The Mail I Get – Sell My Show Edition

I get a lot of emails from complete strangers with TV series they want me to help them sell. This one is typical:

I am coming into Los Angeles on a trip. If you are free this week, I would like to buy you lunch. I have created a TV series I think you would like. All the scripts are written so all you have to do is sell it.

Is that all? Here's another:

I enjoyed reading your Successful Television Writing book. I have read everything on the subject and yours is superior. I am a writer from Vermont, new to Hollywood, with a fully written TV series in my back pocket. Is there any chance I could buy you lunch some time? XYZ and XYZ are my mentors, if you need references.

If he read my book, then he'd know this is not the way to get your series sold. Not only were the two people he used as references not friends of mine, I'd never heard of either one of them. Turns out one of the guys is among the six credited writers on a Big Tentpole Superhero Movie, the other is a guy who wrote Saturday morning cartoons in the 70s. As mentors go, though, they aren't doing a great job. The first thing they should have told him is not to hit up complete strangers to help you sell your series…and certainly not a guy who hasn't succeeded in getting a series of his own on the air. 

Here's another one, from a "an actor/writer who resides in the Bible belt of the USA":

For the past year I have been working on a series I want to pitch to network. I had an agent that was going to help me out. She asked a producer friend to read the short sizzle script. Producer said it was defiantly worth shopping around, next thing I knew that agent was closing her doors. She couldn’t handle the stress of the biz. Now after talking to a producer in LA that says it is worth shopping around as well. Told to expand it into an hour drama instead of the 30 min one, and get together a budget. […]I’m currently trying to find a more flexible job in the industry so I can pursue my acting/writing career and looking for a mentor to guide me. I look forward to hearing from you.

I have been in the TV business for over twenty years and I have no idea what a "short sizzle script" is. Maybe I need a mentor to guide me. And if she's already talked to "a producer in LA that says it is worth shopping around," why isn't she busy shopping the project with him instead of contacting strangers like me?

14 thoughts on “The Mail I Get – Sell My Show Edition”

  1. So I guess getting you to turn my series idea into a written script, sell it, and split the money fifty-fifty is out of the question, eh? How ’bout if I up the split to fifty-five-forty-five?

  2. If persons read your book on TV writing, which was very energetic and inspiring, and then apply it to creating a new series, and then contact you about it, how are they ‘strangers’? The connection between them and you is your book. They aren’t strangers, they are part of the creative family you have nurtured into being.
    Secondly, if a person writes a pilot, and several scripts, and outlines a bunch more episodes, why not take a look at it? This person might have a specialty of knowledge that you and your partner Bill Rabkin can profit from? Suppose the creator flies attack helicopters in Afghanistan. He or she knows the story world, you know TVLand Hollywood. Why not partner up? Okay, lots of TV show creators aren’t specialists. So why not charge a fee of a $1,000 bucks to evaluate a series pitch? You’d eliminate the frivolous and go with the serious. And, as you say, you haven’t sold a series idea, but partnering could be the way to it.
    Anyway, suppose TVLand Hollywood didn’t buy a series pitch but you believed in it. Why not get a sponsor–maybe Nabisco, General Mills, 3M Company,etc, and shoot the series and show it, with commercial breaks, on the internet? For there’s a reason why you are attracting TV series creators in the universe–and the universe is always trying to take you up to the next level. If you attracted 3 million viewers, TV nets around the world would want to buy and show the series.

  3. According to Google, some (as in “very, very few”) people seem to use “sizzle script” as a term for something like a written pitch. Those same few people also don’t seem to be very successful in selling their material, though, which would give me second thoughts in using that terminology as a newbie. (Or a thinking person, really.)
    Oh, there’s another use for theterm: I found some telemarketing pitches that were dubbed “consumer sizzle scripts”. Now, telemarketers, that’s a trustworthy bunch right there…

  4. Okay, Tod, I wasn’t going to reply but I’ll bite and try to explain my point more clearly, perhaps, and you tell me where I’m going wrong. Is that fair?
    1. Lee and Bill Rabkin publish “Successful TV Writing.”
    2. The book is so good and so inspiring, it generates tremendous GOOD WILL among readers, especially for Lee, whom the readers now feel they know and have a relationship (of sorts) with.
    3. Some readers take this empowering GOOD WILL and use it to create a TV series, write eps, and outline eps.
    4. Feeling so good about Lee, they contact him to bring him in on the project, they feel so good about him.
    5. Lee classifies these persons as “strangers” and sees them in a bad light, and does not, therefore, take advantage of these opportunities to get back into TV.
    6. I see that Lee’s idea of what constitutes a stranger limits his opportunities and point it out.
    7. You tell me that the problem with my thinking is all of it.
    8. I reply trying to connect the dots for you.
    Okay, Tod, take your best shot.

  5. This is too funny. I was (once again) contemplating my story idea that I’ve always thought would make a great USA TV series, and that brought me to wondering what my friend Lee Goldberg was up to these days. So I decide to pop onto his blog and what do I find? That he must have psychically known I was thinking about this (again) and clearly wrote this blog to head me off at the pass.
    Dang, Lee. How did you know???

  6. 1. I’ve read Goldberg’s books.
    2. I’ve read and commented on Goldberg’s blog.
    3. I’ve watched Goldberg’s MONK novel promo on YouTube.
    4. I am a complete stranger to Lee.
    4.a. I have never had a continuing correspondence with Lee.
    4.b. I have never met Lee in person.
    4.c. I have never spoken to Lee on the phone.
    4.d. Lee has no idea what I even look like.

  7. Well, Gerard, you had the courage to take a shot and I admire that. You also mimicked my style which shows you have good taste. However, like Lee and Tod, I wonder if you are fully grasping the concept of GOOD WILL and how it works in a media world.
    To look at your first 4 points: Yes, (1) the reader reads Lee’s books, and Yes, (2) the reader reads and comments on Lee’s blog, and Yes, (3) the reader watches Lee’s YouTube promos. But No, (4) the reader is NOT a STRANGER to Lee. Instead, Lee has made the first part of the connection by means of media, but the second part of the connection is the response of the fans. They love him. They love his work. They are inspired by his and Bill Rabkin’s book on TV Writing. They want to create a TV Series and bring him in on the project. Now, if Lee wants to call these persons, these incredibly deep and positive-feeling and creative fans STRANGERS, and have nothing to do with them, I can’t help but feel it’s a waste of all that GOOD WILL, and that Lee is missing opportunities to get back into TV by partnering with them.
    (Incidentally, Lee, congrats about your partnership with Janet Evanovich! Wow, that’s great!)
    In a media world like we live in and communicate in, a connection gets made between Lee and his fans even though, in your parts 4(a) through 4(d), the fan 4(a) has not yet had a continuing correspondence with Lee, and 4(b) has never yet met Lee, and 4(c) has not yet spoken to Lee on the phone, and 4(d) Lee has no idea what the fan/collaborating partner looks like. In a media world, connection is not dependent on PHYSICAL MEETINGS. The media connects the persons. The message goes out, but then the sender needs to understand that a message will be sent back, and might be very favorable.
    Well, if I had a bunch of sincere fans of my work wanting to go into with me, and if I wanted to get back into the business—well, anybody who really likes and cares and wants to work with me may be a PHYSICAL stranger at first, but I think I could get over that and carry forward.


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