Thursday, November 29, 2012

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm Newsletter 12/12

December 2012


1. I Hate Contests.
2. Shorties - News, Tidbits and Disinformation for Writers
3. Kick It With Kickstarter
4. Agent's Hot Sheet: How to Really Break In To TV


How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways:
  • Losing. It makes you feel worthless as a writer. The fact that you were probably eliminated by some college student hired off Craigslist making $7 a script, who only read the first five pages, is little consolation.
  • The quality of the readers. See above.
  • The amazing disappearing entry fee. You pay your 50 bucks or whatever, and often that's the last you ever hear.
  • And when you do get feedback, it's often pretty worthless.
  • There are too many of them, and only a very few have any juice at all. The vast majority, it's, hey, you won! Congrats! Nobody cares.
  • Multiple deadlines and extensions. Just when you think you've gotten your script in under the wire, they announce an additional month.
Ho freakin' ho ho.
I'll stop there, but I think you get my drift. So now you're expecting me to say that none of these things exist in OUR contest, right? Well, sort of but not quite.

My original concept for Writers on the Storm was that it would be a nontest -- in other words, all the irritating things I just mentioned about contests, we wouldn't do. But as we quickly discovered, being truly unique was easier said than done. Readers: that was easy. We use the same tested and proven team of industry readers for the contest we use to evaluate and develop scripts for Coverage Ink. We made the mistake a few years back of augmenting with a few non-CI readers. Never again... Our readers make a fair wage and have to read the entire script. I know of some contest readers who rip through 5, 6, even 7 scripts in an hour, making serious $$$ by doing so. Yeah, not here. (Sorry, readers!)

Losing still sucks, no question, but we try to mollify the blow with education and TLC. If we can explain in the feedback why the script didn't advance, then maybe the writer won't feel so much wounded as empowered to get in there and do a little surgery. It's just a short feedback form so there's only so much we can do, but I've heard from lots of folks they really appreciated the commentary -- often it's the first time they've received constructive, professional criticism. Cool. Of course, we've screwed the pooch a few times too. A few years back I discovered we had a reader who was cutting and pasting almost exactly the same vague, meaningless three sentences onto every feedback form. That person was sacked, but not before the damage was done. She's now working for another coverage company...

As for the proliferation of contests, oy. When I started WOTS there were too damn many... now there's three times that amount. And there are still only a small handful worth your money --Tracking B, Scriptapalooza, Script Pipeline, Nicholl Fellowship, and of course Writers on the Storm. These contests have all shown consistent results and industry juice.

Now here's where we are guilty, no question: deadlines. See, for our first year I tried my noble experiment: we had ONE deadline and only one, and that was it. No extensions, no late entry period, no sliding scale entry fees -- every entry was the same low price. We let everyone know in advance that the deadline was the deadline. And we got killed. Maybe it's that writers expect there will be an extension regardless of what the company says. Maybe it's the perceived urgency of an extension propels more people to submit. Whatever the reason, we quickly realized we had to implement staggered deadlines as a matter of survival. Like everyone else. I rationalized that it's no so bad so long as you make everyone aware of it -- not "Surprise! The real deadline is 6 weeks from now. Thanks for spending the last 72 hours straight cramming to finish your script and get it in under the wire to save $5."

So now we tell everyone in advance what the early, regular, and late deadlines are. In addition, Without A Box demands a WAB-only extension period, so we tack that on at the end.

Finally, communication. I remember a contest once where I only found out I had made the top ten because I web-searched my name and found the listing on the contest website many months later. Anyway, this is an area we're trying to do better in. We try to make sure every entry gets an acknowledgement, and at the end everyone does get their feedback. Beyond that we have constant updates on our websites, our facebook page ( and right here on our blog. And if you email us at, either lovely Julie or myself will get back to you.

I still think contests suck. But we're trying to reduce the pain and swelling. Write us and let us know how we're doing!

Jim Cirile
founder, Coverage Ink
Writers on the Storm

Continue to Shorties

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