Top 5 Mistakes When Selling A Screenplay

Written by Hal Croasmun

Mistake #5: Thinking desperation is attractive.

Passion is attractive. Desperation repels.

Passion means a person is willing to be creative at whatever level it takes to succeed. It means they are driven to create amazing stories. Passion means you are speaking and taking action from an internal place of future success.

That is attractive.

But it is very different from desperation. When someone is desperate, they are speaking from an internal place of failure. In their minds, they already know that their project has no hope, so they are overcompensating in the belief that it will fool people.

They chase people, beg, demand, break down, and even declare that they are desperate. But they forget one thing...

Desperation doesn't sell. It repels.

Simple advice: Relax and make sure you have a great script. Then write a great pitch that doesn't require enthusiasm for someone to get it. When you can read it in a monotone voice and the concept alone generates interest, you are ready to get to work selling your screenplay.

Mistake #4: Flashing actresses...with your script.

I was at an event last year where Holly Hunter spoke and afterward, a bunch of people went up as she was leaving the building. Two of them tried to hand her scripts right there.

She was flashed!

Her security people intercepted the scripts and turned them away.

If you're not sure about this, imagine what it would be like to have a salesperson follow you through the mall trying to sell you something you don't want. No matter what you say, they kept harassing you.

Now, imagine that happened to you every day for years! After the hundredth time, do you think you'd be reading the script with a positive attitude? No.

There are many solutions that can get you in the door. It's not easy, but it is absolutely doable.

Mistake #3: Pitching the wrong people.

In most cases, this one isn't intentionally done. The writer goes after a target, gets within range, then finds out the target isn't in their market. Maybe they've written a mid-budget feature and end up talking with a TV producer or an Indie producer.

What do you do?

Stop pitching right that moment. Why? Because pitching a project that doesn't fit a producer's market reduces your chance of ever doing business with them on a future project.

That is why I like one-sentence pitches. You get to present your script powerfully and instantly discover if you are talking to the right market for your project.

What if you are talking to the wrong market? Just move into relationship building. Talk about what they are looking for and exit the conversation gracefully. That way, you have a chance in the future.

Then, when you get back home, do some research to clearly identify your target market. Go to and find producers who have made similar movies to yours.

Mistake #2: Tricking your way in.

We have a producer friend who went out on a first date with a guy she really liked. Half way through dinner, he pulls out a script and asks her to read it.

"At least he wasn't after my body." She laughed, but there was sadness in her expression.

She had been lured into thinking one thing, then found out all her expectations were wrong.

The problem with that strategy is that it leaves the decision maker feeling tricked and manipulated. Neither of those are good emotional states for reading a script.

Even when a script is delivered inside a prop -- pizza, box of chocolates, even a ticket to the Laker's game, it still comes across as a trick. I've heard many producers say they instantly suspect any script that comes with a gift.

Your work has to stand on its own. And that is good news if you are selling a GREAT screenplay.

I know it is tough to get in and it seems like it would be better to use some kind of trick, but there are so many better ways to get into this business. And if your writing is good enough, you'll soon gain a group of fans who will recommend you to agents, managers, and producers.

Mistake #1: Marketing scripts that aren't ready.

It is so tempting. Your script is really good, maybe the best you've ever written. But is it the best it can be? Is it really ready for the market place?

I have seen so many people send out scripts that aren't even close to ready. In many cases, the writer said something like "This needs a rewrite, but you'll see the potential in it" and then handed me the script. Not a good introduction for your script.

Understand this: You don't want a single agent, manager, or producer to see your script until every part of it is absolutely amazing.

Why not?

Because those people are your market, not a practice ground. If you are selling a screenplay, you don't want it to burn your contact list.

Here's some quick logic about your market: They aren't script consultants and they aren't looking for potential... any more. They are decision makers who can make or break your career. The good news is that they are looking for screenwriters to do business with. The bad news is that anyone who sends them a script that isn't ready is instantly identified as someone NOT to do business with.

In the current market, there are limited buyers and handing them a product that doesn't work just gets you a very bad reputation.

This is so important.

Your best strategy is to come in with a script that is so good that agents, managers, and producers are blown away by your story and writing skills.

Instead of "doing the minimum" to succeed, you should do the MAXIMUM you can on any script you submit.

Simple advice: Use other writers and script consultants to get feedback. Don't send anything to an agent, manager, or producer unless it is the best it can possibly be.

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