Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A friend of mine wants to connect me with a Motion Picture Lit Agent at one of the Big 5 Agencies here in LA. He specified that he's primarily an agent for screenwriting, but that he's looking to add more clients. I work in the entertainment industry, but I don't really deal with agents. Which leads me to wonder...

You've previously advised NOT to send anything to a movie studio, but is sending my novel to a Motion Picture Lit Agent in that same "don't do it!" category or is it acceptable since they're agents? Are Hollywood Agents as ruthless as I fear? Don't want to turn into shark bait here.




For starters, you don't have an agreement with any of them.
Sending it cold is useless.
Most likely they won't look at it since film guys don't look at material that arrives in the slush.

Worse, odds are they won't respond  and you'll be left with having to explain you sent it but heard nothing to your AGENT.

Who is going to silently screem when you tell her about this.

When film agents want books, they generally leave out this qualifier: published books that have done well. But that is indeed what they are looking for.

Here's the list of things you do NOT want to do before querying an agent:

1. Register copyright
2. Solicit blurbs
3. Send to a movie/film agent
4. Send to an editor at a publishing company
5. Self publish

Any questions?



Amy Johnson said...

I'm thinking that list will be very useful to a good many people. Others here who have been studying the business for years may have already known those things, but we all started somewhere. Things on the list may seem like they'd be wise, responsible things to do, until we know better. Thank you, Janet.

E.M. Goldsmith said...


No questions.

Got it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

#6. Give the agent's phone number to your mother.

Matt Adams said...

The other thing to remember is that Hollywood is full of thieves. Ideas aren't copyrightable, so you can your manuscript to an movie agent, who tells someone about it, who likes just enough of the kernel of the idea to glom onto it and tell someone else, and before you know it your slightly modified ends up as someone else's script.

If I sound bitter, I speak from a smidge of experience. But if you want to read a more graphic and horrifying story, look up the genesis of the movie "Gravity." And that was from someone who actually sold the rights to her book.

Don't deal with Hollywood unless you're wanting to deal with Hollywood. They have a whole different species of shark out there, and they ain't nearly as nice as ours.

Unknown said...


I was surprised to see "register copyright" at the top of the list of things not to do before getting an agent. Wouldn't copyrighting your own manuscript prevent against theft? I'm having trouble imagining the downside.


Katja said...

OK, understood! Thank you!

Regarding your list, can you (or someone) explain #1, please?
What do you mean by don't register copyright?

Thanks again!

P.S. I have jumped into the query trenches in the UK for the first time (two days ago). Doesn't feel much different to when I tried in the US/Canada ;). Except that the query here is called "submission letter" and that I'm sure the Queen wouldn't quite agree if she read how the OFFICIAL examples of queries look like.
I was a little quaked when I read "excuse the length of my letter to you, but..."

Brenda said...

The rest of the list is self-explanatory but the blurb one is interesting. I expect that the publisher would want to tailor that aspect themselves, unless you are in Laura Lipmann’s cookie club or Stephen King’s Tuesday night seance ( I presume there is one).
One temptation we neophytes may run into is presented by editors and publisher’s who request manuscripts on twitter pitch parties. When you've been dog-paddling alone in the dark waters for a while it’s difficult not to board the first boat that comes along, even when it’s headed the other way.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just write?

Brenda said...

Guessing here but I expect the copyright issue is about trust. You presume that your agent will steal from you before you’ve even worked together, rather than research honorable agents. I presume there is one :)
Couldn’t resist.
It also marks you as an amateur because it means you haven’t yet figured out that every story has already been written...just not by you. How do you copyright voice?

B said...

Whew! As always, thanks for saving me from myself Janet!

Unknown said...

Is it possible to reply to comments here? (I'm more used to Reddit than Blogspot!)

To continue the thread regarding copyright I wanted to respond to BrendaLynn: My interest in registering the copyright for a manuscript doesn't stem from fear of the agent but fear that one of my accounts gets hacked and some stranger steals the work.

Also, if I'd already copyrighted the manuscript, is that something I would need to mention early on to a potential agent?

PAH said...

RE: Copyrighting.

In the USA, by writing something and putting your name on it (even in digital form)... it is already protected under copyright laws. You might have to prove it in the RARE chance someone steals it. Some folks recommend printing it (page numbers and identifier on ever page) and mailing it to yourself -- keeping it sealed and postmarked. That's only if you're really paranoid.

Other than that, there are only downsides and almost no upside to copyrighting your work. You might come off as an amateur. Plus, I think any publisher would be annoyed that you already copyrighted the work (and probably a different version than they are now wanting to copyright... since your ms. is most definitely going to go through rounds of revision before publishing (you won't be the exception here)).

Also, I've read that shady vanity presses and agents use copyright registration lists to contact writers to do shady things and bilk them of their money.

If you're worried about your IDEA getting stolen, don't be. Someone has already it, I assure you. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet. Your job is to EXECUTE that idea awesomely and in a way that only you could.

Save your money and time!

Happy writing!!!!

Elissa M said...

About copyright: I second everything PAH said.

New writers are so convinced that their manuscript is the holy grail of manuscripts that they can't imagine everyone in the world isn't out to steal it.

Trust me, they aren't.

But, as has been said, the work is already copyrighted from the moment of creation. Don't waste any time or money registering it. That'll be taken care of by the publisher when the time comes.

AJ Blythe said...

BrendLynn, the blurb one is because if you have a blurb from *no.1 bestselling author* and then you land your agent and have to revise said manuscript, you can't use the blurb because the story is now different and the agent can no longer approach *no.1 bestselling author*.

Brenda said...

Ah. Thank you.