Dear Script Doctor Eric:
I’ve written my first screenplay and am looking to sell it. Can you please tell me the best way to do this? Should I write a query letter? Synopsis? Treatment? Is there a certain format for this?
The above is a fabrication (Who is named Pat Screenwriter?). I do, however, receive a variation of this letter about a few times a month. Hopefully this post that can help answer these questions for first-time screenwriters looking to sell their screenplay.
If you’ve just completed your first script, congratulations! You’ve accomplished something a lot of people here in Los Angeles talk about doing, but never actually accomplish.
Thanks Eric, it feels great. So how do I sell this sucker?
Hold on a second. I said it was a good accomplishment, not that you were ready to make a six-figure salary pounding out scripts for J. J. Abrams.
First, have you read my post Help for New Screenwriters? If not, please check it out – I wrote that post with first-time writers in mind.
Done reading but still want to sell your first screenplay? Don’t take this the wrong way, but it is highly unlikely that your first screenplay will be at the level it needs to be to sell.
Screenwriting is complicated art that – like anything – takes many years and many screenplays to get any good at. I’m not trying to discourage you. If you love writing screenplays, you should keep doing it.
The key word in that last sentence is “screenplays,” with an “s.” Get a few scripts under your belt before you start pounding the pavement. You can always come back to that first screenplay and make it better.
And believe me, it can always be better. (Don’t believe me? Send your script through one of my screenwriting services and I’ll show you just how much better it can be. :))
But if, in spite of my warnings, you’re STILL determined to sell that first screenplay, well, fine. To answer your questions, in general, there aren’t hard and fast rules about treatments, just general guidelines. The best way is to find five or six examples and pick the best one for you.
As for query letters, I’ve written about that on my site. Check out one of my most popular posts: How to Write a Query Letter
However, my specialty is helping you make your screenplay so good it should sell itself, NOT teaching you how to sell screenplays. My friend Ashley has dedicated his entire site to the question of selling your screenplay. Check out his site SellingYourScreenplay.com and especially the post How to Sell Your Screenplay (in a Nutshell)
If you’re a new screenwriter, I’m honestly not trying to discourage you. I hope you do catch the screenwriting bug and pound out two, three, four screenplays a year…
Then you’re begin to understand how much there is to learn.