The purpose of a query letter is to introduce yourself and communicate your story in order to pique professional interest in your script and yourself as a writer. It is common to begin with a query letter when submitting to a literary agent or manager, to a potential investor or other professional entity, or even to a writing contest or fellowship.
In many ways, the query letter is a writing sample in and of itself — remember, its goal is to capture the reader’s attention and motivate them to read your project. There’s an art and science to it.
Here are some guidelines to help you get it right.
1. Proofread your query letter
This should go without saying, but you can’t have any grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors in your letter. The query letter is your chance to give a first impression that conveys your professional capabilities. I beg of you, give it to a colleague to proofread. Don’t let one typo jeopardize your future career.
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2. Keep is simple and sharp
The perfect query letter should contain the following:
Personalized address. Send the letter to a person you have researched, not just “to whom it may concern.”
Quick and on-brand introduction. This includes a personal referral or relationship with a current client (if applicable). If you have notable credits or if your scripts have garnered attention or awards, list them concisely here. Stick to options, sales, representation, or well-respected contest placement. If you’re just starting out, a notable screenwriting education is also appropriate.
Logline. Daniel Seco, a Literary Manager at Schemers Entertainment, encourages writers to keep it simple: “I’d rather see two or three projects rather than ten loglines.” Some reps prefer just one logline to start. Workshop your loglines and make sure they capture the spirit of your stories — they will determine whether someone takes an interest in your project.
What makes your story special? This is your chance to — again, succinctly — spark interest in your script. Get to the heart of your story and let your reader know what is exciting about it — and about you as a writer. Include a short paragraph about your script and what makes it a must-read.
Contact information and polite sign off — Make sure your reader can get in touch with you and thank them for their time. You did it! You’re done! Breathe!
BONUS: Do not attach the script itself. Most agents and managers can’t read unsolicited material. Allow them to ask for your script, and go from there.
3. When should you follow-up after your query letter?
I asked Seco when it’s appropriate for a writer to follow-up after submitting a query letter. “Two weeks is a good number,” he responded. “But generally expect a silent pass from most reps around town.”
That doesn’t mean your relationship with that reader is over, though. Seco added, “Every few months is an appropriate approach for a writer to submit new material to the same person or office — especially if that person has given them the green light to stay in touch.”
Query letters can open doors, but they’re just one way to create relationships in the entertainment industry. Professionalism and persistence will be the key to long-term success.
Interested in having your script read by literary managers and an accomplished showrunner? Submit to our WeScreenplay TV Pilot Contest now!
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com, and she has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!
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