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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > Synopses and Cover Letters > Selling oneself...

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 Posted: Mon Feb 5th, 2007 05:11 pm
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lostsocks
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Mana: 
Well my search for an agent continues as ever, however I have come across some problems so I think I need to reveiw my cover letter.

Firstly, obviously, I'm meant to be selling myself. But being a new writer, naturally I have no published works under my belt at all. So other than writing briefly about my degree and what I've been doing last few years not much I can put on paper that will make me look more interesting than the next writer in the pile.

I've always been told that humour is a big no-no in application letters. Which obviously leaves me at a disadvantage, since I'm a humourist.

Without having any real credentials, and without being allowed to try and apply my skill in the letter, I feel like I'm left on some pretty unworkable footing.
Inlcuding a writer's CV in a letter seems to make me look worse than if I just left one out completely.

Same with play submissions, it seems all I can say is "I am sam and this is my play".

I get a fair share of rejections (and many simply don't reply at all... which I wouldn't mind if they didn't insist on a SAE, I have to pay for those stamps they don't use!) and I can't see much to get out of this.

They wont accept unsolicited work, so I can't impress them with the play itself, I can give no indication of my ability to write comedies in my letter.

Bleah. I just feel like I can't even get my foot in the door

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 Posted: Mon Feb 5th, 2007 11:03 pm
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Anubian Nights Theatre Co
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Mana: 
It would really help if you had something they could come and see - like a reading, a workshop performance or even a whole play. My first agent came through word of mouth and a friend in common, so 'networking' (however vile you might find it!) does come in handy.

Break a leg and get out there and start kissing.....  err, whatever it is that needs kissing to get what you want, this is not a time for modesty or self respect!

TKL

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 Posted: Tue Feb 6th, 2007 02:22 am
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nic
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Mana: 
What to tell you. You're young and energetic and you live in an area where there should be plenty of theatre even community.. I used think that I wouldn't offer my work there but that's changed... Get involved with a group. If you can get them to at least stage readings of your work and if you can be objective about those readings you'll learn from them and if they produce your work you'll slowly build a portfolio.

 I've just had one of our main stage theatres take one of my plays, at least for a look, and only because it had had a previous production by a pro/am group.

Beg, borrow, no beg some more if necessary but get involved with a group

 

The best Nic

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 Posted: Tue Feb 6th, 2007 02:05 pm
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lostsocks
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Mana: 
Thanks for the feedback,

Might give a few of the groups in cmabridge a look. Avoided them in the past because I generally worry about having people look down on the stuff I write, what with it all being as werid as it usually is.

I think people assume I'm not taking it seriously because of what I write, and it's sort of off-putting.

Lol I'll stop being a big wuss and see about signing up with the local one, I know one published author with them so it wont be *too* daunting hopefully.

On a lighter note, got another rejection letter today, so at least the stamps didn't go to waste (*cringe* daft as it sounds that would have really irked me if they hadn't used the SAE.) Took 'em six months but they got there in the end.

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 Posted: Tue Feb 6th, 2007 03:59 pm
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in media res
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lostsocks,


I concur with nic and arubian. Like it or not, theatre is a social phenomenon. It does not mean you have to go crazy and hob nob and party! party! and fit in with the gang. (I never have and it's worked out fine for me.) But you do have to let people know you exist! Get involved with a group. Make yourself useful. Take tickets. Clean the bathrooms. Make the coffee. Spring for the cookies. Grab a hammer! Grab a paintbrush! Help out (especially on "strike night.") Face it, most people do not want to work. Just doing little things around a place can make you vital. But help in an area you are competent at. Don't do things that you will not do well. Since you write, help them do publicity.

And why are you worried about people looking down on the stuff you write? Are you a Literary Manager? Never assume, "They'll hate it". If you assume they will hate it, then you better re-write!!!!! Let them decide. I always tell actors, "Don't become the casting agent. Do your work, and let them decide."

You learn nothing by not having your plays read by someone else. You learn about yourself and the play, and how you handle critique and comporting yourself during and after a critique. Hey, that is a valuable lot to learn. Toughens up the skin, old boy, eh? Opens up the mind. Maybe makes one look at the work in a different way to make it better. Out of twenty or a hundred comments that might sear into your soul and make you believe they are all idiots (and maybe even make you want to kill them for their collective stupidity) there is usually one comment that makes you go "Hey, now there is an idea I haven't thought of!" You must learn to keep open through despite all the contrariness. That is where the professionalism of it all begins.

I don't know where you are in the great trudge into a career, but I would recommend holding off contacting agents until you do have a resume' of some kind, or have something to invite them to. (Doesn't have to be a big resume'. Just a few readings is even enough.) Why waste your energy and get your name out there too early?

What agents are looking for is a consistent history or pursuit of your goal. That means public readings, small productions. The fact you can even get public readings is a big thing! The fact someone else wanted to do it is a big thing. And, you would be surprised at the people who may show up for those things. (As Arubian noted.) And talent can be like a magnet. Word spreads. What an agent may not like upon reading a query, actors may love it in a reading and word spreads. So, try and get the readings. And agents in the theatre are not looking for "published," they are looking for "produced" playwrights.

Humor can be used in a letter, but it must be humor that sits well and is not something that just you think might be funny. Self-deprecating humor is an absolute NOT!!!!! NOT! NOT! NOT! NOT! NOT! When I write a query, I try to have the query and especially the synopsis be in somewhat of the style and tone of the play. The query letter is an appetizer to getting them to read the short synopsis, which I always have on a second page. Some writers prefer to combine both in one page. Both are fine...if they work!

Writing a good query/letter of introduction in your own style takes as much effort as writing a perfect one-act play. It can be agonizing and exhausting! Edit the daylights out of it. It must be lean. Every word must count. And it must mooooooove forward just like a play. If it is merely a list of information, forget it. The phrase is "Sell the sizzle, not the steak."

Here is a fact: (I have given workshops on this stuff) In ANY line of business, the average time someone spends reading a resume' is twenty seconds, and maybe less. Yep, maybe less. I know many agents. I see what goes in the trash bin for acting and writing and design. 90% go in immedately, just because of the presentation. (Yes, even from designers!!!) Do you know how many people can not write a good letter? Or have a smudge or tear on the page? Lay it out poorly? Misspell? Do not have the proper spelling of the person they are writing to? Some actually write in their handwritten scrawl!!!! (And many of these come from people graduating from fine programs in universities!!! Well, come to think of it...) Do not have the courtesy to get their own professional letterhead on nice stationery, rather than standard copy shop white? (Which does not cost much and anyone with a computer can do this.) Of the 10% that remain, then 90% of those go in the trash. Of remainder, some or none will be contacted. Agents I know take their job quite seriously. They are in business. If someone is not professinoal enough to care about what you want them to read, why should they? One business friend says, "If I see one misspelling on a letter, I can't hire them." (Please don't hold me to that - this is the internet and I am moving fast.)

Usually, the way it works in an agent's office is the letters pile up. When they have a slow day or a few hours, they look through the letters. So, imagine this pile THEY HAVE TO GET THROUGH. You can imagine. I have been in an office where they are droning through mail and then a face will suddenly light up. "Look at this." Or "Read this." What do you think?" If you or anyone can ever intern in an agent's office, you will learn a lot

The key is to not put ANY IMPEDIMENT in your way so you can at least get past the first trash bin! The letter must be PERFECT in every way. I always think, "How would I feel if I received this in the mail on a very, very bad day?"

Once I decided to look for a Lit Agent, it took me three years of focusing and targeting and getting rejections. But in that three years I kept getting more awards and some productions.

And an agent does not mean you are done with doing your own publicity! That is a constant.

And you know what, agents DO know how tough it is out there. They have to listen to their signed clients squealing everyday!

Keep your good sense of humor about it all.

best,

in media res

Last edited on Tue Feb 6th, 2007 04:42 pm by in media res

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 Posted: Mon Feb 12th, 2007 03:05 pm
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ohdear
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Mana: 
thanks in media res, this is a nice piece of advice.

I really appreciate the time you take to answer questions.

This insight is very valuable for those who care to weigh it in to their plans.

Count me in.

Ta muchly
Robyn

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 Posted: Wed May 9th, 2007 03:15 pm
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RLN
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Mana: 
I've always been told that humour is a big no-no in application letters. Which obviously leaves me at a disadvantage, since I'm a humourist.

Not necessarily. You can write humorous plays and serious, professional cover letters. My plays don't sound like my cover letters. If they did, they'd be characterless, with unnaturally standardized grammar.

If your plays are being produced, ask yourself what you need an agent for. (I don't have one and I've been writing for 10 years. For about 4 of those, I've lived off writing, of various kinds, and teaching writing.)

If your plays are not being produced frequently, work on getting productions so that you will have a CV and cover letter of substance when and if you pursue the agent.

Remember, you DO NOT NEED AN AGENT TO GET PRODUCTIONS! Some theatres only accept agent submissions, but many good ones have broader policies.

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 Posted: Wed Sep 12th, 2007 11:14 pm
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CaseyC
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Socks and Playwrights around the World!

Please by all means use humor!  And use a lot of it.  A lot of it!  PLEASE!

Of course it helps that I only publish comedy.  But when you have emails stacking up, and they all say here's my play...  well thats nice, work as usual.

But the other day I got one that caught my eye, and certainly had me interested in the script.  The idea that if you can write a funny email, maybe your play is too.  Now, of course, it isn't always the case.  But why live in a drama one more second! Go Comedy! :D

That and I think people are afraid of being funny these days- in the plays themselves!  Critics be damned, make me laugh and hurt my lungs, and need oxygen! 


Send me your funniest plays!  http://www.cheshirecomedy.com No drama's allowed!

_Casey

Last edited on Wed Sep 12th, 2007 11:15 pm by CaseyC

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