Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Agents look for great judgement about what to write"

The Scottish branch of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain held a Meet the Agents events for members on Monday night at the Scottish Book Trust in Edinburgh. Here are a few notes from guest speaker Julian Friedmann of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency [JF].
JF: We need to educate writers in the more arcane aspects of the film and TV business so producers can’t screw them over. The current PACT agreement dates back to the early 90s, we need a more up to date agreement.

Far too many writers think if only they had an agent the contracts would flow; it isn’t so. If you can’t get the work yourself, you mightn’t be of interest to an agent – unless you write like an angel.

Most script submissions easy to reject. Agents want clients for a long-term relationship, but two many writers think it’s a one-off deal. Most agent lists are fairly full, so you need to displace someone with a track record to get represented.

If you have no track record and no deal on the table, an agent is far less likely to take a risk on you. Clients fire their agents or leave, it happens. Writers have to put their career first. Agents sometimes make bad deals, it’s not all rosy. Agents vary as much as writers.

A successful agent/writer relationship depends on both elements. You have to find an agent who understands what you are writing. But friendship and agenting is a difficult line to tread. We all go through difficult times.

It’s very tough out there at the moment, especially for TV writers. We estimate 600 episodes of TV drama has gone in the last four or five years.

Writers need to prepare themselves for endless rejections, often by people less talented than them. It’s painful being rejected in those circumstances, by people who can’t write as well as you – by people who can’t read a script properly.

With or without an agent, you need to have a submission strategy. You shouldn’t concentrate on just the writing. You need to have a hunger for knowledge about the business. You must be hugely optimistic but also be realistic.

You need to know what you want to write. [JF urged everyone to read Orwell’s Why I Write.] Agents look for great writing, but also great judgement about what to write, and for real ambition in a writer. You must have something to say about the human condition.

Most agents work far longer hours than most writers. They also earn less than the writers at the top end of the scale. Agenting is a buzz, it’s a risk. The quest for a great read is always there. We want to be surprised, to be moved.

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