You’ve finished your screenplay, and now you’re looking for a literary agent to help you sell it. That’s how it works, right? Well, I’m going to caution you to hold your horses for a minute while I delve into why, when, and how to go about finding yourself a literary agent.
What does a literary agent do?
Literary agents represent writers for film and television. They have a solid understanding of the industry, they’ll help you get your work in front of people, and they’ll connect you with people who could employ you. They can also negotiate contracts and take care of the business side of things (although there are some sides of the screenwriting business that you’ll need to understand yourself). For more information about the difference between agents, managers, and lawyers (and why you may or may not need all three), be sure to read up on the distinctions here.
What is a literary agent looking for in a writer?
They’re looking for passionate writers who want to have long careers. Agents want someone that they feel will have longevity in the industry and is worth their time and effort. This is a business, after all.
- Ideas That Sell
Agents are all about sales, so they want to see scripts and concepts that they’ll be able to put their passion behind and sell. Being a great writer doesn’t mean much to an agent if the idea of your scripts or your unique voice or angle isn’t marketable.
- Someone Ready to Go
Agents don’t often work with newer writers because they’re looking for someone whose material is ready to sell. They’re interested in a writer who’s knowledgeable about how the industry works and is prepared to enter a room with confidence and pitch their script to executives. Are you ready to pitch? Here are some pitching tips from screenwriter Donald H. Hewitt and screenwriting consultant Danny Manus.
Where do I find a literary agent?
Some helpful ways to find agents include networking online, screenwriting competitions, screenwriting conferences, and keeping an eye out for unique opportunities.
- Social Media
Social media makes it incredibly easy to reach out and get in contact with agents and managers, but that also means it’s easy for other writers to reach out, too. Make sure your angle is unique. How can you help that agent? What do you bring to the table?
- Trade Publications
Utilizing the trades to find names (such as Deadline Hollywood or The Hollywood Reporter) or websites like IMDb Pro to research contact information, are easy ways to reach out to agents you’re interested in.
- Screenwriting Contests
Screenwriting competitions may offer meetings with agents and managers as part of their prize package, so keep an eye out for that when entering contests. This kind of access can be incredibly valuable.
- Other Unique Opportunities
What do I mean by unique opportunities? Sometimes screenwriting organizations host chances to connect writers with managers, agents, or producers. Last year I was lucky enough to participate in Coverfly’s Pitch Week, where Coverfly pairs writers with agents and managers for a week full of video conference and telephone meetings. I highly recommend writers apply for and take advantage of unique opportunities like this when they come across them. These opportunities are especially helpful for connecting writers outside of Hollywood to agents and managers.
When should I get an agent?
“I’m just starting; do I need an agent?” Probably not. Agents are often interested in more established clients who have scripts that can sell immediately. A writer who is just starting would benefit more from a manager who’s interested in helping, supporting, and shaping a writer. The more scripts you have in your arsenal, the better off you are. And remember – you don’t have to have a manager or an agent. Plenty of screenwriters have broken in without one.
Don’t worry about finding an agent right away. Worry about creating a substantial body of work. You want to have impressive screenplays, often both in film and television, as well as ideas for things you want to write in the future. Having a substantial collection of scripts shows potential representation that you’re a serious, hardworking writer and will make agents and managers interested in working with you.
Hopefully, this blog was able to provide some clarity on whether or not you should be looking for an agent, and how to find one if you are. Happy writing!