Ask the Screenplay Doctor: How to (and Not to) Submit a Query Letter
Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by: Michele Meek
How to Submit a Query Letter
Your query letter should be a succinct one-pager that includes a one-sentence logline, one-paragraph script synopsis, one paragraph about your background (preferably any writing or film-related experience and awards), and one-paragraph inviting the addressee to read your script. The order in which you place these paragraphs is up to you.
Your query must be specific to each individual and tailored to the agent or executive’s company, so do not write a form letter, or address your query: To Whom It May Concern. Film executives have different opinions as to whether or not writers should compare their scripts to successful films in their queries; some like to see that you’ve written a unique project that has never been seen before, while others want to see how your project can fit into their marketing scheme. If you do decide to reference other films, make sure the film was a box-office success!
Make sure that the company or film industry executive that you are querying are actually accepting queries, and if so, whether they prefer submission via an email, fax, or hard copy. (Some companies prefer you send a hard copy along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to respond so they can enclose a release form if they are interested in reading your script).
You must follow each company’s query submission guidelines otherwise your query will be discarded. Remember, typos and grammar errors are a sign that you are not respecting the recipient of your query letter, and it is a sure way to have your query rejected.
Get feedback on your query from someone whose opinion you respect and trust, and ask them if your query was enticing enough for them to want to read your script.
How Not to Submit a Query
Two of the questions I received this month from readers were poorly written and contained typos and grammatical errors. (One even misspelled the word “query” in the subject line of his email.) As it is never my intention to embarrass any reader, I am not going to have either reprinted in this column. This is a good reminder that you must proofread your queries to film executives; don’t just rely on Spellcheck. Have someone else proofread your work before you submit it, as it is very difficult to find one’s own errors.
One of these aforementioned emails requested I assist her in finding her an agent, and the other email, which included an entire synopsis of a project, asked me to assist in producing their project. The Ask the Screenplay Doctor column is designed to answer your questions about screenwriting — I am a screenplay and film consultant, and for a fee, provide feedback on screenplays, queries, treatments, pitches, loglines, synopses, as well as films-in-progress through my consulting company Su-City Pictures (www.su-city-pictures.com). I am not a producer and I do not offer referrals to agents through this column or through my company.
To read more about how to write successful query letters and how to find an agent, you can find more information in my previous monthly columns in this publication, as well as in my book The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! which contains additional advice, including successful and unsuccessful logline examples, and query letter samples and templates, and information about where and how to submit queries.
To read more about how to write successful query letters and how to find an agent, you can find more information in my previous monthly columns in this publication, as well as in my book The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! which contains additional advice, including successful and unsuccessful logline examples, and query letter samples and templates, and information about where and how to submit queries. You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.