Writers often ask me WHEN they should follow up on their submissions, but rarely HOW they should do it … Well, like most things in this writing lark, there is not *set* way to follow up, but there are MULTIPLE wrong ways!
So, let’s say you’ve made submissions to agents, producers or filmmakers: perhaps you had read requests as a result of pitchfests at events like London Screenwriters’ Festival, or maybe you hustled them up yourself via querying. Well done!
But … it’s been a while now. And you haven’t heard anything. So when is the WRITE (arf) time to follow up? And HOW do you do that without coming off as desperate, weird, annoying or something else suitably UNalluring??
Well, check out these 5 ways on how NOT to do it …
1) Follow up TOO SOON
Realise this. Agents, producers and filmmakers have their EXISTING obligations to work on BEFORE their *potential* stuff. This means submissions are always going to be lower end of their pile. On this basis, it is far better to wait 6-12 weeks MINIMUM before you follow up on any submission you make. That’s right: 6-12 weeks!!! So don’t get your knickers in a knot and bother them before this point. (As far as generalisations go, agents prefer 12 weeks in my experience.)
2) Follow up TOO LATE
Don’t leave it so late the agent, producer or filmmaker will have forgotten all about you – or worse, moved on to another company!! It’s your RIGHT to follow up on your submission. Once the 6-12 weeks is up after the initial submission period, sending a politely worded, concise email about the progress of your script is absolutely fine.
3) Badger them with repeat follow-up emails
Things happen. Sometimes your submission will get lost in cyberspace; or that person you submitted to may get waylaid, or will move on or get fired unexpectedly; or s/he will simply dodge you and never reply. Sending email after email demanding a reply will do nothing for you or your career other than make you look difficult. If you don’t get a reply in the first instance, a second email approximately two weeks later might prompt them to get back to you with a progress update if they’re going to. At a push, a third two weeks after that may bring you some success. NEVER, EVER, send more than 3. And never within the same week. MORE: When is a rejection a rejection if I don’t hear anything?
4) Drop by the office
This is never cool. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard from agent friends in particular (or read their timelines on Twitter) where they’ve complained about writers dropping by unannounced. You might think this makes you seem dynamic and friendly, but all they feel is put on the spot and hassled … Because, you guessed it, they have their existing work to do before dealing with your follow up.
5) Remind them when you meet them at events
Meeting agents, producers, directors and other creatives at events like film festivals, book signings, pitchfests and so on is a GREAT way to widen your contacts and improve your chances of getting your work read. But it’s a very, very bad strategy to do something like this:
CREATIVE: Hi, nice to meet you.
WRITER: Oh hi! I submitted my screenplay to you last year.
CREATIVE (Smile freezes): Well, I DO get a lot of screenplays …
WRITER: Yup, I guessed that. You never replied.
CREATIVE: Sorry about that.
WRITER: It was called [TITLE], maybe you remember it?
CREATIVE: Erm …
Putting an industry pro on the backfoot is never a good idea. It smells of revenge tactics and even if it isn’t, the creative in question is very likely to perceive it as such (and if it IS a revenge tactic? It might make you feel good for the thirty seconds of the meeting, but believe me, it won’t last!).
Don’t ever forget the industry is a VERY small pond and everyone knows each other … Agents, producers, directors and other creatives TALK!!
CONCLUDING: Your reputation as a writer is entirely in your hands – and may often precede you. Make sure it’s for GOOD reasons. Yes, some agents, producers and filmmakers are plain RUDE – but let them have to deal with the consequences of that for themselves. You focus on your own game and be *the* writer everyone likes, respects and wants to work with.
- More articles by Lucy V. Hay
- Balls of Steel: The Executive – He’s Just Not That Into You
- Breaking & Entering: Dealing with Rejection
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