I had this email exchange yesterday. First, I received this note (all I’ve done is replace the names with XYZ):
How are you Mr. Lee?
WGA writer XYZ and myself are looking for a great series bible to use as a study example. He will teach with it, I will use it as a template for my own work. I am a writer turned producer and preparing a bible for a new series and our exhaustive searches via books and Net have still proven fruitless. We need to get our hands on a comprehensive bible, preferranbly one that was used successfully to obtain network approval/and or private funding, if at all possible. As writer with many series credits, I thought perhaps you might care to assist, if it’s within your means? Also, if you’re interested, down the line (if we get greenlighted) we will need some good writers like yourself to pitch in—I’ll let you know when we get that far.
I love it when inexperienced writers ask me a basic question about how TV works…and then as an incentive, they offer me the tantalizing possibility that if things work out for them, they might give me a job. Wow.
I replied that I had the bibles, aka "Writers Guidelines," for DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MARTIAL LAW in my book SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING and that they were also available to download for free on my website. This is how he replied, under the subject heading "Series Bibles**** Wrong Type"
FYI–The bibles on your Web site are "writer’s guidelines" and are not entire bibles that can be used for network submissions of a new series, etc. by a producer (which is what we need).
Here’s how I responded:
Thanks for clearing up my confusion… I guess I’ve been doing it wrong all these years.
As someone who has been a professional TV writer for fifteen years, written many network pilots, and produced dozens of TV series, let me tell you what you need.
What you need is an idea… and then you pitch that idea to a network, which will then hire you to write a pilot script. If they decide to shoot your pilot, and if your pilot is picked up as a series, the network may ask you for a bible, also known as "writers guidelines," examples of which are in my book. In
the case of a soap opera, they may ask you for a more detailed document explaining the
relationships between the characters and the general direction of the storylines they are involved in. A bible is not what you use to sell a series. In fact, I have been on MANY series, and I know of many series, that have never had a bible. The most important thing is the idea… the most important document is the pilot script.
Let me go back and comment on a few things in your first email that I let slip by… you mentioned that your "WGA writer" partner is going to use whatever TV series bible you find as a teaching tool. If you don’t know what a bible looks like, or how to write one, how can you possibly teach the craft of writing one to others?
You also mention that you’re a writer-turned producer and that you need a bible to "successfully to obtain network approval/and or private funding, if at all
possible," which suggests to me that you are unfamiliar with the business behind American network television. Most networks now are producing their own series…or in co-production with major studios… you don’t have to get "private funding." A TV series isn’t a independant feature film, which appears to be the model you are working from.
I suggest that before you start thinking about "bibles" you do some more research into how the TV business works.