  We first publish the script electronically, and if sales justify, the script may enter the Print On Demand system.   Then, if sales increase, the script may be published in traditional paper/brad script or perfect bound book format for wider distribution.  The author may convert the script into a stage play or book manuscript to increase sales, royalties and heighten agency/prodco attraction to purchase the script for production.

68.  If you published my script what rights would you hold?

  We would own all the primary publishing and secondary subsidiary rights as all book publishers require.  This means, as publisher, we would own the rights to the script/screenplay/play and be entitled to compensation from the buyer on the sale of the script to the entertainment industry.  The book contract explains the terms and conditions.  This is typical of any publisher who own the rights to a book and the film/theatrical industry wishes to purchase the rights to produce an adaptation for live performance or film.  To learn more about book authorship go to our Advice for Book Authors page.  Author retains the copyright.

69.  Will publishing my script guarantee a sale?

  A book is easier to sell to bookstores, libraries and the public in large numbers.  The public generally do not order scripts; however, this attitude is slowly changing by exposing scripts to traditional book markets.  There is no guarantee your script will be successful in the market.  The script may obtain bad reviews and industry buyers may not like the script.  No publisher can guarantee your book will be a success.  Publishing is a gamble.  The only thing that can be done is publish the book or script and hope the industry and public finds the book favorable and the book sells.  We would assign the book an ISBN number and list the book with industry publications so bookstores and Web sites can list and order the book worldwide in all publishing markets.  We can't guarantee your script will be purchased for theatrical or film production.  No publisher can.  There are many bestselling books that have never been optioned for theatrical adaptation.  One thing that is certain, a book that is not published has no chance of ever earning sales and royalties.

70.  How much royalties will I receive if you publish my script?

  Ten to fifteen percent based on net sales earned by publisher.  See our Advice for Book Authors page.

71.  Can I still market my script if you publish my script?

  Yes.  As publisher, it is not our prime directive to market your script to the theatrical industry, but this does not limit us from doing so.  Generally, everything remains the same.  You can still network and query the entertainment industry to option and sell your script.  When a sale is imminent, the publisher must be contacted and included to consummate the sale.  The plus side of mentioning your script is published by a publisher in your query letters may generate heated interest in the entertainment industry to consider optioning your script.  There's no guarantee this will happen with your script, but the theatrical and film industry do take serious notice of published works by publishers.

72.  What increases my odds of having my script published by your publishing firm?

  Send us your query letter and include a copy of the unproduced script's standing in a screenplay contest.  Also, send us a valid copy of a review or evaluation from a script doctor or other notable source.  We will only publish quality scripts, so make sure your stage play, television or screenplay script has obtained a measure of recognition by the industry.  Your script should rank in the top 100 in a screenplay contest.  A positive magazine or newspaper review may substitute for the above.    If your script does not meet these minimum requirements, do not send us a query for that script. 

73.  Do you accept unsolicited submissions?

  Only query letters.  Do not send us your script unless we specifically ask you to do so.  We will send you a release form when we need to review the script.

74.  Must I write a treatment to sell a screenplay?

  No.  Only if you are selling a teleplay (television show script) is a treatment desired.  New writers need a completed sceenplay.

75.  How long does it take for readers to review a script?

  There is no set time limit.  Expect a month to three on average.  Some rejections or acceptances can take up to a year.  Just because you have not heard from the prodco or agent in a few months does not mean the script is rejected.   Having patience pays.  Too many writers get on the phone or write too many follow-up letters and they wonder why they can't get their script sold.  The industry rewards patient professional writers. 

76.  Should I write a screenplay or book first?

  Write the one you feel most competent to write. If you can write both, fine.   Consider that it is easier to market a book than a script.  Why?  There are more publishers than script buyers, so you have a larger market to sell your work.   There is a lot of money to be made in both industries. 

77.  How do I format a script?

  Screenwriting software will format the script automatically for you.  This includes television, film, stage play, audio visual, etc.  However, you still need to know how to format a script without relying on the software, so you can tell when the format is not right.  Go to our Books for Writers page and order "The Screenwriters Bible."  You should read author scripts, not production scripts, to learn how to format the script for the specific medium you are writing. 

78.  How do I make a low budget movie?

  Use locations near Los Angeles, California and stay away from water and pyrotechnic effects.  If the movie can take place in a single location like a ship, office building, factory, airport, casino, etc., the film will fall into a lower budget.   Make the film current, no history piece where old cars or special sets must be constructed to reproduce the historic era.  Use less expensive props in the script; use a old car instead of a Jaguar.  Keep the number of characters below six.   Follow these brief tips and you'll have a low budget screenplay.

79.  Will the Internet Address Book help track agent submissions?

  Yes.  If you are contacting agents, production companies and script submission Websites, you will find the book to be of great value in tracking your contacts.   Click here to read more about the book.

80.  Must I obtain permission to use an established character's name in my script?

  Yes.  But why you want to do this is a mystery.  Hollywood frowns on scripts using proprietary material of any sort.  Chances are your script will be doomed.  Create your own characters as you stand a better chance of selling your script.  Plus, you may be surprised that you will not be granted permission to use a character's name in your script.  A big mistake new authors make?  They are compelled to adapt an established work instead of creating their own material.   Adaptations are reserved for professional writers with clout, experience and industry connections.  No place for a novice in this department.

81.  What font should be used in query letters, synopsis and treatments?

  You can't go wrong with Times New Roman set at 12 points.  Arial font is fine.  Sometimes you can use 11 point size to pack in more words on a page, but go no smaller than 11 point. 

82.  I need a mentor, a professional scriptwriter to help me.  How do I find one?

  Most screenwriters are too busy to spend time to help others, even for pay.   Read books, attend screenwriting classes and seminars is your best bet.  You can join a writer's group.  Visit screenwriting Web sites for additional tips and advice (see our links page).   Once your script is finished, you should than take it to a script doctor who will clean it and bring it up to industry standards. 

83.  I constantly read on Websites and other sources I must have an agent to sell a script. Why?
  First of all it is not 100% true you must first have an agent to sell a script. If you are soliciting your script to the major studios, yes you will need an agent. However, not much appears to be known about getting your script into the backdoor where it can be sold. These techniques are covered in the Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets book. For example; many screenplays are sold not by agents, but by writers who have made a producer interested in the script and the producer contacts the agent to represent the writer! Another example; many production companies that agents rely upon do accept scripts from unrepresented writers. When they like your query letter they will request the script. If they like the script they will call an agent to represent you. Another example; Movie Stars can read your script and if they like it, they will make all the arrangements for you. There are secrets to this business many writers are unaware of. If you keep doing what 100,000 other writers are doing you'll be lost in the shuffle. Learn everything you can about how to write a script, then learn all you can how to sell a script.

84. Can I submit a script when I don't have a copyright registration number?

  You can, but it is not advised until you obtain the copyright registration.   However, that can take over five months to wait.  This is one reason you should consider using alternative registration services.  Protect Rite is a firm that registers books, stage plays, TV, movie scripts, treatments, outlines, query letters, synopsis, art work, etc.  The Writer's Guild only registers television scripts, movie screenplays, treatments and outlines.  When you register your work with these alternative registries it allows you to market your material quickly.   If you ever have to prove you are the author of the work, the alternative registry registration will stand up in court as evidence of authorship and ownership.  In any case, never mail your manuscript until it has been registered with a registration service or wait until your copyright registration number arrives from the US Copyright Office (you'll wait 5 to 6 months).  Alternative registration services does not replace a US Copyright registration.  They allow you to get your product to market faster and add another level of protection.  Go to our Writing Links page to contact these firms. 

85. What is involved and the advantages to adapt a screenplay to a stage play?

  1.  It's not too difficult to make the adaptations.   You'll need to examine each scene in your script for blocking of the actors, as they are three dimensional.  They can move left, right, back, forward, diagonally, up and down.  The Playwright gives stage directions in the script unlike the writer of a screenplay author script.  You'll need to learn the craft of stage play writing as it is different then writing for motion pictures.  2.  Read books and author stage play scripts and copy the format.  You'll need to follow the author script format, not the condensed format you will see in published plays or you will never sell the script!   The script format is different than film, but is easy to learn, very easy!   Screenwriting software can convert your film script to play format.  You'll need to manually add act breaks in a three act play if the software will not comply with the formatting, which is not a problem to do.  3.  The benefits of creating a stage play?  The market is huge to sell your play.  Every city has more than two theaters, some as many as a dozen.  You have thousands of theaters to market your play in the USA alone and many more thousands in other countries.  The market is incredibly large compared to film and television.  It is much easier to get your stage play produced than a film.  Many playwrights have progressed to make it big in film once their plays were staged.  The Dramatist Guild can help you in many ways to becoming a playwright.  Our book Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets has a lot of advice on selling stage plays.  4.   Attend a live stage play, talk with the director and ask if you can sit in on some rehearsals.  Most all will allow you to attend and freely give you advice and feedback on writing your play.  Before you write your play, get to know a few directors so you can quickly learn what they need and desire in a script.  Don't be shy.  They love to meet playwrights!

86. I can't afford a expensive screenwriting software program.  Are there any less than $100?

 Page 2 Stage is an economical program.  Price ranges from around $55 to $75.      

87Can you help me get an agent?

  I can help, but I can't guarantee anything for you.  What I can do is steer you to our Sreenwriting Links page, scroll down the page to see a listing of literary agents who are open and willing to let you submit a query letter. 

88I need a script consultant and a lot of good advice.  Where do I go?

  Go to our Links page.  You may also want to contact David Trottier at: dave@keepwriting.com as he is well respected in the business.  His Website is: www.keepwriting.com.

89Do you know of a script printing service?  Yes.  Script Express - They print and bind your script for you and will even mail it.  No more printing, collating pages, punching holes in the paper, inserting the brads into the cover, etc.  Just upload your data file and they do the rest.  I think this is a very good service to offer. 

 

 

 

 

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