Book Review:  “Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets” by James Russel

 

I really should have reviewed this book earlier.  When I attended USC Cinema/Television we spent a lot of time on screenwriting, but not a lot of time on how to sell a script.  Then, years later, when I picked up the keyboard again, I needed to know what to do to sell my finished work.  Fortunately, I found this book on Amazon.com.

The book starts out with the basics.  Story structure, plot, character development.  These are all things that you should really know before you even try to sell a script, but it’s a good review for anyone who’s been away from writing for a while.  It then goes on to the basics of format – and the importance of format.  Never underestimate the importance of format.  Throughout the book there is an emphasis on professionalism.  If you don’t look professional, you work won’t be taken seriously.  Format is one of the key factors of that.

The book then goes into how to write a query letter.  This was the most important part of the book for me.  A qerye letter is the letter you write to an agent to try to get them to represent your work.  As I said in my last post, most production companies won’t even look at your work if it doesn’t come through an agent.

There is an art to writing an effective query letter, just like there is to writing a good screenplay.  You introduce yourself, you have your log line, and you include any credits you may have like education, awards you’ve won or work you’ve sold.  That’s it.  If they like your letter, they will ask to see your script.  Two agents did ask to see my Christmas screenplay.  And thought they didn’t decide to represent it, my screenplay is in the hands of two professional agents.

The author even goes into how to assemble your package.  What order things go in, what size envelopes to use, even what kind of stamp goes on the envelope.  Yes, even the stamp on the envelope.  Agents get hundreds of query letter a week.  They are looking for any way to cut down their workload.  If you have some goofy looking stamp (like Goofy or some other cartoon character) they will think you are not serious about writing.  Only a “Freedom” or other serious stamp will do.  Again, everything has to look professional.

The author ends the book with a list of agents that will look at your work if you mention that you have read this book.  To them, reading the book shows that you are serious.  This list alone is worth the price of the book.  Be warned, some of the agents have either moved or gone out of business, so you will get some of your letters back.  It’s still worth it.

This is the book I recommend most to anyone who is ready to sell his work.