Rejection: A Wilderness Guide for Writers

Mark Evanier, a fan favorite writer of – and about – television, film, comics, theater, news and – yikes! – politics, is one of the brightest lights of the interweb. He’s been writing about the trials, tribulations, and joys faced by writers, actors, and other living creatures for years. This is the most recent of a series on dealing with rejection:


Rejection, Part 20
by Mark Evanier

If you want to have a career as a writer, it is very important that you not look desperate. If you are, do what you can to conceal it…and yes, I know that might not be easy, especially if you’re really, really desperate.

This applies to the wanna-be writer who hasn’t sold much, if anything. It also applies to the once-established writer who’s hit a career lull and hasn’t sold anything in a while. It’s probably more important for the latter. If you’re new in the business, you have more of an excuse for appearing desperate. People who might hire you or buy your work can think, “No one’s given this kid a chance.” If you have some credits then what they’re going to think is: “Gee, people have given this guy a chance and if he’s now this desperate, maybe his work isn’t that good lately.”

Desperate people make others uncomfortable. We try to avoid them for the same reason we sometimes give money to homeless people on the street so they’ll go away. But in The Arts, we don’t usually give jobs to desperate people to lessen their desperation because they may not be able to do those jobs. In fact, we often suspect the reason they’re desperate might be because they just don’t have it in them to do those jobs. And if we give them those jobs and it turns out they can’t do them, that creates bigger problems for us.

And unlike the homeless guy outside the CVS Pharmacy who went away after you gave him a buck, these people tend not to go away. They come back again and again begging for another chance.

So you don’t want to look desperate and one good way to achieve that is to not be desperate, at least financially. We’ve discussed that in previous installments of this column.

The story I’m about to tell you is is not about a writer. It’s about a guy who was doing (or trying to do) cartoon voices but it’s the same situation. Because I was casting voices for a cartoon show I was writing and producing, he came after me seeking work. He came after me at conventions, via e-mail, and then when that didn’t work, he started phoning me.

He was not without talent. He had enough that he’d landed an agent…but there are agents and there are AGENTS. He had an all lower-case agent, one of those who has limited clout or connections to sell anything. There are agents like that who represent writers, too. They’ll take on almost anyone who looks competent enough to maybe someday get a job, then they do almost nothing to make that happen. If the client somehow manages to get a gig through his or her own contacts and campaigning, the agent will step in, close the deal and take their commission.

(What kind of agent do you want? The one who is in touch with the people who do the hiring, be they producers, directors, casting people or whatever. You want the agent who can and will get those people on the horn and say, “Trust me. You’ve got to meet with [YOUR NAME HERE] because this kid has really got something!” And then the hiring person thinks, “Gee, that agent represents some really good people. It probably won’t waste my time to take a meeting with that client!” If it’s an agent of the “anyone who looks competent” criteria…well, that agent probably can’t get that buyer on the phone and if they do, their recommendation means very little.)

In the world of voiceover in Hollywood, there are about fifty-five agencies. About nine of them represent about 90% of all the actors who work a lot. They’re the top agencies that represent the top people. I won’t list these agencies but if you go to voicebank.net, you can browse the demos of most voice actors and find out who their agents are. There, you can easily look up the superstar cartoon voice actors and see which agencies represent a significant number of them. You can also hear the demos….

Read it all at Mark’s blog, NewsFromMe