“Paid script coverage is another tool in a screenwriter’s toolbox,” as I explain in detail on the Unknown Screenwriter’s blog here,
I’ve been reading scripts and providing coverage for over a decade now, and I’ve seen a few screenwriters come and go without really maximizing their script coverage experience. So I thought I’d share a few quick tips.
If you opt for paid script coverage from a service like mine, Screenplay Readers, here are few ways you can get the most bang for your buck:
Paid script coverage should be your second option, after free notes
Paid script coverage should only be purchased once you’ve exhausted all your free avenues for notes and feedback such as writers groups, friends, family, forums, you name it.
That being said, if your script requires a massive amount of line-by-line, detailed feedback, writers groups or even script coverage might not be the best fit. In that case, script notes or script consultation might be worth a try. We do provide script consultation at Screenplay Readers, but we don’t always advertise it, as we only take on a handful of clients at any given time. But it doesn’t hurt to ask us about our availability. And again, there are plenty of other script consultants on the internet that you may find perfect for your price range and your needs.
Make sure you submit your best, latest draft
We see it all too often here at Screenplay Readers. Screenwriters will order our script coverage service, then we get the script to our reader, the reader starts reading it, and then the screenwriter catches something in his draft and sends in a newer version for us to read. But since we have a very specific contract with our script readers, we can’t just ask them to re-read an entire script, or entire section of a script, just because you think your new pages are that much better.
Take the time to go through your script in advance of submitting it to make sure it’s your best foot forward. There will be plenty of time for tweaks later, don’t worry! And then just let it go and don’t worry about it from then on, as there’s nothing more you can do as a screenwriter, until your script coverage comes in and gives you an idea of what you need to improve.
Don’t be afraid to let your work be read
Yes, sometimes, rarely, writers do steal ideas, but it’s very, very rare. It’s said that new screenwriters worry about their scripts getting stolen, while seasoned screenwriters worry about their scripts never getting read. Fear of your ideas being stolen shouldn’t keep you from submitting your script to a script coverage company for coverage.
Nonetheless, read the fine print if your script coverage company has any. Know what you’re agreeing to before you submit your script for coverage. Also, know your rights. It’s always best to have your screenplay copyrighted and/or registered with the WGA prior to sending it out for paid coverage. But again, don’t let fear of your ideas or script getting stolen keep you from getting your script out into the world and read.
Build a relationship with the script coverage company
When you’re submitting for paid script coverage for the first time, make sure you and the people you’re dealing with at the coverage company (usually via email) get off on the right foot. Getting a script sold in Hollywood is first-and-foremost a matter of relationships. First of all, make sure they know you’re a professional. Don’t submit a script that’s formatted unprofessionally, don’t plague the company’s representatives with tons of voicemails, questions, and other annoyances.
Be brief and succinct. When your paid script coverage comes in, if you find that the coverage is overly harsh, present your case in a calm, professional way and you’d be surprised how much folks at script coverage companies may be willing to help you, whether it’s a full refund, a free second re-read, or even discount codes. At Screenplay Readers, we tend to want to bridge the gap between ourselves and the occasional dissatisfied customer when he or she is calm and professional. If they come off like wingnuts, we have to avoid them and move on.
Remember that it’s just one reader’s opinion of your script
When you get your script coverage back from a coverage company, don’t panic. If it seems harsh, even brutal, that’s a good thing. (As long as it’s harsh/brutal in a professional, respectful manner). Know that you’re either (A) A screenwriter who needs people to fluff him up and affirm his genius, or (B) A screenwriter who wants his script to be the best it can be, no matter what. Screenwriter B usually ends up selling scripts for a living. Screenwriter A doesn’t. (If you’re interested, here’s an article we wrote on how screenwriters can handle script criticism more professionally.)
Remember, paid script coverage isn’t the final word, handed down from some international board of screenwriters as some sort of ultimate arbiter of your screenwriting talent. It’s not a judgment of your character or skills. It’s simply this: one script reader’s opinion. Take it as such. Use what you want from their comments, throw away what you don’t. But the general mindset is: don’t be in the market for script coverage if you can’t handle an honest opinion of your script.