Marvin Acuna from the Business Of Show Institute lists three basic guidelines to consider when crafting your next query letter:
1) KNOW YOUR MARKET
Targeting CAA or any of the top-tier literary representatives as an emerging writer is simply the wrong strategy. They are shaping careers, not inventing them. They are elevating a career, not commencing one. Let them come to you.
Targeting boutique entities that develop new talent is a more appropriate and useful strategy. New blood is welcomed. But, be original.
Most representative inboxes are littered with emails that begin:
Boring and generic, right? If your email query begins this way or anything that resembles it you may as well delete the email yourself.
Instead use the power of the internet to insure that your introduction stands out. Keep in mind that this is a town full of press releases, screenwriting forums, and companies that exist to track who is being hired, fired, promoted, who sells what, who buys what, etc… Use this information to set yourself apart. Here’s an example:
In my opinion, that opening presents you as an informed professional versus a novice.
Do some due diligence on the target. This affords you the opportunity to personalize the letter. Hear me: I’m not suggesting that you make this some rambling saga. Keep it simple.
2) THE RIGHT HOOK
The industry is changing and will continue to evolve but, what will not change is this… Representatives are seeking material they can sell in a competitive marketplace!
Your logline is the essential ingredient. I recommend that you always introduce your most commercial, big idea. Your logline should evoke the imagination to see the movie poster, the video box.
If it doesn’t, rework your one-to-two sentence logline until it does. The goal is to entice the reader to request the script, just as a trailer’s purpose is to sell tickets. This is the “coming attractions” moment.
Think in terms of a certain rhetorical device – “Not only, but also.” In essence, you are introducing the reader to a base they are already familiar with, but then offering a twist or something about the subject they did not know.
The Easter Bunny decides to retire and hides out as a pet with a suburban family, turning their lives upside down.
By distilling your screenplay idea to its most memorable form you will make it easily transferable and saleable.
3) THE FIRST IMPRESSION
Absolutely never neglect the basics of spelling, grammar, and clear, vivid writing. This is your first impression… it matters! Your query letter itself functions partly as a writing sample.
This is your sales tool, not a sales pitch. Don’t make the mistake of confusing the two. This is not the place to ramble on about how great your screenplay is or how engaging your characters are. That’s for the reader to decide. Special Note: If your uncle tells you that your idea is a $100 Million Dollar idea… let him buy it. ☺
Write a professional, intelligent, concise, intriguing query that includes a compelling and commercially viable logline and not only will you entice representatives to ask for more, but you’ll be one step closer to a sale.