Anne Hamilton/Hamilton Dramaturgy

Beth Blickers on When to Approach an Agent

Beth gave some great advice on the LMDA listserv today and I just had to repost it. Thank you so much, Beth!

“If you’ve only written one play and it hasn’t been produced then it is decidedly too soon to look for an agent. And bear in mind that once an agent passes on repping you, you go into their database of people to whom they have said no. And I know for a fact that at some agencies that database is shared within the department. Meaning if you get told no by one agent and approach a different agent two years later, they look you up and you can wind up getting passed on again without being read afresh.

The strongest moment to reach out to agents is when something nationally recognized is happening in your career, when you’ve built of fan base of people who know agents and can speak highly of you and when you are starting to bring in some income so they aren’t working entirely for free. At this point you’ll probably have met some agents in passing at theaters and panels, you’ll probably have worked with some directors who have agents (and are easy ways to get introductions), you’ll have artistic directors and literary managers who will make introductions on your behalf. And I hope you will have talked to represented artists about who they are with, who they know, who they like and why they like them, what agents are actually able to do for them, how they work well together (or don’t), so that you can thoughtfully talk with some agents and make a choice and work together happily for many decades to come.

Don’t (and I’m sure every literary manager will second this list) send us a play you have never heard out loud, even if it’s just in your living room. Don’t tell me about the 22 full length plays, 78 one acts and 592 sonnets you’ve written. Don’t list all of the famous people you know if they’ve never done a thing to further your career. Don’t tell me you’ve been produced by a theater when it was a one night event. Be honest and straightforward. I’d rather a fairly empty resume with a genius cover note then a dazzling array of information that when I start to pick at it, falls apart like dust. And trust me, we check. If you tell me a theater is strongly considering your play I WILL ask that theater about it. And 99 times out of 100 the “strong consideration” means the writer sent them the play that week. Makes the writer look bad to me and the theater.

Do network like mad, go to new play festivals, offer people a mid afternoon iced latte in exchange for an informational meeting, Google theaters, have a website, befriend writers and directors, invest energies in things other than theater, be interested in the world around you and be an interesting person yourself. Know what makes you unique and what you have to offer to the world of theater. The other day I chastised theaters who respond to queries about what they are looking for in a play with “good writing.” I’d say the same to any artist. If I ask you want you want to do in the theater please don’t tell me “write good plays and work with good people.” It tells me nothing about what makes YOU special. And if you don’t know what makes you special why do I care? To quote the great Liz Engleman “why this play, now.” I’d expand that and say agents are asking daily “why this writer, now.” The best writers have an answer. And my goodness they are a delight to represent.”

Beth Blickers is currently an agent at Abrams Artists Agency, where she represents such writers, composers, directors and choreographers for theatre, television and film. Before joining Abrams, she was an agent at Helen Merrill Ltd. and the William Morris Agency, where she began work after graduating from New York University.