So you've got this awesome idea for a Star Wars story.
It's so awesome, you think it can work as the basis for the next trilogy of films,
or the next video game, or at very least the next best-selling Star Wars novel.
You've slaved for months, and maybe even a year over the manuscript,
perfecting each character, every line of dialogue, every twist and turn the story takes.
And after carefully crafting this cosmic cacophony, you package the pitch up, and send it off to Lucas Film.
And they pull it out of their mailbox, take a single glance at it... and promptly toss it in the trash.
No one's gonna read it, homie. Here's why: You have just submitted unsolicited materials.
[DJ Khaled] "Congratulations, you played yourself."
Go on every major studio's official website, and somewhere on it you'll see something along the lines of:
"This studio does not accept unsolicited submissions of any kind which may contain any product, artwork, story idea, or other creative material.
Unsolicited submissions will be returned to sender, UNOPENED."
What? Why won't they read my pitch!?
Don't they know what they're missing? My story is incredible!
If only I could get it into the hands of somebody in charge of publications!
Check this out, it's my inbox. This is the contact e-mail listed on my YouTube channel.
Everything you see in this particular folder, is a story submisison, or a manuscript, or a comic, or a screenplay.
Some creative idea that somebody wants me to take a look at, to either give them feedback, or maybe even publish.
As much as it will probably upset some of you, who have sent me stuff to read,
the truth is, like those studios - I've opened none of them, and I never will.
So why don't film studios, or publishing companies, or directors, or musicians or whatever;
why don't they look at unsolicited material?
There's a few reasons.
First off, as you can tell from the name, this material that you have submitted, was unsolicited.
In other words, nobody asked you to send it to them.
Unwanted emails and spam - regardless of the content - is really annoying.
And can often place an unfair expectation on the recipient.
"Hey, I took the time to send you this thing! wHy wOn'T yOu wRiTe mE bAcK!?"
Because I've got to keep it fair.
The truth is: if I read through even ONE of those submissions, and offered feedback, and word got out...
Then, every single person would be expecting me to do the same for theirs.
This month alone, I got 22 stories emailed to me.
If I had to spend all my time reading and reviewing everything, that came my way,
I would never have any time to make anything myself!
Now imagine the hundreds upon thousands of unsolicited scripts and screenplays,
that a company like Marvel or Lucasfilm has to deal with on the daily.
It's an impossible task.
Even if the next great screenplay was in that collection, it would be impossible to pick it out and assess it
fairly, alongside every other submission.
Another important reason they ignore unsolicited materials, is because they didn't ask for it.
In other words: it's work they didn't pay for.
The thing about companies, that work and deal in creative materials,
is that they've gotta make sure, that everyone is being paid.
Even if you contributed a single story note for a Spiderman movie,
you've got to be included in the credits of the work.
And in an industry, where actors, writers, directors and the like, all have unions that represent them,
if a company accepts a submission they did not specifically offered money upfront for;
they're opening themselves up to all kinds of union penalties,
and, especially in the United States, trouble with Uncle Sam come tax time.
But the biggest, and I mean the BIGGEST reason companies aren't reading your unsolicited material,
is because opening it up and reading it is just begging for a lawsuit.
If the team at Lucasfilm opened up your manuscript, read it, then turned it down,
and then, like 5 years later, just happened to publish a story,
that bore even a small resemblance to the work you had sent their way -
- you've got a case, that they stole your idea.
"You stole my story!"
This opens them up to all sorts of sorts of legal trouble.
Even something as simple, as using a character name that you sent them,
would provide a groundwork for their company to be sued.
And no company in the world wants to deal with constant intellectual property lawsuits,
that require a constant supply of money to either win, settle, or pay out.
So the only way to safeguard against this legally, is for company in question
to establish a policy of returning, or destroying without opening,
any and all unsolicited creative materials.
So don't be too surprised, when your amazing story pitch gets sent right back to you,
unopened, with a letter attached, stating unequivocally they will not look at it.
"But Austin!", I hear you saying. "This story has to be told!"
"It's the next great Batman story!", or "The next great Harry Potter installment!"
I hear you, I hear you. You wanna have a shot, writing or creating material for a big-name, established franchise.
Here's my advice: #1: Get a literary agent.
In other words, representation for you as a writer.
If it's a novel, screenplay, or even some non-fiction work,
it pays to have someone acting as your agent, shopping it around to the right people.
Literary agents are specifically in the business of connecting writers with companies who need them.
They can look for, and find publishing houses, who are willing to consider your work.
Think about it like this: very rarely, will an unrepresented actor or actress score a major role in a Hollywood film.
And it's no different with writers. Just like actors need agents, so do authors.
So, try to find one, that will represent you.
They get paid when you get paid, so it's literally their job, to help you find suck pee.
They can navigate the often treacherous world of publishing, so that you can focus on writing a good story.
Having said that, getting one can be difficult.
So, your best bet is to go and submit your work at a writers' conference,
or a contest, or trying establish a personal working relationship, with someone "in the business".
Big warning: there are a lot of literary agents scams out there.
Sp read my lips: Legitimate literary agents do not charge upfront fees.
They will not bill you for "operating expenses".
They will not charge a certain amount of money per page.
They will not offer to publish your book right away through a vanity press.
if somebody is offering to be your agent, but they're requiring you to pay them some kind of upfront cash,
for them to even consider your book - you're getting ripped off, kid.
#2: Write original stories.
While all of us would like to have carte blanche with a universe like the Wizarding World, or the Galaxy Far, Far Away...
These established properties likely already have writers assigned to them.
And if we're not being too proud,
those writers are likely more experienced than you, when it comes to working with said properties.
Instead, why not establish yourself as a competent writer, by creating your own, original worlds?
10 times out of 10, it seems publishers for established properties
ask already established writers to work in their universe,
because - they already have a proven track record of excellence.
They have an established reader base, they're likely to bring in more sales.
As an unnamed, unrepresented, aspiring author, you don't have that yet.
So, shelve the Batman script for now, and write something original.
If need be, create a world in a similar vein of genre, to the property that you're aspiring to write for.
But create your own world - your own, original story from the ground up.
This will eliminate annoying gatekeepers, and often, will actually will make you a better overall writer.
Besides: if push comes to shove, and you're hurting for ideas, you could always take a property that's in the Public Domain, and adapted.
Nowadays, lots of publishers are actually hunting for the next great iteration of classic story.
If you can't create your own universe, then use one, that you have permission to play in.
If you can establish yourself as a great writer of original works,
it won't take too long, before those studios come knocking.
#3 - This is a big one, that could really only happen in today's day and age: build an audience.
If you've got an audience, a dedicated readership, you'll have an easier chance of getting eyes on your pitch.
I found this illustrated in my own life.
Three years ago, I couldn't get anybody to look at anything I had written.
Nobody would give me the time of day, because there was no guarantee, that my stories
(even the original ones), would find success in the marketplace.
Today, I've got an online audience, of several hundred thousand people.
I'm not having nearly as much trouble convincing companies,
that folks will actually go out of their way, to buy something that I write, or work on.
For a better example: look at "The Martian" by Andy Weir.
Best-selling novel, adapted into a blockbuster film.
That book was originally self-published.
He couldn't find any literary agents, willing to represent him or the novel,
se he decided to put the book online, chapter by chapter, for free, on his personal website.
Slowly but surely, he worked up an online following.
The audience eventually pushed him to release the book on Amazon Kindle, willing to pay money for it.
And when he did, it shot up to the top of Amazon's best-selling science fiction titles,
and then, the big publishers caught notice.
He sold the audiobook rights, and eventually the print rights, for a nifty six figures.
Eventually, it was a New York Times bestseller, and Matt Damon found his way into a spacesuit.
The Internet at work, folks.
Now, while that certainly won't happen with everybody, the point is this:
In a day and age of Patreon, YouTube, Instagram,
places, where you can establish a direct connection with an audience,
a direct line of support from people, who like what you write,
the only thing, that's really stopping you from gathering an audience, is the quality of your work.
If you can cater that audience yourself, if you can write or create something,
that speaks to people so well, that they're willing to support you as an independent creator,
with their own time or money - that's power.
And the only thing keeping you from it, is you.
So for now - work on your craft. improve as a storyteller.
Take shots here and there, and always be reading and learning.
Because the truth is, the key nowadays isn't to beg a studio to let you write for them.
The key is to be so good and so successful, at writing and telling stories,
that the studio begs you.
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