A query letter can often be a new screenwriter’s first attempt to make connections with industry insiders who can aid in their career. With stakes like that, it can be hard to figure out how to approach such a letter. Do you go long and specific? Brief and introductory? How formal should it be? Don’t stress! Today I’m talking all about how to write a query letter for screenwriters.
A note on query letters: Yes, some industry pros will argue that query letters are outdated, amateurish, and unprofessional. But you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, and plenty of screenwriters have had success using this method to find managers, agents, producers, and financing. No one’s path to screenwriting career success is the same, so query letters may be worth a shot for you. When it comes to screenwriting, the saying goes, “know the rules and then forget them.”
How to Write a Query Letter for Screenwriters
Digital Queries Are Best
It’s called a query “letter,” but you don’t want to send it via traditional snail mail. Your best hope of hearing back from someone is to send them an email or build a connection with them on social media and correspond there. A traditional letter is just bound to get lost in the junk on someone’s desk.
Customize and Personalize Your Query Letter
Don’t just send a query letter to any and every industry professional you come across. You want to reserve and customize your query letters to people who you think would be a good match for you and the type of material they’re interested in. IMDb can come in handy for this sort of thing. Researching films and television shows in the same genre and concept as your projects can help turn up some leads on representation and production companies that may fit your brand.
Keep Your Query Letter Brief
Your query letter should be relatively short. You want to greet the person and then get to the point. Your letter shouldn’t be overly formal, but not too casual either. Be polite and respectful, but not stiff. Try to be yourself.
First, introduce yourself. If you were referred to this person or are connected to them somehow, be sure to mention that. Also, mention any notable credits or awards your work has garnered.
Include your logline or two if you’re seeking representation and try to show who you are as a writer.
End it with something simple such as, “thanks for your time!” And be sure to sign off with how they can get in touch with you.
Subject Lines for Query Letters
People don’t often put too much thought into their email subject headings, but you should give it the extra thought when it comes to a query letter. Try simply putting your name as the subject, or a brief description of your script, like “Alien 1 hour drama.” You don’t want to put something like “looking to sell my script” or “seeking representation,” as those can come across as sounding amateur and desperate. Make the query about your work.
Make sure your logline is the best that it can be. You don’t want your letter to be overly long, so you don’t have time to write a summary of your script. It would help if you had your logline do the work for you and sell your idea in one sentence. Your logline should be engaging and get across what your project is about.
Along with a strong logline, you should include a couple of comps or comparisons to help further paint the picture of what your project is. Comps should be successful works that are similar to your project. So, say you have a supernatural teen television drama; some comps might be “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Charmed,” or “Teen Wolf.”
Reread Your Query Letter
Be sure to proofread your query letter before sending it out! The last thing you want is for your first impression as a writer to contain misspellings or grammatical errors. Your letter may get immediately thrown out. Do not give someone any additional reasons to say “no” to you and your script.
Samples of Query Letters
You can find samples of successful query letters online to use as a starting template to pitch your own work. Try these sample pitches from VirtualPitchFest.com, or check out the Successful Queries series over at Writer’s Digest.
Now you’re ready to send your letter off! Don’t wait by the computer obsessing over when you’ll hear back; you might not. Often in Hollywood, hearing nothing basically means that it’s a pass. Don’t worry about it. Stay focused on your writing, networking, and sending out query letters to the right people. Many writers send out hundreds – yes, hundreds – of queries before getting the right eyes on their script. It only takes one “yes!” Eventually, a good concept and a strong logline are bound to get someone’s interest and attention. Keep at it, and happy writing!