Screenwriters sometimes ask me what I think about approaching the WGA West Literary Agents as a possible way to obtain representation.
Theoretically, it’s a good idea, as it is a list of the agents who are franchised by the Writers Guild of America as being legitimate agencies for writers.
As long as the agency meets their initial qualifications, which includes being licensed by the state, and then also abides by the agreement in the way that they work with the writers, then they can essentially remain on the WGA list indefinitely, whether they are effective and any good at getting writers more work or not. And most importantly, they can represent writers who are members of the Guild.
So again, theoretically, the WGA Literary Agents list is a good place to look to find representation — but only as a starting point. The fact is, there are also some serious drawbacks to using it as your main source of information when approaching agents.
Here are some of the caveats that I’ve personally come across in my research with regards to using the WGA Agency List for trying to find representation.
- The published WGA list is only updated periodically rather than on a monthly basis.
- Their list does not accurately reflect the reality of what agencies represent writers. What this means is that there are quite a few agencies who are franchised by the WGA who don’t actually rep writers right now. They may have at some time in the past or planned to and didn’t or just never got to it. We’ve learned this when we have called them for research purposes.
- You don’t get individual names of agents from the WGA, you only get the agency info. So you still need to find out who to actually send to. At Smart Girls, we can certainly help you with that. We research to track the individuals at the company who actually represent writers. We also divide them by who specializes in television writers versus film writers.
Both of these things are very, very important to get right. If you send only to the agency, you will not look professional. If you send to the wrong person, it also looks like you haven’t done your homework. Although it is hard to be perfect on these names all the time, the idea is to get is as close to perfect as possible.
In summary, the WGA agency list is a fine reference point but should not be considered your entire strategy. You need to do additional homework. If you happen to want to find out if an agent is a WGA-signatory, then you can check the list. If they aren’t there, then you can call the WGA, but even better is to call them anyway if you’re thinking about signing because at any point, that given agent may or may not be in good standing.
To quote to the WGA: “Each agency has its own submission policy. The WGAW recommends that a writer send a query letter, rather than submitting an unsolicited script. This letter should be concise, outlining relevant credentials and briefly describing the nature of the work. [This is exactly what we do at Smart Girls with a Query Letter Mailing to Literary Agents and Producers.]
So they DO recommend that you write a query letter, not send the script. They also describe what the query letter should contain, which is outlining relevant credentials and briefly describing the nature of the work.
That’s what we do for you at Smart Girls. We write a letter that meets the WGAw endorsed procedure for query letters. Then we find the agencies who may be most suitable for your material and address them to the individual person there.
In the end, you can do it yourself and the WGA Literary Agents list is a good enough starting point. And it’s way better than doing nothing. If you would like assistance with creating a top-notch query letter system — not only to screenwriter agencies but also producers and even literary managers — then contact us asap by calling or email us at smartgirls (at) smartg.com.