Animation Writer’s Cheat Sheet – Introduce Yourself – The Query E-Mail
In the spirit of making your animated writing life easier, Canimation wants to provide you with the occasional cheat sheet to help make sure all of your bases are covered before you hand in a script or an outline or even your big time acceptance speech when your brilliant creations are on televisions, sleeping bags and sippy cups across the globe.
So what should you check before hitting send on your query e-mail to that producer or story editor you’ve never met? You might be surprised.
Yup, I put this as number one. Were you upbeat and happy to be sending this e-mail? Does that come through or are you so professional and dry that the e-mail has no character whatsoever? Courtesy is important but expressing subtle enthusiasm without going overboard paints you as someone who likes your work and may go the extra mile if needed.
E-mail should convey information and always be positive. If there is a chance something could be taken in a negative light, it will be. So take it out and rewrite. (Rewrite??? That’s a whole other kettle of posts.)
You’d be amazed how easy it is to look like a dyslexic moron when your e-mail is filled with typos. Take it from this dyslexic moron; it’s sooooo worth the minute tit takes to speilchurk.
WHO DO YOU KNOW?
If you have been recommended by someone or been given permission to use their name, put it up front so your new contact can get a little context. If the recommendation came from someone they respect then the likelihood you’re not some talentless hack who will be nothing but problems for them is that much higher right? Right?
Aim your e-mail at the people who can potentially hire you. The Story Editor and/or Producer are the ones who choose the writers and a quick google search of the production team should turn up their names.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Get to the point. Your potential boss doesn’t need to know about the Passion Play you wrote and directed for your Sunday school class when you were seven but if you just came off writing two scripts on a show with people they may have heard of, then do tell. There’s nothing more hirable than someone who’s already been hired.
SAY WHAT YOU WANT
Do let the person know what you’re hoping for from this e-mail. It’s better to ask for a chance to chat or pitch than for the job outright because it’s harder to say “No” to the lesser request.
Seriously. Do it. We’ll wait.
After you’ve spellchecked, again, proofread it carefully yourself. Wrong words can be spelled perfectly and fly under spellcheck’s radar. Especially double check the names of the production company, the show and whomever you’re writing too. For example, are you writing to a producer named Carrie, Kerry, Ceri or Cary? And you’d be surprised how close those names are to Karen and Gary.
DON’T ASK FOR THE JOB
Not right away anyway. They know you want it. But it’s easier to talk to you if they don’t feel pressured to hire you at first. Ask questions about the show. See if they can send you some samples to help you pitch.
Focusing on the work shows your interest and your eagerness to do a good job. Maybe ask if they have time to send comments about the samples you sent. Writers love to be asked for advice. I mean heck, nobody else listens to us. You really wanna know what we think? Really? ‘Cause we have all kinds of thoughts, y’know?
See how that works?
GIVE THEM AN OUT
Producers and Story Editors are under incredible time pressure. Let them know you understand that they are busy and may take a while to get back to you. Knowing you respect their time increases your chances that they will think of you as a professional worthy of that time.
If your target, I mean, your potential next boss, acknowledged you and promised to get back to you, then do follow up. But give it some time. If they asked for a week, give them a week and a bit before checking back in. And be understanding if that week turns into two or three or even a month. Then remind them you’re around if they get the chance to chat.
The truth is, you may not get this job, or the next one for that matter. But you have initiated a conversation that will hopefully develop this e-mail exchange into an ongoing professional relationship. And one day, even if your contact can’t hire you, they may suggest you to someone who needs a fabulous writer just like you.
Another tip related to patience…
IT CAN WAIT
No matter how urgent it feels to respond to a reply or to send out your introduction and CV, step away from the letter for a while. Coming back in half an hour and re-reading it will give you just the space you need to see what you’ve written more clearly. All good? Then fire away!
Triple-check that you’re sending your e-mail to the right place. Take it from someone who once sent the e-mail discussion of contract negotiations not to their agent but to the production company I was negotiating with. It’s worth the extra five seconds.
Thanks to auto-fill helpfully “correcting” a story editor’s address my florist is convinced I send her all those script drafts because I value her impeccable writer’s instincts and wordplay even more than her bouquets.
Did we mention spellcheck? Do it again.
HOPE FOR THE BEST – EXPECT THE LEAST
Let’s be honest. Even if you check off everything on this list, you may not get the job… at first. You may not even get a reply. Relax. Building relationships and trust takes time and respect.
The point us, none of this will HURT your career if you keep the checklist in mind. And not shooting yourself in the foot is definitely a victory as you build your presence in the industry.
As you reach out over time, story editors and producers will recognize that you were always courteous, professional and seem genuinely interested in what they’re doing. Congratulations, you are already ahead of so many writers actively begging, harassing, cajoling and disrespecting their way to not being hired.
Feel free to add to the checklist in the comments.