New writers often believe they need an agent to get work and that they can't progress without one. They think it's just a matter of getting an agent and they'll have all the work they can handle. They make it their mission to get one and go all out to do so. An agent becomes their Holy Grail and blinds them to everything else. They send work out before it's ready. They send work out before they are ready. They send work out just because they can and not because they should. And they wonder why they get rejected. I've made that mistake and I know for sure it's one that will continue to be made by new writers.
You are not ready for an agent!
There, I've said it. You might not believe it. You might not want to believe it, but it's true and I'll tell you why.
Agents are inundated with work from any Tom, Dick or Harriet who think that their one and only screenplay is the bee's balls and once an agent has read it then they'll recognise their genius and instantly snap them up. Usually the truth is their screenplay isn't up to much and their narrow-minded attitude reeks of being unprofessional. So they get a standard rejection letter and the agent opens the next submission. As I've already said it's a mistake I've made myself.
So what are agents looking for?
- For a writer who shows promise.
- For a writer with a back catalogue.
- For a writer who illustrates at the very least a basic knowledge of the industry.
- For a writer who networks, who meets new people in the business and forms relationships with them.
- For a writer who has been industrious enough to find their own work.
- For a writer with plenty of ideas.
- For a writer who is enthusiastic and self motivated.
- For a writer who is polite, approachable and easy to work with.
What aren't agents looking for?
- A writer they need to handhold through every aspect of the industry.
- A writer they need to help polish their work.
- A writer with no contacts.
- A writer with only one or two pieces of work.
- A writer with an inflexible attitude.
- A writer with unrealistic aspirations.
- A writer who is rude.
- A writer who doesn't even have a short film to their name.
- A writer who never chases things up.
Basically agents are in business not to help you out, but to help themselves. They are in business to make money. If they look at you and they don't see any way to make money, even if they like your writing, then they won't take you on. They can smell desperation! They want the maximum amount of return for the littlest amount of work...don't we all!
So if not everything in the first category applies to you and the second category feels more familiar then you're not ready. It would be a complete waste of your time and effort trying to approach agents, so don't. There are some exceptions to the rule, there always are, but it happens so little you are better off not even thinking about it. In fact you are probably better off buying a Lotto ticket.
When you're ready you'll be fighting them off, so resist the temptation to approach agents before you are truly ready.