How To Get A Hollywood Literary Agent

Do you want to know how to get a Hollywood literary agent?

Let’s talk about exactly what literary agents are looking for in new clients in scripted TV, reality TV, and feature film (hint: each area is a little different…).

literary agent - Chad Gervich author How To Manage Your Agent
Chad Gervich, author of How To Manage Your Agent

The world of agencies and Hollywood literary agents is somewhat secretive.

Agents (generally) prefer to work behind the scenes and keep the spotlight on their clients. So it’s no wonder that there is a lot of misinformation about agents and how to get one.

Thankfully, Chad Gervich, veteran TV producer/writer and author of How To Manage Your Agent: A Writer’s Guide To Hollywood Representation, asked dozens of agents to rank the factors that led them to sign new clients (or not).

The Literary Agent – Demystified

How To Manage Your Agent is an invaluable resource for navigating the literary agent relationship and for figuring out how to get a literary agent for TV or film.

I asked Chad if I could excerpt one of the most important sections about what Hollywood literary agents look for and need in new clients and he agreed.

Take it away, Chad!

Excerpted from How To Manage Your Agent: A Writers Guide to Hollywood Representation

By Chad Gervich
Literary Agents book How To Manage Your Agent Chad GervichYou’ve got four great scripts under your belt, a desk full of brilliant ideas, and—most importantly—youve read this book, so you understand how agents and managers function: when they staff, how they find assignments, where they sell pitches and projects.

You could not be more ready . . . or could you?

Before spending time, energy, and possibly money hunting for representation, it may be helpful to ask yourself: “am I really ready for a literary agent or manager?

This is different than asking: “do I want a literary agent or manager?”

Lots of people want a literary agent or manager, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready, career-wise, to attract or have a literary agent or manager. And if you’re not ready to actually have representation, to participate fully in an agent-client relationship, your time is better spent gathering or building the tools, resources, and credits necessary to eventually attract and use representation, rather than pursuing it prematurely.

The question to ask, then, is:

“What do representatives look for and need in new clients . . . and how can I fit the bill?

Because television and film are such different industries, TV lit agents and film lit agents often look for slightly different things in potential clients.

What Television Literary Agents And Managers Look For In New Clients

While TV literary agents and managers are almost always open to signing new clients, they’re not always open to signing any type of new client. Namely, “baby writers.”

In fact, many TV literary agents and managers won’t sign baby writers at all. Not because they don’t like finding and nurturing new talent, but because “breaking a baby,” or getting a first-time writer his first TV job, is a near-impossible task, with very little payoff.

literary agent - Michael Pelmont mananger New Wave Entertainment
Michael Pelmont, mananger

“It’s very, very tough to represent someone who has never worked in this business before,” says agent-cum-manager Michael Pelmont of New Wave Entertainment. “To get them that first break, to put in all that work, to trust they’re going to appreciate that and not walk away—there’s a huge risk you take on as a manager or an agent.”

Let’s break down what, exactly, makes a baby TV writer so risky:

  1. They dont have tons of relationships.

Having a large network of professional relationships is essential—especially in television—for young writers hoping to work. Showrunners tend to hire or promote friends and colleagues they already know; execs and producers recommend writers they’ve met and enjoyed. Unfortunately, baby writers may come brimming with talent, but they rarely come with a deep Rolodex of contacts.

Even those who have been working as assistants or P.A.s come with only limited connections—and while these connections are helpful, it takes as many relationships as possible, with almost every network and studio, to really “break” a baby writer.

This means agents must begin introducing writers to all the relevant producers and executives around Hollywood. This not only takes time, but one quick meeting with an exec or producer isn’t usually enough to lock down a staff job. So while agents and managers can make introductions, or plant the seeds of relationships, it’s up to writers to nurture those seeds, turning them into bona fide relationships, which takes even longer.

  1. The focus is staffing, not selling.

In television, most writers’ work comes from staffing, but the biggest paydays, especially for agents, come from selling or packaging original ideas that make it to air. Unfortunately, most baby writers, even those that are extremely talented, don’t have the experience or skills necessary to sell a show.

So while a good literary agent or manager may believe a baby writer has the talent to eventually pitch and sell a series, it often takes years of work before a client can actually sell her own show.

NS Bienstock agent Ra Kumar
Ra Kumar, literary agent

“If I have a kid [with a show idea] right out of college, I can’t go to a network because he’s never produced,” says N.S. Bienstock agent Ra Kumar. “That’s like going to an architectural firm with a drawing of a house and saying, ‘Okay, now we can start construction!’ You have to have people that know what they’re doing and have done it before.”

  1. Competition is high.

There are thousands of baby television writers clattering on keyboards across America, and only a handful of entry-level jobs. In 2012, broadcast networks aired only ninety-six scripted shows, and not all of them offered staff writer positions.

While cable shows also offer other opportunities, there are fewer scripted opportunities on cable than on broadcast. And because cable shows have smaller budgets, many staffs don’t staff writers at all. So these thousands of writers are competing for—in all of television—less than 200 openings a year!

Not to mention, most shows get canceled early or don’t last past a first season. So staffing a baby doesn’t mean a literary agent’s job is done. The odds are that writer will be unemployed again in a few months, and the agent will have to start all over again.

TV writers room- breaking bad- how to get a literary agent

  1. Baby writers take a lot of time and earn little money.

“I’ve heard of [writers] taking seven years to get their first job,” says one entertainment lawyer, and all that time, “you don’t know if you’ll ever get paid as a representative. Ever!”

Plus, when a baby writer does get his first job, it’s fairly low-paying. Let’s say a lucky staff writer makes $100,000 during his first year on a TV staff. $100,000 may not be spare change, but that writer’s literary agent or manager only pockets $10,000—which certainly isn’t enough to sustain business or put food on an agent’s family’s table.

Even if that agent or manager staffed four baby writers, that’s only $40,000 in commission; but let’s say that literary agent staffs four upper-level writers, each making close to $500,000 per year. Now that agent’s bringing home $200,000 in annual commission—and seasoned upper-level writers are much easier to staff than inexperienced babies.

  1. Baby writers dont earn agents or managers a promotion.

While literary agents and managers love and promote their clients, they also have their own careers to manage; they want to get their own promotions and raises.

Michael Pelmont mananger New Wave Entertainment
Michael Pelmont, manager

“The more invaluable [to the company] you become, the higher you go up,” says Pelmont, “whether it’s by raising more money, increasing the company’s profile in the marketplace, [or] running things internally.”

Yet while breaking a baby may be personally gratifying, it usually generates little money—or press—for an agent or manager’s company, which means it does little to further an agent or manager’s career.

For all of these reasons, literary agents and managers think carefully before signing a baby writer.

Richard Weitz WME literary agent
Richard Weitz, literary agent

“We’ll take on someone that’s really special,” says WME TV agent Richard Weitz, “but we’re not going to take on a ton of people who will collide against each other.

Maybe one or two or three. Not more than that.”

Thus, most writers need to have more going for them than just phenomenal writing samples.

In fact, “they actually don’t have to be great [writers],” says manager Jeff Holland of The Cartel. “[I won’t sign] a bad writer, but I will sign someone who is solid [if they’re] working for an individual, a showrunner, who is known to promote from within. If they’re on a show like Justified, which is going to go a couple more seasons, or a comedy like How I Met Your Mother, and you know they’re going to get promoted from within . . . sometimes you’re willing to work with somebody who you don’t feel has material as good as somebody you already represent, but they have connections and networking.”

What, then, are the most important elements for a TV writer to have in place in order to attract representation?

To find out, I asked feature lit agents and managers, scripted TV agents/managers, and reality agents/managers how they would rank 9 qualities they might find in prospective clients.

What Literary Agents Want In Scripted TV Writers

  1. Great writing samples
  2. Good in a room (personality/attitude)
  3. Professional TV writing credits
  4. Well-positioned to get their own work
  5. Interesting life experience
  6. Professional accomplishments in a related field
  7. Professional connections
  8. Living in Los Angeles
  9. Professional TV experience (non-writing)

What Literary Agents Want In Reality TV Producers

  1. Professional reality TV producing credits
  2. Good in a room (personality/attitude)
  3. Professional connections
  4. Living in Los Angeles
  5. Well-positioned to get their own work
  6. Interesting life experience
  7. Great reality producing samples (demo reels, etc.)
  8. Professional accomplishments in a related field
  9. Professional TV experience (non-producing)

What do the results tell you about TV literary agents and managers’ priorities and values as they hunt for new clients? Does this surprise you? Do the results change your feeling about whether or not you’re actually ready for representation?

What Feature Literary Agents and Managers Look For In New Clients

The world of feature screenwriting is just as competitive as television.

While movie executives aren’t filling positions on staffs like TV execs and producers, there are thousands of aspiring scribes clamoring to make the next big sale. One feature agent estimated he received 4,000 unsolicited queries per year.

Wannabes are fueled by stories like that of Brad Ingelsby, who, in 2008, was living with his parents in Pennsylvania, working at his dad’s furniture company, when Relativity purchased his spec screenplay The Low Dweller (later renamed Out of the Furnace) for $650,000 against $1.1 million. Inglesby has since gone on to become one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters.

Brad Ingelsby screenwriter
Brad Ingelsby’s first screenplay sale was to Relativity for $650,000 against $1.1 million

In 2012, he sold The All-Nighter to Warner Brothers, The Signal to Indian Paintbrush, and was hired to rewrite Gareth Evans’ award-winning Indonesian martial arts film, The Raid: Redemption, for Screen Gems.

Yet while stories like Ingelsby’s are inspirational, they’re anomalies. The vast majority of writers don’t sell million-dollar screenplays while living hundreds of miles from Hollywood. Most screenwriters get their start by slaving away in Los Angeles and selling their first screenplay for something closer to WGA minimum—about $125,000 on the high end (on the low end, about $35,000).

Sure, $125,000 is nothing to sneeze at for a writer, but for a feature agent commissioning ten percent, it’s less than $13,000 (or, if you sold a low-budget, non-original script, about $3,500). Again, like with baby television writers, this hardly sustains an agent’s business.

So do feature agents look for the same factors as TV literary agents? Yes, although not necessarily in the same order of importance.

Here’s Verve agent Zach Carlisle:

literary agent Zach Carlisle Verve
Zach Carlisle, literary agent

“Staffing and development on the TV side is very much about getting into the club. There are a lot of fantastic writers out there, but getting into that first room or getting that first piece of development is hard without the relationship. On the feature side, if you have a great script you can gain a lot of heat quickly. One executive reads, two executives read, they start to pass it around, it makes its way to a studio [or] studio president; [suddenly] everyone wants to sit down with this person.”

What Literary Agents Want In Feature Writers

  1. Great screenwriting samples
  2. Good in a room (personality/attitude)
  3. Interesting life experience
  4. Professional screenwriting credits
  5. Living in Los Angeles
  6. Professional accomplishments in a related field
  7. Professional connections
  8. Well-positioned to get their own work
  9. Professional film experience (non-writing)

Of course, literary agents and managers don’t actually use a quantifiable test like this to determine whether someone is worth representing. Much of it is instinct, gut reflexes, and personal connection. If an agent is blown away by a brilliant script from a first-time writer living in Houston, will he sign her? Maybe—if he truly believes he can sell the script.

Will a manager sign a baby writer who’s a bit raw, but works for a great showrunner and has tons of industry friends? Perhaps, if he thinks that writer can mature and has a viable opportunity to staff. The problem, unfortunately, if you don’t have enough of these qualities working in your favor, is even getting representatives to look at you.

So what do you do? You have talent, and you have some (presumably) terrific scripts, but you don’t live in L.A., or you have no Hollywood connections, or you’ve never had any writing published or produced. Does this mean you can’t attract representation? Not necessarily. There are two other ways you can garner the attention of an agent or manager:

1) Make something. Write, publish, or produce something fantastic that forces people to sit up and take notice. Stage an original play at your local theater and work hard to get positive press and reviews. Shoot an indie film and submit it to festivals, or rent out your local theater and screen it for your community. Publish (or self-publish) a best-selling novel! Put together a sketch group and perform at local comedy clubs or community functions — then shoot your material and post it online! Make a music video!

2) Move. If you already live in L.A. (or, to a lesser degree, New York City), ignore this one… but if you don’t, I’ll say it again: Move. If you’re serious about pursuing a writing career in Hollywood, it’s a career transition you’re going to have to make.

Thanks Chad, for sharing your research and experience with us! 

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Discussion About How To Get A Hollywood Literary Agent

  1. Vince

    Good info overall but the only thing I get tired of seeing is the: “write and publish a best selling novel!” Well, no shit. Should I direct a blockbuster on my own while I’m at it?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Totally understand. If only it were that easy, right?

    • BIG d

      I see where you’re coming from Vince, but If you’ve got enough to offer and present, all copyright protected of course, just keep at it and don’t let anything get in your way. You’ll get there in the end. I mean there’s a good few that were turned down when I used to be part of a film and distribution company, but they are doing 100% now. One has even made his own movie called, “The Eighth Round”, he’s Zeke Wilson. Zeke is a heavyweight boxing champion that was trained and partners with THE, Larry Holmes, and Worldwide Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Joe Frazier. Like the many others I used to represent, I wish you all the best.
      Take care for now.
      David J. Dougherty
      Author of “A Killer of a Camp” – http://www.akillerofacamp.com
      CEO to Non-Stop-Shop
      European COO to Same Race Productions, USA.

  2. Irene

    Thanks for the post! The information was revealing.

    Having not read the book, please forgive me if this is covered, but does Mr. Gervich’s cover writing partnerships? I’m curious if the desired qualities are the same.

  3. Lynn Grant Beck

    Stephanie, a good blog as always. The one thing missing is the importance of references. I’ve always found the most effective way to approach an agent or manager is to get a reference from someone respected in the industry and ideally whom the agent or manager knows. Ideally, you get that person to make a call or send an email, but even if you can’t get them to do that, they are often willing to let you use their name and it’s enough to get an agent or manager to read your script. Of course the script has to be great and it doesn’t hurt if you’ve already managed to get it through the door of reputable companies – thus showing representation that you’ll help them do their job.

  4. Wilson Casey, Trivia Guinness World Record Holder

    Though a current goal is my latest book optioned to possibly become a movie, I’ve built my platform solely from my upstate South Carolina home.

    My yadda yadda’s include being published by Penguin and numerous others, writing a nationally syndicated newspaper column distributed by King Features, setting a couple Guinness World records, having a NYC literary agent, etc., etc. I work full-time at my craft 65 – 70 hours a week with contacts in publishing, but unfortunately not filming or Hollywood.

    My point- Seems like with all the widely diverse communication tools available, why move to Los Angeles?

    Latest book: “Bedlam on the West Virginia Rails – The Zoot Suit Bandits”.

    Tagline: “He never meant to rob a moving train, nor get gunned down near the President. It really happened.”

    True crime genre about America’s last moving train robber. (I spent the last 3 years of his life interviewing the head bandit himself.)

  5. Brian

    Thank you for sharing more great insight! Thank You!

  6. Niksa

    Since some of us don’t live in L.A. or USA in general, does that mean we stand no chance at all since it would cost (in my case anyway) more than I would “POSSIBLY” make by selling the script.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Niksa,

      I can’t say *no* chance, but it is a major factor. There are more examples of film writers who have been able to sell scripts without living in LA than TV writers, but it is a very small percentage.

  7. Christine Koehler

    Great post, Stephanie! One thing I’ve learned throughout my years of writing is to never give up! I’ve been setting myself to be a successful screenwriter and have enjoyed every minute of it! There may be a move to LA in my future. Thank you, again! Christine

  8. Lala

    I really get confused frequently watching the movies which are not worth a penny spent on doing it. Absolutely stupid, having no meaning, useless, but somebody promotes and produce them. It’s impossible to be noticed in the US if you are not a citizen, or a millionaire to produce your own stuff. Vince, I totally agree with you. Many talented works stay unattended because it’s nearly impossible to declare your work. All competitions are just a waste of money, all databases membership you pay for is useless. Nothing works. Only if one of us has one chance in a million that some celebrity will deign to concede the personal request, maybe only in this case it will work out.

  9. Rick

    One tip for those living in LA: make sure to talk to those you meet. I’ve only been in LA for six months, but so far the guy I bought my car from produces a TV show for Lifetime, I’ve met an actor who worked on the Drew Carey Show and Norm, plus two of my neighbors work for CBS (one of them has multiple Emmy awards). Open up and let people get to know you and you’ll have a better opportunity to make contacts that lead to your dream job.

  10. Sergio Kopelev

    Another great blog post. I am not one for empty compliments but these blog entries are consistently well thought out, engaging and on point.

    Without sounding too presumptuous or didactic, I wanted to add a bit of perspective on something that I felt should be added to the action steps at the end. While perhaps implied and assumed, I would start the action steps at the end with a very clear and direct recommendation to “write good screenplays.” Perhaps I am more sensitive to this than others, but I am an accomplished professional in another field and live in Los Angeles. I am also a reader for a non-profit screenwriters association and several small production companies, so I read a lot of material from “undiscovered” and mostly unrepresented writers. I find that a lot have great ideas but the execution for the great majority of the screenplays that I wind up reading is just not good. While what constitutes “good” versus “not good” for a screenplay is somewhat subjective, what constitutes exceptional is much easier to see. Perhaps it’s my naiveté but I truly believe that if the writer penned something exceptional, all the other things would fall into place. So I think the first and primary focus should be to write good and if possible, exceptional screenplays.

    As a writer myself, my struggle has been that I am simply not writing enough new material (which is better than my old material). Instead I spend a lot of time talking, thinking, going to meet/greet events, even going to classes which are focused more on the scheming of how to break into the industry (productions of shorts, financing, getting representation, etc.). What’s worse is that I obsess over previously written screenplays by editing instead of re-writing (we know the difference), entering them into contests, trying to share them with people who won’t read them, and so on. All this, versus spending my time writing new and better material, which at least has a chance to become exceptional.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Appreciate your thoughtful comment, Sergio.

    • Jeff Guenther

      Thanks for sharing those comments, Sergio, Many stress the importance of social media for developing platform and getting noticed. Blogging, developing contacts, meeting people, taking courses, generally stirring the pot, these are necessary but can be largely time wasted.

      Personally, I find that social media have resulted in my doing more writing about writing than writing. The problem is, you can never know what will work. What worked a few years ago eventually stops working as everybody and his brother-in-law jumps into it. Things change all the time.

      My current opinion is: Don’t put all your career eggs in one basket. Do a lot of stuff in different fields. Be a generalist. Help others, but be very selective. Avoid making enemies. BUT Maintain balance. Reserve some set times to do writing and nothing else, no blogging, no beta reading, no shmoozing.

      As far as reworking older material, there’s nothing wrong with trying to get some action with pieces that are essentially complete and require less effort to submit than entirely new projects. Respect your own work. Again, it’s a matter of balance. Two hours a week of retreading old material; twenty hours for new. Whatever you think is most workable and effective.

      That’s my take on it. Many are called but few are chosen. Nobody knows anything. Faint heart ne’er won diddley squat. Do or do not.

  11. l anderson

    A very comprehensive article; very helpful. Not easy moving to LA when you live and have a family in Australia!

  12. Jeff

    While this is an informative article, it does shows how cynical and money-drive the TV industry truly is.

    As the article repeatedly essentially asserts if you don’t have any prior experience writing for TV, good luck landing an agent/manager.

    Yet if you have written for TV, even if the show was beyond awful, then an agent/manager will more than likely represent you (because they could care less about actual talent…as all they really do care about, is getting a big commission).

    Is it any wonder, we only celebrate a handful of quality TV shows each decade?

  13. How To Get A Literary Agent | Kurt Kelly Blog

    […] with permission By Stephanie Palmer Do you want to know how to get a literary agent? You might be interested to know exactly […]

  14. Reginald Grünenberg

    Thanks to your recommendation I just bought my most expensive ebook ever. Strange that the Kindle edition is even more expensive than the already quite costly paperback. BTW great post of yours on the query letter hoax! I am reading your blog with the greatest interest and will approach you soon for consultancy with my TV series project ‘Seven Sisters’ http://www.reginald-gruenenberg.de/seven-sisters.html and a feature movie script that I want to submit at this year’s Academy Nicholl Fellowship contest. Greetings from Berlin, Germany.

  15. Andrea

    This is all very nicely written but in my sense totally not helpfull for a first timer because it doesn’t show you the way out of the catch 22: not work without an agent and no agent without a previous work. If you want to know what the Hollywood reality is, well check my book: script selling in goodluckland:
    http://andreamrena.blogspot.com/2014/08/writer-ecrivain.html

    People are so naïve like the German guy who wants to submit his script to the Nichol fellowship. I met with several winners and semi-finalists, winning this contest didn’t get them anywhere…

  16. Screenwriters Guide: The Great Query Letter Hoax ‹ SSN Insider

    […] you ask working screenwriters how they and their friends attracted the interest of agents, managers, and producers, it’s from one of these tactics, not query […]

  17. Julie

    I think the best advice Chad covered is to do something on your own to get started. Agents don’t want you unless other people want you and you’re already making money. Become wanted!

  18. Colin Palmer (Colenzo Blacapone)

    I came into the moviemaking scene as a composer – writing songs for story scenes I created – for both male and female characters without “changing” my gender as a male – so to speak. If one can hear and understand what a female says to a male, one does not have to be a female to write in a script what that female says. In my creative frenzy, I bundled all my mini-scripts into one multi-faceted script. So we`re looking at over a dozen stories and myriads of very outrageous characters. Now I realized I must make one film at a time. Cyberromantic Escapades came to mind as the title of the first project, since the stories actually are all interrelated. Now, I feel I must have someone handle the casting and storyboarding due to lack of funds to go it alone. Perhaps some help from a Film Commission might well do the trick. As such, if I ever mention “Colin`s Letter To The Romans, Return of a King, Man Shall Not Live By Sex Alone, I`m Outt`a Here, these are all sub- and alternate- titles of the same multi manuscript. I am now considering doing a stage musical of it first, followed by the spoken scripted version. One thing I do best is writing dramatic songs of high caliber; and that`s what I will hone fastidiously. Cheers!

  19. Grant

    Good article I’ve read. And now I truly understand that it’s very hard to find me an agent or to be part of the film business, even if I’m a baby writer. Although, I’ am a independent filmmaker.

    But another question, this article doesn’t mention query letter.. does a query letter usually help to contact the agent?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Grant. In almost all cases, agents find clients by referral and not by query letters. Here’s more on why query letters can work for novels, but not for screenplays: https://goodinaroom.com/blog/great-query-letter-hoax/

      • Grant

        How about if you’re writing a spec script for the TV series?

        I’m not selling my own movie script, just a spec script.

      • Stephanie Palmer

        Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a prerequisite for getting to pitch an original TV idea, is to be a working TV writer. This is not the same (though it certainly helps) in film.

      • Grant

        Oh Okay. What I’m trying to do is writing a TV episode sect script for a TV series which it have already been on the air. And I was hoping to contact with the producers maybe by mail.. if they read any mail from fans like me.

        It happens the same with writer J. Michael Straczynski when wrote a spec script of He-Man during the 1980s, and he got the job to work as a staff writer after he show his script to the producer of the He-Man Series.

        And my point is is there any other way to contact the studios for a spec script besides finding a agent?

      • Stephanie Palmer

        You can attempt to contact the rights department at the studio that you believe owns the rights. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that they will sell or grant you the rights as studios are incentivized to keep the rights of past properties in-house.

  20. Steve Cross

    It’s tough. I live in Missouri and I am 56. I already have two strikes, and I can’t hit the curve or fastball. I’ve finished well in some contests, I’ve had seven plays published, I’ve had two YA novels already (one of which has until just recently been in the top 100 in two Amazon YA categories) and my publisher has already asked for two more books. I still can’t even get near the door much less inside it.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Congrats on all that you have accomplished, Steve!

    • Loser McJerkface

      Steve, thanks for making me feel worse about myself than I aleady do! You’ve got 2 strikes and have gotten further than I have. Compared to you, I must have 17 or 18 strikes.

      I think the Powerball has better odds. I need to move to a bigger building so I can jump off of it.

      Meanwhile, a copy-n-paste script gets read because it was written by Ashlee Simpson’s cousin or some other stupid “insider.”

      And, yes, I AM embarrassed that I know Ashlee Simpson spells her Ashlee with two Es!!!

  21. LS

    So basically you either win a contest or get a referral. That’s discouraging…

    I have no connections and winning a contest seems like a long shot. I don’t understand why managers aren’t more susceptible to taking meetings or query letters from unknown writers. I understand it on the agent side… But not the manager side.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      By far, the main way agents find new clients is by referral. I understand that this feels depressing as it is similar to other highly competitive fields (eg. fashion, investment banking, venture capital). Managers only get paid when their clients get paid, so they are also very focused on representing people who are already working and making money. It’s rarely that they don’t want to “break” new writers, it’s that they only have so much time and they (like most people) are focused on making a living.

  22. Ron kelly

    Stephanie. Very helpful, but a hard road. My only question is” how do you become an experienced, successful, profitable, screenwriter writer if there is no place to start.” Some writers made it, somehow.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      In a way, you’re right, there isn’t a methodical progression up the ladder. It’s more like one day you’re a rookie, and the next you’re in the deep end of the pool. The place to start is by creating a library of material in one genre where you are an expert. Once you’ve done that, then there are ways to reach out to the right people to help you get “in the room.” I explain exactly how to do this in my course.

  23. William Cordo

    They are not interested in new talent. They want someone else connections to assure an income,not have to invest in a vision. Their talent is limited they want guarantees. Credits,job number one selling books who the hell needs them.They want to widen their base by using yours. Laziness in its truest form. I specialize in sales,motivation.desire,focus.want. I train that an with a 12th grade education have made millions. Loyalty is given by sweat equity.They want their job done for them.They want Ferraris,lunches,parties,homes without effort. I have all of those things by investing in people.Teacing them how to deal with failure,overcoming it . Getting knocked down and getting up.The new breed doesn’t understand development they want immediacy.Lifes does not work that way. They need a “safe space”. Losing attitude.Where would they be without the foundation of training.Did they get a job with connections.I would eat them alive. They are doing everyone an injustice including themselves.Easy Money! Grow some balls,man up make it happen for clien ,boss and you.Money dose not make you,you make it.My quote. Become the best money follows!

  24. Undiscouraged Writer

    It’s funny even the “practical jobs” are highly competitive. We as human beings want things right now without work. These guidelines are set but, in reality if you have a great body of work and a winning mindset you’ve got it in the bag. People write blogs like this to discourage the “baby writers” for a reason — they hate competition. The younger generation have ideas the vets could never put together, and they hate that. I don’t even need to have had a job in the industry to know that. If its your passion you will succeed in whatever you do. I hope every “baby writer” (including me) on this blog have many blessings and success in the near future.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks, UW. I can’t speak for others, but I’m not in competition with you. My goal is to help.

  25. Sal

    Hello, great article. So Long story short. When I was 18 I became a Stunt man and had was very lucky to work a lot. about 5 years into my career I was hurt pretty bad and decided to quit. Being a Stunt man was all I ever wanted to do and it greatly saddend me to quit. I started a demolition company that travels from disaster to disaster. I was randomly featured on NPR’s This American Life for the work I do. After the show aired over 20 production companies called wanting to make a reality show. It was weird like my old life met my new life. I have been going through the whole reality show thing now for over a year and they think they have it sold.I really don’t love it, its weird and a little sleazy. While being filmed I realized that it would make a great sitcom. My crew is as diverse as it gets! Jewish, black, gay, female, Mexican and homeless drunk. I have written a sitcom pitch about a reality show following us around filmed like the Office or Reno 911. I am not a writer but I have tons of life experience. My super long winded question is, do you think I am waisting my time having zero experience? Thank You.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Congrats on the interest from production companies! I don’t think you are wasting your time. Especially if you can partner with established reality TV producers, they should be able to help shape your story into compelling television and you shouldn’t have the burden of having to write everything.

  26. BKA

    Yes, this article was somewhat informative and helpful for the knowledge of what actually is facing those who may have an interest in writing for TV or film. I’ve worked in the Entertainment Biz for 26 years as an actor and stunt-player. I was fortunate to have traveled and lived in LA, NYC, Europe, and Asia for work. I’m currently living and working in Asia. I’ve just completed my first featured film that took me five years to write. Not saying or taking it lightly of the tremendous amount of time and work that I put in on this particular script, but perhaps what I’m understanding from this article, is that my life experiences and contacts will suit me well?—I hope so! I’m now working my contacts; and I’m working on another script. I believe hard work pays off!

    • Stephanie Palmer

      It sounds like you’ve had some great life experiences. Yes, your life experiences and contacts will absolutely help. Sending you lots of good luck in your journey.

  27. Cheryl

    Hello Stephanie…

    Thank you… for your insightful, though thoroughly depressing comments on getting your screenplay into the right hands. It appears the old adage, ” It isn’t what you know but who you know…” is alive and well and still living in Hollywood.

    Perhaps putting your work into Book form first… is the best avenue for getting your screenplay
    vetted, to attract these leery profit minded Hollywood Agents. Then, who knows, your work may be so successful you might just skip them entirely and simply use an entertainment attorney.

    Judging from the lack of quality films today and the behemoth of violent, sexually explicit,
    morally deficient plot failures… The Great writer’s appear to be standing outside a locked,
    Members Only Club.

    Sadly, Amazon may be our only way. Thank you again for your honest insider advice.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Hi Cheryl. Yes, relationships are very important in Hollywood. Writing a successful book is a common way to get attention from Hollywood and there is a well-established tradition of book-to-movie adaptations so this can be a very smart path with the right project.

  28. Thom Mills

    Nice article Stephanie. I just wanted to drop in my two cents for what it’s worth. I’m a screenwriter in L.A., ugh, there’s a cliché for you…anyway, I know two people who are extremely successful in the television front, and they produce two of the top network shows. At one time they were both trying to break in, and both of them separately wrote plays that drew attention in L.A. Now, I’m not claiming that’s the “key” to success here but it does separate people from the deluge of other screenwriters/ TV teleplay writers trying to get noticed. I’m sitting here today with a low-budget script that I just completed this week and wondering to myself do I go through the process now of submitting and hoping to find an agent to rep it, and one who’ll let actually pitch me as the director too! Or do I sit on the script and put a few bucks into producing my own play that I’ve been tinkering with for a few years. There’s no easy in, and real talent must be the ultimate decider, but live theatre might be the real way into Hollywood for writers who hope to one day see their work on a small or big screen. Knowing nothing, I say …might.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks for your comment, Thom. Two quick thoughts – first, being a writer and a writer/director are very different things. If you intend to be a writer, you can consider submitting your script. If you intend to be a writer/director, your script alone is unlikely to get you to the finish line – you need to have directing experience such as having directed a short film that wins an award and/or gets critical acclaim. In other words, writer-directors are really a subset primarily of directors, not of writers. I also know a number of writers who have gotten hired in TV and film based on a successful live theater production, so while it isn’t the only way, it is a pathway that can work.

  29. Abner Asturias

    November 22, 2016

    Dear Stephanie,

    I am pleased that you have taken it upon yourself to help outsiders — like me — get into the Hollywood entertainment industry.

    I need an agent to rep my company. Yes, my company. Please go to marveloustv.com for much, much more about my company and me.

    Note: With this email, I, Abner Asturias, the copyright owner of the three fully-developed reality TV shows (U.S. Copyright Office Registration: #PAu 3-509-098) found in marveloustv.com (plus two more whose registration is pending), hereby waive my right to file any claims against the recipient of this email and his/her client(s), should they come up with their own reality TV show(s) similar to any of those five.

    In return for helping me find that agent whose work would ultimately result in having my “American Prince” greenlighted and aired by one of the four major networks, I am willing to give you a percentage ownership (details TBD later on) of that particular show.

    In the meantime, I would be happy if we could have a face-to-face meeting in the Los Angeles area when I would show you the “all details” of that show (they are found in princeofthepeopleusa.com but are password protected).

    I also want to prove to you at that time that as a Television Content Creator, I am just as good as — if not much, much better than — anyone presently working in the business.

    Please note that my websites are both not yet mobile device compatible.
    I shall be sending this letter to you twice. First, through your personal email. And second, through your website.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Sincerely,
    Abner Asturias, M.B.A.
    President and Chief Content Creator
    Marvelous Entertainment, a Television Content Creation Company
    Los Angeles, CA
    #323-774-3831
    [email protected]

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks for your message, Mr. Asturias. I am flattered to be asked, but I am fully booked and not accepting consulting clients at this time. I recommend reading this article about how to pitch a reality TV show and also this article about breaking into reality TV. I wish you lots of success with your projects.

  30. Farzin Youabian

    Screenplay ” The Dragon Never Dies” Farzin Youabian film. Hi my name is Farzin Youabian and at this time I do have a Screenplay is action pack kung-fu looking for an agent to sale this script . My contact number is 3238097885 thanks Farzin Youabian Productions

  31. Cheral Canna

    I wrote a trilogy of movie scripts, “The Genascent Trilogy” about the Human Genome Project of which I was a part. It got a lot of readers on Inktip. In researching them I’m convinced it reached the appropriate target groups. The franchise I think may fit best in a TV series follow-up to further cover the extensive subjects. So, I’m in the process of learning to write for TV now. Your information was very helpful, even though I don’t live in L.A. When I sell the project will that attract an agent?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Your project sounds very interesting, Cheral. It is much easier to get an agent after you have sold a project because then you can demonstrate that you have a proven track record. It isn’t a guarantee, but the odds are much greater. Wishing you luck with your next drafts!

  32. ANTONIO S. R. D' SILVA

    I HAVE A MOVIE TITLE – CONCEPT – STORY AND THE SCRIPT FOR SALE.
    I NEED A PRODUCER/DIRECTOR TO BUY MY MOVIE SCRIPT.

    CAN YOU HELP
    ANTONIO S. R. D’ SILVA
    0091-8275890918
    0091-7768802628.

  33. savena

    yes i need a literary agent, and so please tell me whare to sign up for this

  34. ZEKE WILSON

    MY NAME IS ZEKE WILSON AND I’VE WRITTEN A SPORT / LEGAL DRAMA CALLED ”THE EIGHTH ROUND” A COPYRIGHT TRUE STORY ABOUT ”SAME RACE DISCRIMINATION” THE EIGHTH ROUND TELLS THE STORY OF LEGAL PRECEDENT SET BY THE OUT COME IN A TIME WHEN THE COUNTRY TURNED A BLIND EYE TO SAME RACE DISCRIMINATION. THIS STORY TELL THE REAL STORY -THAT ”DISCRIMINATION” IS NOT ALWAYS BLACK AND WHITE….MY USA# 1843-929-9402 AND UK# 07783905697…. THANK U…ZEKE WILSON

  35. Karlyle Tomms

    The same is true in most businesses. It is the paradox of, “I can’t get a job if I don’t have experience, but I can’t get experience if I don’t get a job.” However, in the entertainment profession, you are expected to create your own job and experience first. And. . .even if everyone is superb at what they do, there are only so many slots. If there are a hundred fantastic talents, but only one slot available, 99 fantastic talents are going to be disappointed. Then, if the public gives a thumbs down, here we go again. When I lived in Nashville, they used to say, “Don’t quit your day job.” Making it anywhere in this business is almost like playing the lottery, the odds are slim. In some cases, there are great writers who are cleaning floors in the lottery ticket office.

    I am confused by the idea that you must live in LA. My Dad is from LA, and I still have relatives and friends living there, but truthfully I don’t want to live there. In this internet age is that really necessary? Many relationships and connections are formed online.

    As far as the list of what agents look for, I have about five out of the nine. How close does one have to get to attract attention? Nine out of nine still doesn’t mean you are a good writer or even an average writer with great ideas.

    My plan is to keep doing what I love to do, let go and let god, and see what happens.

    Blessings All.
    Karlyle Tomms

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks so much for your comment, Karlyle. I definitely understand not wanting to live in LA. For TV, it is required. For film, it is not 100% required, but can be highly beneficial. This is a highly competitive business that runs on personal relationships and referrals. In my experience, it is easier to build strong connections by working together and meeting in person. There isn’t a specific formula that guarantees what will attract an agent, but the more the better. Keep at it!

  36. Mary L Schmidt

    You have compiled a great amount of information for those of us who read all the way down and I am among those who did. Thank you for your insightful post.

    So… I have a feature film screenplay, synopsis, artistic statement, and bio for my number one best selling, multiple award winning memoir. I have graphics and much more to back up my material. What is my best next step? Thank you.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Congrats on your memoir, Mary! What is your goal with this project?

  37. Godfrey Young

    I have written to screenplays feature complete working on the 3rd screenplay publish one book and releasing another book. Books the heart of a good man. The real truth must be told. Screenplays feature two years behind closed doors. Drama a man that is broken drama. Comedy after church 12 years of work I meant writing.

    • Godfrey Young

      Book’s title the heart of a good man. The real truth must be told. Screenplays title tears behind closed doors drama. A man that is broken drama. After church comedy

  38. holly smith

    Stephanie:

    I have been attempting to write a cohesive piece for years now, on love addiction. I have a compelling story and i want to tell it- book or script or screen play. I have tried researching on my own and contacting agents, publishing houses to pitch but without success.

    I have suffered and overcome alcoholism, love addiction and trauma. I have almost 13 years sober and i need a platform to tell my story because i do believe it will help millions, through inspiration and experience.

    can you help me get started? I live in Philadelphia I am 42 years old.. I have been published via online- articles.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Holly Smith

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Online articles are a great place to start, Holly. Keep writing and publishing. One of the beautiful things about publishing online is that you can reach people all around the world who could benefit from your experience and personal stories.

  39. Kem Frasier

    I would like to get a Hollywood Literary Agent to take a look at an autobiography I wrote back in 2009 entitled: “Life Gave Me A Twist”. The story is about growing up in the South Bronx of New York City, 1960s -1970s. It has been put on audiotape by the narrator, Sharell Palmer. It is in production through ACX as a finished product. I would like you to listen to a 15 minute audio clip that I believe will inspire you to think about putting the script/dialogue in tv/movie format. I know you listen to lots of ideas but please listen to this one.

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Thanks, Kem.

  40. John R Takacs

    I have a really good book and concept in need of a good Agent!

  41. Larry gonzales

    Someone please contact me asap, I’m looking for an agent to represent my book shame on you by larry gonzales check it out on amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you cell phone 818 472 9302

  42. Danielle M

    Would articles count as published work? I have written many articles on financial and sports websites and have been published in a local Los Angeles magazine. Or should I start all over and focus on the entertainment angle to publish my work?

    Also, I interned for a well-known actress and her production company. I still have a great relationship with her and her assistant and still help them out with events. However, they never read any of my scripts, so I would feel weird if I ask them to refer me. Would it be better to mention them in the query letter?

    • Stephanie Palmer

      Yes, articles count as published work. No, you don’t need to write entertainment-related articles – the calibre of your screenplays is the most important factor. That’s great that you interned for a production company! I recommend asking the assistant that you do know to read your script before I would approach an agent that you don’t know. If the assistant likes your script, that would be great and could be beneficial.

  43. zubaida sharif

    I am an author of a memoir called Caged in America. I AM TRYING TO FIND SOMEONE PASSIONATE ABOUT PITCHING IT INTO A MOVIE. I HAVE MADE IT TO 100 BEST SELLER BARNES AND NOBLES 2009 VERY SUCCESSFUL IN BOOK SIGNING SELLING 30 AT BARNES AND NOBLES. I ALSO HAVE HIGH DEMANDS OF CONTINUING A SEQUEL OF MY LIFE. THE REASON I WANT IT IN A MOVIE I FEEL THE WHOLE WORLD SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS AND HOW CULTURAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HAS EFFECTED US OUR RELATIONSHIPS OUR KIDS THAT GO OUT INTO THE WORLD EFFECTING THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. PLEASE CHECK OUT MY BOOK I AM AT RISK EVERYDAY FOR EXPOSING THE TRUTH. I FEEL THE TRUTH WILL SET US ALL FREE. THANK YOU
    IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS YOU CAN CALL ME AT 812-340-6349
    MAYBE EVEN SEND THIS MESSAGE TO SOMEONE YOU IS PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS GLOBAL PROBLEM. I NEED TO BE PART OF MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. I HAVE A PROJECTS FOR REAL SHELTER THAT CAN ACTUALLY IMPROVE THESE VICTIMS AND THEIR CHILDREN THROUGH MY EXPERIENCE MOVING FROM SHELTER TO SHELTER TO BE SAFER.
    THANKS AGAIN
    SINCERELY
    ZUBAIDA “JASMINE” SHARIF

  44. Rajay Marshall

    I swear this is just too depressing..i felt exhausted after reading this article even thou it is really helpful Steph…you always come with the best …however those agents just sound selfish and the road to actually being a writer (especially a TV writer) is very rocky..if i wasnt so dedicated to being writer and if it wasnt for my passion for screenwriting i would have just gave up after reading this…i dont even live in L.A or America..smh I am only 17 thou and i won’t ever give up until i see “Written by Rajay Marshall” on the screens…despite all the depressing news I’ve got ..I have to admit it was a great and well written Article…Thanks Steph