Learning how to write a screenplay query letter can improve your chances of getting your screenplay in front of decision-makers. Screenwriters can lose valuable time and money-making opportunities due to a poorly worded query letter. Find out how to craft a quality screenplay query letter.
How to Write a Screenplay Query Letter
Screenplay query letters do not have to be as long or detailed as article, fiction or nonfiction queries. In fact, movie development executive Alex Epstein, recommends short two to three paragraph letters. His examples of good query letters are mainly comprised of a one paragraph hook and pitch and then a proposal to send the script. Epstein's examples did not include any writer credentials.
Pitching a Script
The most important element of a query letter is pitching the script. The query letter should describe the script story in a paragraph that demonstrates that both engages the agent's attention and convinces him that this story would sell tickets.
Structuring the Query Letter
Screenplay query letters are generally structured as a pitch, description paragraph, proposal and closing. Here are instructions for writing a screenplay query letter:
- Pitch the story in the first paragraph. Begin with a strong hook that will intrigue the agent so that he requests your script.
- Include a second paragraph and third paragraph, if necessary, that provides further details about why the story will interest audiences. Tell the agent what genre the screenplay is in. It may be appropriate to include a sentence about why you want to tell this story, especially if it has to do with the story angle. You can also include any of your credits or credentials.
- Write a proposal paragraph that offers to send the script. Mention if the script is complete and how long it is.
- Compose the closing paragraph to mainly thank the agent and inquire if he is interested in the viewing the script.
Online Resources for Screenplay Query Letter Tips
If you have a connection in the industry that recommended that you contact a certain editor, begin your hook paragraph with "Contact Name recommended that I contact you." This will also get the busy agent's attention.
Tips for Writing Screenplay Query Letters
The following tips will help you write a quality screenplay query letter and protect your script.
- Register your screenplay with the Writer's Guild of America to protect your ideas and work before sending queries and completed scripts out. You have the choice of registering your script at either Writer's Guild of America, West or Writer's Guild of America, East.
- Query agents first and get representation before approaching top executives like directors and producers. An agent can help you protect your screenplay and get you better contract agreements than going solo.
- Network with other screenwriters and ask them about their query letter experiences and recommendations. This is also a great way to find out if an agent or executive prefers certain query formats. It can also sometimes save you from making the same error another writer made with the person during the query process.
- Include a self-addressed-stamped-envelop (SASE) for the editor's reply. Many editors do not respond to queries without SASEs.
- Before sending out a query letter for a script, consider submitting it to a script analysis service to make sure it is in good form.
If you do your homework and learn how to write a screenplay query letter, you have a greater chance of selling your script and seeing it on screen.