By Steve Kaire
Getting a good agent these days is almost an impossible dream for writers. The reason is that they’re just not taking on new writers unless the writer somehow managed to make a big sale on his own.
There are distinct differences and some similarities between what literary agents, managers and entertainment attorneys do. Agents are registered with the state and can only charge ten percent for their services. They send out their client’s material, get them meetings and writing assignments as well as negotiating deals. The top three agencies are William Morris/Endeavor, International Creative Management (ICM), and Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
Managers also send out material and try to get their clients writing assignments. What managers can not legally do is negotiate a deal so they work with entertainment attorneys for that. Managers can charge whatever fees they want and they range from ten to fifty percent with the average being fifteen percent. A manager can be anyone from a former agent to your cousin and will often act as one of the producers on the project as well.
The trend these days is for writers to hire an entertainment attorney to negotiate a deal for them. They charge an average of three hundred dollars an hour for their services or five to ten percent of the entire deal. They don’t usually send out material or get their client assignments. They can also acquire rights, litigate, and deal with all legal and contractual issues.
If you're thinking about which to go after, well, agents likely won't be interested unless you've managed to create some heat on your own, or you have a personal relationship with a manager or producer who recommends you. Most "real" entertainment attorneys will also not be interested unless you have a deal (with real money--five figures or higher) on the table (beware the shysters who will charge a fee to send our screenplay to, say, ten companies.)
That leaves managers, and that's a great place to start. It's their job to read scripts and cultivate new talent. While finding a manager isn't easy by any means, it's possible. As with all things, it will take work and perseverance. But don't waste your time until you are 100% certain your material is worth their time. Take writing classes and workshop your script. Get coverage from reputable companies like Coverage Ink. Get into a writing group and really listen to the feedback. It will be clear when you're ready to go, because your friends will be volunteering to help you. Go get 'em!
Steve Kaire (HighConceptScreenwriting.com) is a Screenwriter/Pitchman who’s sold 8 projects to the major studios without representation. His top-rated CD, “High Concept--How to Create, Pitch and Sell to Hollywood” is available on his website along with original articles and national screenwriting contests.
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