by Peggy Bechko
Most of us want to know how to do it, not how not to do it, but if you know the big DON’Ts you’re a whole lot more likely to get the DOs right.
We might as well admit it, we’re all ‘eager’ when it comes to finding a berth for our babies and selling our work. And, eager is okay, but top that with professionalism and now you’re going somewhere.
So what are the don’ts? For starters when you pitch don’t tell a movie producer the script should be a novel as well and don’t tell a publisher ‘my book should be a movie’. Don’t tell them the manuscript will result in a book that’s a bestseller or that the movie will be a blockbuster. No one can predict that outcome. Only result from such claims will be (if they’re polite) deeply patient sighs. Let’s face it, if someone could predict blockbusters and bestsellers they’d be a dime a dozen. You’re no more likely to predict it than they are. Good luck. So let’s just skip that one.
Don’t go in saying ‘everyone’ loves your script or ‘everyone’ loves your manuscript. Really? Who? Your family and friends? Drop the ‘everyone’ thing. If you have someone with a bit of gravitas who enjoyed reading your work, by all means mention that person. But be specific as to who you’re talking about and skip the ‘everyone’ reference. The guys in position to buy your script or manuscript also know the definition of ‘everyone’ and you won’t win any points with them by saying it. In fact I’ll wager it’ll get you minus points. So don’t, just don’t. If you think you’re going to say it, bite your tongue. Hard.
Communication these days is far too easy. It makes it far too easy for you, the writer, to hound editors, producers, agents and the like. A polite, professional follow up is one thing and perfectly acceptable. Hounding, emailing obsessively, calling constantly, demanding to get put through when you reach a secretary (aka keeper of the gate) will likely result in one thing. Blacklisting. Yes, you, blacklisted. Right after you get rejected. You think word won’t spread amongst those you want to impress? Think again.
Patience is a virtue. There, I said it. You’re dealing with a very busy professional. Once you’ve got their attention don’t blow it by being constantly in your face. Be patient. Give it some time. Use a little trust. If you haven’t heard back with the passage of that time, send a light, polite query. Be brief, be clear and be pleasant…and don’t forget to thank whoever it is for their time.
This one goes hand in hand with the above ‘everyone likes it’. A big no-no is enthusiastically telling the producer or editor that this creation is so unique no one has ever written a script/book/ whatever, like it ever before. Uh huh, right. First that’s highly unlikely. Second, if it’s true it’s possible there could be a reason why it hasn’t been done before in book or on screen.
So stop and think before you make any such claim. In fact, stop and research. Make sure it is true. Then see if you can find out WHY it is true. You have the web, you can find out an awful lot before you go making wild claims. If it turns out that claim is true, go for it, I won’t stand in your way.
Lastly, don’t automatically reject good, sound, professional advice thinking they just don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Books or scripts. You’re going to get feedback and notes. Listen and think. Step back after your initial gut-wrenching reaction of “No, no, no!” and carefully consider. Dump some pride, swallow your opinions and get to work incorporating those suggestions and ideas into your work. I’ve done it. Every pro out there has done it one time or another, and more than once.
Mostly, criticisms are meant to be constructive. Try to focus on the point that’s being made and not your own ego screaming in defense of your ‘baby’. One of the best ways to sabotage yourself is to never listen, to brush aside comments and be sure the next person along the way will ‘get’ you. Defend your position if you really have an objection to a criticism and listen when you get the rebuttal. Otherwise, get to work.
If you want to be competitive, sell your work and make a career thing about the points made above. Making adjustments in your thinking will take you a long way.