When you write a query letter, your first and foremost challenge is to summarize your 100+ page story to a paragraph-or-two-long pitch that gets people excited enough to read it.
But if they’re borderline interested, you can push them over-the-top by establishing your credibility. If they think your idea sounds “pretty good,” but they are concerned it might be a waste of time, then they are less likely to read it. But if you establish credibility with them, it gives them a bit more confidence that it won’t be a waste of time and they may at least give it a shot.
However, you don’t have long to do this in your query letter. Your bio shouldn’t be more than a couple of sentences max. You only need to establish enough credibility to push them over the edge.
If you have great credibility and they weren’t really interested based on your pitch, they may even go back and re-read and re-consider it, thinking they may have missed something.
Now let’s take a look at 5 ways to establish credibility in your query letter bio.
1. Mention Something You’ve Had Produced.
If you have had a script produced legitimately, that should be placed in the opening of the letter. This is where you can name-drop anything associated with it to legitimize it. This does NOT include a producer saying they “think it’s great” but passed on it. They obviously didn’t like it enough to option it.
Same goes for when someone options your screenplay. Don’t tell a producer that the script you’re talking to them about has already been optioned and shopped around town. This will not appeal to them.
However, if you had a different script optioned by a legit producer (not the script you’re writing about in this letter), then you can mention that early on as part of your bio.
2. Contests or Awards You’ve Won
Placing in the Top 5 or 10 of a contest or winning awards also tells the producer a bit of screening has been done on your script and that someone who reads a lot of scripts seem to like it.
However, be careful about mentioning where you placed in contests if you weren’t in the Top 10%. If you state that you made it to the quarter-finals and nothing more, that actually detracts from your credibility because there were clearly many more that were better than yours.
Make your award or contest sound the best it can by how you present the accurate statistics. For example, if you placed fourth in the Nicholl Fellowship, you could say you placed fourth, but this reminds us that there were 3 that were definitely better. Instead, state it as a round number and say that you were “In the Top 5.” If you know how many entries there were, you could even say “out of x” number of entries.
3. Expert in the Subject Matter
Another type of information that could be relevant is your expertise in the subject matter. For example, if you have a medical thriller and you’re an ER Nurse, tell them. Let them know that you’ve seen some very sad stories and that there was one in particular that you will never forget, and that’s what your story is loosely based on. Or perhaps, it’s about an affliction that someone in your family has. Let them know that you have an insider viewpoint.
This approach does not work if it’s a very common experience lots of people have. If the main thrust of the story is about growing up in the 60s, and that’s when you grew up, that is not unique enough to warrant mentioning. You could take it a step further and mention that your parents and you ived in a commune in the 60s, and that’s what inspired the script. That makes it far more interesting.
4. Something Super Interesting About You
This one relates to the previous one, but is a bit different. If there’s something really interesting about your background, even if only remotely related to your screenplay, it may also make the producer interested enough to read it.
Perhaps you’re the granddaughter of a super famous person, or maybe Albert Einstein was your uncle. Or maybe you invented some odd-ball item that you were able to sell to QVC — it’s could be any little fun fact!
Whether these things are relevant to your script or not, you seem like an interesting person. Even better would be to tie it back into your script somehow. If you can’t though, they may still find the fun little fact about you interesting enough to call you in for a meeting or to request your script.
5. Respected Screenwriting Training and Script Development
When I do a screenplay consultation, the first questions I ask my screenwriter is “What is your background and training? How did you learn to write screenplays?”
Their answer gives me an introduction to what I’m going to get when I read their script. The fact is, I’ve read scripts from writers who completed 2 years of an intensive screenwriting program who still had a long way to go – and I’ve read scripts from writers who mostly studied on their own and were surprisingly good.
But in a borderline situation with a producer who is not convinced they want to read your script, strong training might help push them over the edge.
So there you have it – five possible ways to enhance your credibility in your query letter bio. Ultimately, your bio needs to move them forward in reading your script and, if possible, to even color their experience positively before they read it.
If you don’t have anything that can give you credibility, then don’t put anything, just leave them wondering. It’s better not to put anything than to put something that has little value because then they will know, for sure, that you have no better credibility.
At the point you are ready to market your script, you may want to consider having Smart Girls work with you to prepare a personalized Query Letter Mailing to producers selected for you.
Or if you are watching your budget and want to do more on your own, then an Email Query Blast may be a better choice. For those we provide you with labels for the producers in a given genre. The labels contain the individual producer names, as well as the company name, and address information.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the article. Let us know if we can support you in your screenwriting career goals!