How to Cold Email a Screenwriting Agent ?

You finished a screenplay! You are ready to seek representation but sending a cold query email to a literary agent or manager seems like a daunting task. You aren’t sure what steps to take or how to approach a Hollywood big shot. 

How to Cold Email a Screenwriting Agent

In this guide, you will learn: 

  • How to find connection in your cold email to a screenwriting agent?
  • Why research is an important step in a successful query email? 
  • If your inquiry emails are being opened and read?

Many screenwriters struggle to get the results they want from email outreach. It’s not easy but if you follow these five steps you will increase the odds of connecting with a literary agent who may help you launch your career or better yet, get your screenplay sold! All it takes is a little planning and persistence. 

STEP 1: Do Your Research

Research is an action step that leads to worthwhile query emails. By doing research you are giving yourself the gift of purposeful focus. You will know exactly how your story fits into the industry, who you want to collaborate with and why your unique talent has value TODAY.

What if instead of sending 100+ emails you sent 10-20 emails to people who may actually be interested in your screenplay? 

Don’t make the same mistake I did in the beginning of my outreach journey by sending blind emails to every agent, executive or manager on the planet. I encourage you to work smarter and not harder! Focus on quality over quantity.  Read the trades, deep dive into IMDB and search for someone who suits you. Remember, it’s a two-way street! 

You also have to consider what it’s like to be in the industry executive’s shoes. Think about what value you are adding before you send your email.  How are you going to help them get their job done?  They aren’t interested in desperate screenwriters hoping to make a buck and become famous. They want a solid product (a good story) that fulfills a need.

The only way to know if an industry leader may be interested in your screenplay is to do your research, learn what is going on in the current market, who might be interested and how your script has economic and creative value.

STEP 2: Seek Connection 

Once you have your curated email list of agents and managers, it’s time to start formulating your query message. 

The goal of your email is not to sell your screenplay. The goal of your email is CONNECTION. You want the recipient to take action: to request your script, to schedule a zoom meeting, to be willing to talk with you over the phone. You want to connect!

A lot of screenwriting conferences, workshops, panels encourage you to have the perfect 3-4 sentence bio, accolades, log line and branding, etc! Don’t get me wrong, these things are important but what these industry leaders are ultimately looking for is how you are going to add VALUE to their lives?  

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  • Why are they the person you are emailing?
  • Why should they back you as a screenwriter?
  • Does your story have a place in the current marketplace?
  • What do you uniquely bring to the table?

If you can answer these probing questions prior to your outreach, you will have clarity behind your why, which will help you connect with an agent or manager in an authentic way. 

I once asked a literary agent how many query letters he receives a day...his response 7-10! Do the math. That is nearly 300 messages one agent gets a month from aspiring screenwriters across the World. (And that is a conservative number) Stand out by being totally yourself, finding representation that aligns with you and your particular story. Seek a mutually beneficial connection. 

STEP 3: Write a Smart Subject Line

Once you have done the research, understand how you are going to build connections and establish value, you are officially ready to send off your query emails. But wait…your email subject line may send your thoughtfully crafted query message right into the trash heap or spam folder!

During my first round of email inquiries, I would draft up dazzling, salesman-like subject lines that I hoped would captivate the agent enough to open my email but I received little to no results. Then I learned something...

The goal of the subject line is not to make the sale. The purpose of the subject line is to get the person to open the email.

- DAN LOK, world-renowned educator & ENTREPRENEUR

Your subject line’s aim is to get your emails opened and generic words just ain’t gonna cut it. Managers and agents have heard it all! In order to stand out, you want to leverage your research and your product (screenplay) with a strategic subject line prompt. 

For example:

  • How to survive… / How to overcome…/How to Deal with...
  • The biggest mistake____make
  • The real secret to _______
  • The fastest way to______
  • Here’s a shortcut for….
  • How I ________
  • About your _______ / I have a question about your…

These prompts originated from Dan Lok’s video:  7 Subject Lines That Get Your Emails Opened. Lok helped me discover the omission I was making with my off-putting subject lines that never landed me any clicks. I quickly corrected the course.

I did extensive industry research, learned about a movie deal that was recently brokered, the players who were involved and contacted them with a strategic subject-line prompt. I used subject line prompt #7 on 7 top agents and 6 of my emails were opened! I consider this a small victory with visible results!

email sample.jpg

And because I have read receipts setup via Boomerang, I was notified that an agent from CAA went as far as to click on my link inside the email, which tells me that I have a warm lead worthy of a follow up! That's why it's so important to follow the next step. 

STEP 4: Get a Read Receipt

If you aren’t getting a read receipt on all those emails you are sending out, then how the heck are you going to know if your outreach strategies are working? 

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Last year, I sent out 40 query emails to various agents and literary managers and I only received 2 responses. I NEVER knew which emails were ACTUALLY OPENED. There was no way for me to track if my email subject line was effective or if my messages were even being considered. 

Then I discovered Boomerang, a plugin for Gmail and my whole outreach strategy became trackable!  (This is not an affiliate promotion, although I do participate in those programs) This is a simple tool that is a real game changer!

Boomerang can do all sorts of things: obtain read receipts, track clicks, schedule meetings and there is a tool that assists with getting your email language just right to increase your odds of getting your email read.

Now when I send a query email I arm myself with this essential tool. I send EVERY INQUIRY with a read receipt. The recipient has the option to opt out, but 95% of the time EVERY EMAIL is TRACKED and I am notified.  

Wouldn’t you like to see if your emails are getting opened? 

Once I started tracking my query emails...I discovered something AMAZING...My emails were being looked at by top managers and agents in the industry almost IMMEDIATELY! Which tells me not only is my research valuable but my subject lines are getting my emails opened.

A read receipt will help you feel confident that all your hard work is actually creating the momentum you need to sell your screenplay.  And after you send out all those emails...

STEP 5: Track Your Outreach 

If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It. 

Without a way of tracking your outreach,  you will be unable to fine tune your approach and improve your future outcomes: getting a meeting, selling your story so you can keep writing. One of the most essential tools you need in your toolkit when marketing yourself is a way to track your progress - I call it an outreach tracker.  I have created a document in Google excel sheets that I someday hope to share with you. 

It includes a list of names, companies, contact info, dates, follow ups and notes. This tool helps me stay on top of my email inquiries so I know exactly who I wrote to, who I need to follow up with and who is not interested. Keep track of every agent, manager, executive, assistant that you have sent an email to so you know exactly where you stand at any given moment in the process.

I truly hope this information helps you book a meeting with someone who sees value in you and your story! Don’t stop until you get a “yes!”

Stories with Whitney

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