I have a client who shall remain nameless. (Hi, Bob!) (Kidding. I’ve also changed some details.)
I had not seen the guy I’ll call Bob in over a year when he e-mailed me to say that he was discouraged because, in that year, he had not sold his screenplay. I asked him how many times he had pitched it, and the answer was five. Five times, no nibbles.
Now, since I know for a fact that this is a good project, I admit to being kind of surprised. So I questioned further and this is what I discovered. Of the five pitches,
– One was to a friend and fellow writer.
– Three were to agents or managers.
– One was to a production company that could have bought the screenplay.
At which point I took several deep breaths and calmly told Bob the facts of life. Pitching is a numbers game. Pitching your script to five production companies should be enough to get at least one of them to request a copy of the script, assuming you’ve done some homework and you’re pitching to companies that produce scripts like yours. However, you may need to get five or ten reads before you get an option or a sale. That works out to around 50 pitches. To producers.
Agents will be the subject of another post – and I love agents, they’re an important piece of a career puzzle – but take this to heart: Agents aren’t buyers. Exactly zero percent of the time will an agent pay you for your script.
You would not go out on one date with one person and expect to be married in the next five minutes; think of pitching your screenplay as serial dating. Enjoy it! Learn to love the dates – I mean, pitches. Track them. Keep a database of everyone to whom you have pitched the project – both the company name and the name of the person to whom you spoke. Get those numbers up. How many calls does it take to get a read? To get a meeting? Don’t obsess when you get a “no.” Thank them, ask them what they are looking for (hey, maybe you can set them up with your best friend’s script!) and move on. The more you get out there, the more likely you are to find the right fit for your project.
Tracking also lets you regroup when necessary. If no one bites after twenty pitches, there may be something wrong with your pitch. If the pitch is getting you in the door but no one buys the script after reading it, revisit your work. Give it to a trusted and experienced friend for notes.
Writing is great, always keep writing, but if you want it to exist in a form outside of your laptop, you have to add in pitching. A lot of pitching. It’s a numbers game, and you have to be in it – in a big way – to win it.