What to Include in Your Query Letter / First Email

On your first approach make sure to include some biographical information, possibly a CV or a biographical statement. The statement can be written in third person, and just give a more relaxed summary of the highlights from your CV. If you have composed works you would like the agent to help you to sell, perhaps include the logline and one paragraph synopsis of each. 

Always be Polite, and as Professional as Possible! 

When approaching make sure to be as polite and professional as possible! Even a rejection can be turned into a win if you thank them for their time, and perhaps follow up to ask if any other agents they know are currently looking to take on clients, or if they have any other tips for you! Don’t follow up more than once! As Cassio says “Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!”

Competitions

Competitions are a great way to catch an agent’s attention. Sometimes agents will even reach out to competition winners! Even if you get longlisted or shortlisted for an award this can help to improve your CV. One problem is that competitions are sometimes expensive – and the average screenplay comp can set you back close to $100 – so keep your eyes out for free or cheaper ones!

Referral

Most agents in my experience operate ‘by referral only.’ They will also say ‘our books are not currently open.’ For many agents, the books are never officially open, because they are already operating at capacity. Referral can come in a number of forms: sometimes its an in person recommendation from someone the agent knows and trusts. However, if you include a letter of recommendation in your email from someone that the agent recognises as being involved in your field (publishing, or the screen industry) then that can work too! It’s all about trying to make a personal connection with an agent, and to have recommendations from people they trust / respect.  

Public Events

Sometimes agents will attend public networking events. Since working with an agent is a personal relationship, they will often want to make sure they get on with you on a personal level before entering a professional relationship: that’s why meeting in person can really help! Writer’s festivals, special one off reading events, book launches, and writing societies are all excellent places to mingle and try to meet and impress literary agents. 

Social Media

Follow as many agents as you can on their public social media pages! Don’t follow their private accounts though unless you are friends obviously. Agents will often seek to promote their clients online through social media, and will have active accounts. See who they are working with, what kinds of work they are producing, and then perhaps reach out with an approach that shows that you have done your homework on their agency, and the reasons why you think your work would be a great fit for them! 

Have a look at how to write perfect obstacles here.