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BetsyComedy
12-02-2012, 12:23 PM
Hi and thank you to the agents and fellow writers that are giving of their time to answer our questions both on this forum and others. I am hoping someone can please help me out with the following questions:

1. In the link below, it says some agents do and don't like queries in question form as far as the first paragraph in which we try to hook you. If agencies won't so much as give me a name to send to, then how can I possibly get close enough to know this personal information?
http://pred-ed.com/pubquery.htm

2. Question 1 leads me to my next question. Online agents gave tips on query letters and it stated we must address the agent by their name, and we should even reference their work in our letter. But when I contacted the agencies they would not give me a name. Instead they asked I send to "literary department."

3. In the link below it says "do not send synopses to screenplay agents or movie production companies." Are they saying we should send queries instead or not send anything? I had read if we cannot find ourselves an agent, to then go to the production companies. Is this incorrect? And will any give me the time of day?
http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.htm

Thank you in advance, I look forward to hearing opinions, thank you!

Corinne Duyvis
12-02-2012, 01:44 PM
1. Most agents hate hypothetical questions. It's safer to just avoid them in all your queries--and it often makes your query stronger anyway.

2. What kinds of agencies are you targeting? The vast majority of literary agencies I've encountered clearly list their agents' names on the website, often with their background and what genres they're looking for.

3. Are you working with a novel or screenplay? It's a little unclear from your questions. If the former, you shouldn't be contacting screenplay agents or production companies anyway, and if the latter, I can't help you, as I have no experience in that area.

Stacia Kane
12-02-2012, 05:08 PM
BetsyComedy, we have a whole subforum for Screenwriting here. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=12) Perhaps you'll find more specific answers to questions about scripts and the submission process/screenwriting agents there?

BetsyComedy
12-02-2012, 10:31 PM
Thanks ladies. Sorry, I forgot to say. I have been writing sitcom and reality show comedy. I contacted all the WGA agencies and only 15 allowed me to send them a query and of the 15, 2 dozen requested I attention the literary dept when I asked for a name. Two more questions if I may...in the meantime I will pose some questions on the screenplay forum too, thank you!

4. Why don't most WGA agencies have websites? Are those with websites more likely to be reputable? Some that do have nothing more than a single page with their name and maybe phone number....

5. Proposals, synopsis, query, treatments, why so many? It gets so confusing. In the end the idea and summary really doesn't change, right?

ARoyce
12-02-2012, 10:34 PM
Betsy:

Welcome to AW!

As Corinne and Stacia have already pointed out, there are a variety of online resources for researching agents and the publishing industry. There are also several books that provide similar information, such as Writer's Market, which gets republished every year.

Are you working on screenplays or novels? (or some other genre?)

I think it's important for any pre-published writer to learn about how the publishing industry works, and really much easier to do this now than in pre-Internet days. So many agents now use blogs and twitter and other social media--so many agents use those avenues to provide valuable information that's easily accessible. But that also means they're more likely to expect queries to do so instead of doing things like calling them.

Sites like querytracker.net and Agentquery.com provide plenty of information about agents and agencies--including specific areas of interest and links to their web sites, where each agency posts it's submission guidelines and, usually, what it's agents are looking for.

Oh, and to echo Corinne, yes, the point of the advice about rhetorical situations is that enough agents find them problematic that it's much better just not to use them. (in fact, unless a rhetorical question is being used very skillfully, there's usually a much better way to start your query.)

Good luck to you!

ARoyce
12-02-2012, 10:45 PM
5. Proposals, synopsis, query, treatments, why so many? It gets so confusing. In the end the idea and summary really doesn't change, right?

I can't respond to the WGA question because I'm in fiction rather than screenplays, but as for your question above...well, I hope I don't sound snarky, but this is another one of those things writers need to educate themselves about regarding the industry. Each of those pieces has a very different function. A query is basically a pitch--it's meant to introduce your work and whet the appetite--get an agent to want to see more. That's a very different function than a synopsis, which is meant to provide the whole story (and, at different stages, different lengths of synopsis are appropriate).

Sure, the basics of your story don't change, but what agents and publishers need to know (and shar with colleagues) at different stages of the acquisition process can be different.

Hope this helps.

BetsyComedy
12-02-2012, 10:46 PM
Thank you Ayroyce! I have been working on reality show and sitcom comedy for TV. I will put that in my bio so it's clearer. I will check out those links you mentioned. So all my sealed letters I was going to send yesterday should I open them and update them to attention the right person if I can find them on the sites you mentioned? I am not anxious to do that but if you think I won't get a fair shake otherwise then by all means.

I understand the difference between the types of letters, I guess I wasn't sure which they wanted but I am assuming the first time they hear from me they would like a query?

I am still confused why they are so secretive about giving names when I call them (and most of them not having websites with those very names). I am wondering if they don't want me to use a name or something? Seems so odd.

ARoyce
12-02-2012, 10:52 PM
I don't know about agencies for screenwriting, but for fiction/nonfiction, agencies seem to have a "don't call" policy. With all the calls they handle in their course of operations (clients/editors etc.), they just don't have the time to spend on non-client questions when answers are usually easily available online. Usually.

ARoyce
12-02-2012, 10:55 PM
Note--the links I mentioned provide info on literary agents (fiction/nonfiction). I don't know if they include agencies that rep screenwriters.

BetsyComedy
12-02-2012, 11:04 PM
Oh boy, it's extra challenging then with the screen writing. Here is a link to another posting I made with the few agencies that agreed to take my query letter, but I wonder if they will toss it now because I wrote "Attention Literary Dept" and yet that's what they told me to do when I asked nicely for a name. The super few that had websites, didn't have names on them so I asked for the appropriate agents name in an email but no response. Only a couple of the long list of 7 had names of their agents but those didn't accept query letters from unknowns anyway.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7780462&posted=1#post7780462

Old Hack
12-03-2012, 11:35 AM
Hello, Betsy.

Bear in mind that my experience is mostly relevant to book publishing and not to screenwriting, so some of my answers here might not apply to your situation.


1. In the link below, it says some agents do and don't like queries in question form as far as the first paragraph in which we try to hook you. If agencies won't so much as give me a name to send to, then how can I possibly get close enough to know this personal information?
http://pred-ed.com/pubquery.htm

Just assume that no agents want rhetorical questions in queries: it's a very dated way to write your query.


2. Question 1 leads me to my next question. Online agents gave tips on query letters and it stated we must address the agent by their name, and we should even reference their work in our letter. But when I contacted the agencies they would not give me a name. Instead they asked I send to "literary department."

It's not a good idea to phone agencies to ask for this information. Research them on the internet; look at their submission guidelines; do what they ask you to do there.


3. In the link below it says "do not send synopses to screenplay agents or movie production companies." Are they saying we should send queries instead or not send anything? I had read if we cannot find ourselves an agent, to then go to the production companies. Is this incorrect? And will any give me the time of day?
http://pred-ed.com/pubagent.htm

I don't know enough about screenplay writing to answer your question, and suggest you ask it in our screenplay room, if you haven't already done so.


Thank you Ayroyce! I have been working on reality show and sitcom comedy for TV. I will put that in my bio so it's clearer. I will check out those links you mentioned. So all my sealed letters I was going to send yesterday should I open them and update them to attention the right person if I can find them on the sites you mentioned? I am not anxious to do that but if you think I won't get a fair shake otherwise then by all means.

It sounds to me as though you're not ready to send those query letters out yet: you're not sure if you should send a synopsis, you don't know if you should use the agents' names, you don't know precisely who you're querying: if I were you I'd not send those letters out at all. Do more research; wait until you're sure.


I understand the difference between the types of letters, I guess I wasn't sure which they wanted but I am assuming the first time they hear from me they would like a query?

The only people who can answer this question for you are the people you're querying. Again, ask this question in the Screenplay room to get more accurate advice: I'm sure there'll be a standard way to proceed if you can't find out an individual's preferences, but I don't know it.


I am still confused why they are so secretive about giving names when I call them (and most of them not having websites with those very names). I am wondering if they don't want me to use a name or something? Seems so odd.

They're not being secretive. They might have half a dozen agents working at the agency, but can't tell which would be most appropriate for your query; so to stop you querying every single one of them, which would multiply the number of queries they received, they give you a department name instead of an agent's name.


Oh boy, it's extra challenging then with the screen writing. Here is a link to another posting I made with the few agencies that agreed to take my query letter, but I wonder if they will toss it now because I wrote "Attention Literary Dept" and yet that's what they told me to do when I asked nicely for a name. The super few that had websites, didn't have names on them so I asked for the appropriate agents name in an email but no response. Only a couple of the long list of 7 had names of their agents but those didn't accept query letters from unknowns anyway.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7780462&posted=1#post7780462

As I already explained, it's best not to phone agencies up to find out such information. They don't have the time or staff to explain to all callers how things work so they just give you the briefest reply that they can.

Betsy, with all due respect, I don't think you're anything like ready to query your work yet. You need to understand the business a bit better first, and know how to query effectively--and a big part of that knowledge is understanding who to query, and how to find that out.

Keep a hold of those query letters you've got ready. Spend a couple of months reading up on how to query and how to present yourself in the best possible way to the people you're querying. The agents will still be there when you've done that, and you'll show your work and yourself off so much better when you know what you're doing.

BetsyComedy
12-04-2012, 01:57 AM
Thank you Old Hack. I feel weird calling you that lol, and I like to address people personally. Anyway, I appreciate your help very much and will take your advice to not send and will continue to read as much as possible. I made a mistake above, I meant to say 7 pages of agents not 7 agents.

If I express unhappiness about it it's only because I think it's a difficult system, I know you are just the kind wise messanger trying to help me, not the rule maker.

Both my mom and close friend wrote books. Seems like the expectations are more clear cut for book writers, seems like the contact info is also easier to locate, and seems like there are tons more that one can send to and less that don't accept unsolicited work.

Having sent synopsis to hundreds of publishers and agents, my mom never did find interest in her book. So here I am sweating a mere 15 agencies that accept solicitations, all of which will likely reject me (not being negative, but practical), with potentially individual requirements that I could not locate online (thus having to call). I understand that calling is not protocol, but had I not called, I guess I would have wasted time, money and energy sending to the other 85% that doesn't accept solicitations.

I did find a reference book at the library with contact names, but it wasn't a recent one, so I opted to not use names that may be outdated. I can tell you I work for a company that gets more calls than most businesses, and if someone asks us who to direct this and that to, we will tell them. The agencies that are open to queries tend to be small, so my guess is they don't have a ton of literary agents and thus would have been just as easy to say send to Joe Blow versus literary dept. If not, then please post it online I say.

I would be fine with writing "literary dept" like they requested, but my feeling from reading the responses is that it may work against me so I may have to put my detective hat on. Honestly I'd rather be working on my material than jumping through hoops, I guess it feels unecessary but if that's the game then nothing I can do. I don't mind the leg work and sales as that's an area I excel in, but I always had some form of direction before and things were a bit more clear cut.

I keep hearing about some book that tells you what types of material agents are interested in (ie sci fi movie, comedy sitcom etc..), but I cannot locate this info either.

I promised myself not to get discouraged from rejections, but I am discouraged that it's so confusing even just to get to the point of rejection, but getting there the *right way* so I know I did all I could.