Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Writers' Warning - Consulting Service


(Writers' Warning is a new section we're debuting here on ScreenwritersLeague.com where we post about suspicious and potentially risky services and companies. Not all practices mentioned are necessarily dangerous for writers - some might be completely legit and just sound fishy at first. We only report the facts and encourage comments from people who know better and can speak on behalf of the situations/companies.)

I recently heard back from one company regarding a query letter I sent out. The response I got sent up a red flag. The company, let's call it X Management, since I'd rather keep this to the event and not name names, is a respectable company by everything I've read. I called X Management to see if there was a specific person I should address my query email to (a good practice if you have the time) and sent my personally addressed email. A few days later, I received a message that X Management has a new service to "weed out" writers who aren't serious about breaking into the industry.

Because they receive hundreds of submissions, X Management offers a consulting service that guarantees they'll read your script. For $125, they'll give you one page of notes on your query letter. For $500, they'll read your script. The WHOLE thing (!). People who don't participate will not be considered. The reasons that the email cited for this were: it's become too much of a financial burden for the company to read everything and this is the only way it can continue to accept unsolicited material, writers who aren't "interested and motivated" won't participate, and rather than just a rejection letter, writers will receive personalized notes. I kid you not, those are the three reasons.

This is obviously not something I plan to do. As I said, everything I've read about X Management makes it sound like a great company - indeed, there's a reason I submitted to it. And consulting services are not uncommon. I can understand offering them and know a lot of companies specialize in providing feedback for a fee. I just can't get on board with a management company that claims only serious writers will pay for their consulting services, and that only those "serious" writers will be considered for potential representation. The word 'management' in the company's name seems misleading to me now.

Anyone with any sort of positive experience with "consulting services" like this should feel free to post. I might be making mountains out of molehills, but I have never once heard something like this talked about as anything other than a less than legitimate practice.


Joe said...

If this was a Logical Reasoning question on the LSAT, and the question asked to find the flaw in X management's reasoning the correct answer would read something like this:

"The argument overlooks the possibility that motivated writers will be unable to spend at least $100 to have their query letter read."

Let's look at it another way: I am not a serious writer. I have no intention to write for a living, and even if I wrote a goldmine script, I probably wouldn't bother to sell it. So if I sent them a script and a check for $500, it wouldn't prove me interested and motivated (which is redundant). I could just as easily be bored and wealthy.

It's obvious that someone walked into the room where they keep the slush pile, saw that they still had unread scripts from 1996 and thought to him/herself "holy shit. Why aren't we making money off of THIS?" It's such a smart business move that I'm surprised I haven't heard of it before. In fact, kudos to them on that front. I mean, it's completely demoralizing to writers, elitist, and depending on how you feel about the arts, morally reprehensible.

Either way, I do understand and acknowledge that it has likely become unfeasible for them to read every submission that comes into their office, both practically and financially. So they want to make a buck. Fine. Awesome. But tell it how it is.

My biggest complaint, therefore, is their correlating the ability to pay five hundred dollars with the interest and motivation to be a professional scribe. There is no justification for this correlation; it's ignorant, and a thinly veiled attempt at spin control. This directly affects the bulk of younger, unestablished writers, and if X Management wants to avoid readings scripts from that demographic, or any similarly affected demographic, they should just come out and say it.

Moreover, you'll get "notes" for your $500? How thorough? How helpful? Will they read your next draft or is that gonna cost you another $500? This is such a bad deal for writers that the WGA should get involved and call these companies out by name. The larger screenwriting schools (NYU, UCLA, USC) should show these companies just how "interested" and "motivated" their students are, and how that has nothing to do with disposable income. Thank God not all companies are like this. If they take such a spineless approach to potential clients, how else do they conduct their business? You guys deserve better.

Zombie said...

Thanks for the support, Joe. It's good to have you around!