One of the features of a query letter that is generally the most helpful has also proven to be the most annoying- simply because so few of the writers ever include one in their query. This is the “Writer’s Bio”, the two or three lines at the end of letter where you get the chance to brag about yourself a little.
And I mean “a little”; two or three lines, tops.
I have seen resumes that were twice as long as the query letters itself. I’m happy that you were the second male lead in your fifth grade school play where you starred as “The Pied Piper of Hamlin”. Awesome – but truly not necessary in a query letter. I see that you were optioned twenty seven times. That’s amazing! Can you name one of them for us, please?
The fact is these bios may just be the thing that TRULY separates someone getting their script read and someone who doesn’t, all things being equal. We like to know a little about the person submitting the script, so it’s incumbent upon you to tell us.
Here are some tips for a good writer’s bio:
1) Mention the contests you have won or placed in IF they are major contest- especially if the screenplay that won was the same screenplay that you are submitting.
2) If you were optioned, tell us the screenplay and who optioned it. Some due diligence is in order when a producer considers buying a project. This information WILL get verified.
3) If you have had successes with screenplays written in the genre for which you are submitting, we’d like to know that. Knowing you have six rom/com’s in your repertoire, when you are submitting a horror, is NOT important and can actually be viewed as a negative.
4) If you have really NO successes, then you’ll want to highlight your screenwriting education, be it formal (through film school or college) or through a particular course of study.
5) If you have no writing successes to speak of, and no writing education to really point to, it might help if you tell us why you wrote a screenplay about the Iraq war. Perhaps you were a soldier, or you lived in Iraq during the war. These are intriguing POV’s that would make most people sit up and take notice.
These are some things you DON’T want to include:
1) Do not simply add links to other pages. We’re not clicking on them
2) Don’t tell us to check out your IMdb for information. We’re not doing that either. If you include links AFTER you’ve told us a little about you, we’ll probably want to see more about you.
3) Do not tell us about the 25 YA novels you’ve written- when you’re marketing a screenplay.
4) Do not tell us about the eighth place finish of the “Oshkosh Screenplay and Bratwurst Competition.” Don’t care; ESPECIALLY if it’s NOT this screenplay.
5) Having spoken to Steven Spielberg once at a Starbucks is not going to help you get someone to request your screenplay… that is, unless he said “We’re shooting your script tomorrow, and Tom Cruise is playing the lead!” Then, you might want mention this fact somewhere along the line.