Pub Rants

We Don’t Represent Screenplays

 11 Comments |  Share This:    

Status: Crazy! Did I finish the manuscript last night? Nope. I stayed up late but my eyes were cross-eyed after 11 p.m. I have another 50 pages I plan to finish this morning, write up my comments, and shoot to my author. Then I only have two more client fulls and a partial in the queue!

Agent Janet Reid got her tag and has come out to play. Be sure to check out her answers on her blog, which she does have (news to me but very fun nonetheless).

Lately, I’ve had to send a lot of query reply emails that say, “Thank you very much for your query, but the Nelson Agency does not represent screenplays.”

That’s clearly listed on my website so I’m not certain why all the screenplay queries. Then it occurred to me that writers just don’t get that whole book-to-film thing.

To be clear, I don’t represent screenplays, screenwriters, or anything to do with Hollywood. I’m a literary agent. I represent authors, and I sell the print rights to their books—mainly to the big New York Publishers.

However, after I sell a book, then I pursue subsidiary rights for the print property. That means selling translation rights (if the publisher doesn’t have World rights), audio (if that wasn’t part of the deal), etc., and I always keep dramatic or tv/film rights because I have strong partnerships with Hollywood co-agents to place those rights.

There is no screenplay or screenwriter involved. All that is being done is selling the dramatic subsidiary rights to the already sold print project. Book to Film.

It’s up to the studio (or the producer) to “package” the project by hiring the director, the screenwriter (unless the author has a history of screenwriting, most studios prefer to hire their own talent here), the producer and all other components to make it possible for the project to move beyond the option, be purchased, and made into a film.

Now often times the studios will call or email me directly about a BOOK I just recently sold, but I don’t really “know” them. I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of where or to whom to send a screenplay.

And, please don’t query me about a book you’ve sold yourself and now want someone to handle just the dramatic rights. I only handle the subsidiary rights for my clients’ projects– projects for which I have sold the primary print rights to a US publisher.

You know I’ve ranted about Hollywood before. It’s such a long shot period that I don’t have time to take on projects just to sell the dramatic rights since any sale to Hollywood, even for my own clients, is unlikely. There wouldn’t be much return on my time investment to take on non-clients for this. Nor would I want to. I’m a literary agent—not a film agent.

Rant done. Maybe that’ll help reduce the number of those queries. Do you think? Nah, I don’t believe it either. Worth a shot though.

11 Responses

  1. Beth said:

    This doesn’t seem all that hard to understand, and I highly doubt that every one of those querying ‘accidentally’ misread, did not read, or misunderstood your submission guidelines. They’re pretty clear-cut.
    More likely is that they simply chose to ignore them in hopes of being that *one* exception, of having written something so great that an agent just couldn’t pass on it, no matter if she or he actually represents what’s been sent.
    Call me obsessive, but I read guidelines several times to make sure I understand them, and send a query only after I am absolutely sure I’m not wasting anyone’s time, including my own.
    I do this for two reasons:
    a) courtesy…if I send a query to an agent or editor regarding a genre they have clearly stated they do not represent, I’m cluttering up a mail box for no good reason. Now, if a hundred people do the very same thing every day, the people who actually DID query for the right project have to ‘wait in line’. Assuming the average query takes a minute to read, this sums up to helping an editor or agent waste an hour and forty minutes…time they could have spent on people who actually followed the guidelines, or *gasp* themselves!
    b) self-preservation…so I ignore the guidelines and send my query anyhow, thinking I’m just too brilliant to be rejected. Right. The form rejection comes back, and I pout for a while, then decide to write a novel in a genre this agent DOES represent. Happy to have it nailed, I shoot off a query again…only now, the agent already has me on her shit list, since I was that annoying jerk who sent fifty queries last year about everything BUT the right thing. Hm. I bet he/she will call me back this very night with my offer! *smirk*

  2. Ewoh Nairb said:

    I haven’t sent any query letters out yet since all of my manuscripts at this poitn are still WIP. However, while I am in the writign process I have been doing a LOT of research into agents using both online and offline resources. I have also been reading quite a few agent’s blogs and I am simply amazed that anyone would submit a query to an agent that is a) not representing or looking for manuscripts in the author’s genre, or b) not accepting unsolicited queries.

    If I respect my craft, and myself, why would I take the time and energy to submit a query to someone who is obviously not going to be able to help me, or not going to be interested in helping me? That’s just crazy.

    I would guess that those people who don’t respect their craft probably would have little respect for the time and energy of the people that they submit to as well.

    It is a shame, but (to put a silver lining on it) it makes the good query letter and good partials stand out that much more. I’m banking on my research getting me at least an “OH thank GOD he’s not another crazy” even if it doesn’t get me an acceptance letter.

  3. Lisa Hunter said:

    As they say in Hollywood, it’s a matter of semantics. In LA, a “literary agent” is indeed someone who sells screenplays. What you are, in West Coast parlance, is a BOOK agent.

  4. MTV said:

    Agent Kristin – I agree 100%. I am hopeful your short and insiteful rant will strike a chord. I believe Beth nailed the reasons why you do get screenplays pretty well. There are many who think this world is all about them and what “they” want. Whether it be a fur coat, chocolates, a new car or a book published – life is just about the objective for them. Life for me is about the process and respect. What everyone needs to learn is that if you respect other’s time your time will then be well spent and respected. Truly, what goes around comes around. To fire off 50 random queries could work statistically. However, I would argue that INTENTION is FAR more powerful than statistics. INTENTION, however, involves awareness – not a high priority western attribute!

    Also, as Lisa has suggested, sometimes the regional jargon does not match – Still, Agent Kristin, I feel you are being perfectly clear hear. Agenting is a business where EVERYBODY can make money if EVERYBODY, lets EVERYBODY do their specific job. You have very, very clearly presented what you do.

    Authors any questions???

    One further comment. Hollywood is the most difficult gig I have ever encountered. The statistic USED to be 1 in 100,000 scripts get produced vs. 1 in 10,000 books. That was 10 years ago. So let’s all please get real here. Market sells books. No perceived market, no sale. That simple. Unless of course you want to front up your own $150,000 plus production cost to publish and market your own work to generate the market. AND, as Kristin has said, if you carefully review her wisdom, EVEN that will not guarantee success. Although, it could give you a shot. So do you want to fess up the bucks? Do you? Fine, then let an expert sell your work and deal with those issues!

    God bless Kristin and Ms. Knight and Tiny Tim as well-:)!!!

  5. Papamoka said:


    I took some time to look over all your postings and you need a freaking vacation! If you can’t do that then you need to hire some more staff and do not try and tell me you can’t afford it. You can pay through flesh and blood or you can cut a payroll check. Best advice to any business owner that wants to keep an eye on the main objective is these three simple things. Number one is delegate, number two and three are delegate.

    Pick the battles you want to win and pass out the rest to staff you trust to win. Flesh or Check? Gives you a whole new perspective of the cost of a piece of A$$….LOL!

    Take care,

  6. Eileen said:

    Maybe you should have Chutney chew on the rejection letters so that people get the point. Plus it’s delegating so you get a whole two birds, one stone thing going.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Hey, stop sending Kristin freakin’ screenplays. She has more important things to read. Like my query.

  8. December Quinn said:

    I don’t think it’s got anything to do with your website guidelines. They’re probably going to the bookstore and copying names and email addys from Writer’s Marketplace, without even bothering to do any research at all.

  9. Anonymous said:

    You might also have been added to some webpage’s agent list, in which they got your information wrong and said you represent screenplays. Might be worth asking in rejection notes where screenplay authors found your name so you can correct any wrong listings.