How Can You Ensure Your Letters Are Read?

The people you want to get to more than anything receive hundreds of letters every week. The bigger and more successful the industry professional, the more difficult it is to get in front of them…

…That’s all the moaning we’re going to do. Everyone knows it and you will have read hundreds of articles and pieces on the matter. It’s nothing new and let’s face it…It’s a bit depressing for a Monday.

Although the person who you really want to get hold of, is not willing to speak to you on the phone or read your direct postal mail – the fact is, if the address is right - it will be opened in their office.

You’re right to assume that this will not be read directly by the recipient, in most cases – this is probably true. They have support staff in place to help them deal with both solicited and unsolicited requests. The best thing to do therefore, is to consider whether writing to the person who is going to open the post would be more beneficial and lucrative?

For a start, the person who is opening the mail, probably spend their life opening letters addressed to the person whom you want to reach. If you wrote to the person opening the letters then it could instantly prevent your letter becoming waste paper. Above anything else, psychosomatically, we prefer (provided the letter has no red writing or ‘final demand’ scribed across the top) to open something that is addressed personally to us.

The length of the letter is crucial. Long winded letters are not going to be read, in fact almost all unsolocited mail that reaches an agent or casting directors office will be skim-read.

Work on the basis that you have five seconds before your letter is put on a pile with all other requests for work or representation. Did you really read the first part of this post quickly, or did you skim read it to save time? My guess is that it was the latter. This is almost always the case because we’re all busy.

When you work on their basis, most people think that they need to cram everything into the top paragraph and work in long sentences, including absolutely all information as quickly as possible.

I would offer another approach:

  • Write in short paragraphs, not short sentences.
  • Keep the entire letter less than 200 words (even this is too long, really.)
  • Because the letter is skim read (5 seconds remember) ensure that the beginning of each paragraph entices the reader to look further into the sentence.
  • Don’t use bold writing or italics - again it suggests that parts of your letter are more important and these will be looked at first. If it’s an unsolicited request – this may not work in your favour.
  • Consider NOT including a full 10×8 headshot in your letter but by putting a thumbnail good quality image as part of the header – it prevents you having to enclose an SAE and they can still determine your look perfectly well from this picture. If they want to see full pictures, they can easily click on your website, or they can find you on Spotlight. This is also good because you can fold your letter and place it into a normal sized envelope. (Do you think that they second guess all A4 envelopes? You’d be right.) They can’t second guess letter sized envelope because if the label is professional, it could be a bill – even hand written envelopes could be from their contacts rather than an unsolicited person.
  • Use a PS at the end of your letter. This doesn’t make the letter informal – but make sure it’s not a gimmick or a joke. Psychologically, people will skip to the PS because they feel like they can gain all of the information from there, so write a sentence that provokes the reader back into the main body of the letter…
  • An example of a good PS might be… “PS. If you would like to see the performance I am appearing in, as mentioned, I would be happy to arrange tickets for you please send me an email to letting me know which date you would be interested in attending.” This would intrigue me into finding out which performance you were in and if it was near the office that I worked in.
  • Don’t include unecessary details. It’s brilliant if the play you’re appearing in won the Edinburgh Fringe Award in 2010 and it’s fine to mention this, but giving a full synopsis of the play and how ‘it would be of great interest to them’ (and you’d be surprised how many people do this) is entirely unecessary. If it’s of interest – they’ll google it.
  • I’ve said this before in a previous post but DO NOT include gimmicks – chewing gum, tea bags, bright colours, wrapping paper… It’s a waste of time and creates a really unprofessional look on your part.
  • Finally, remember you’re writing to a person. When I get adverts that are directed to ‘people like me’ I get really annoyed that nobody has taken the time to write to me specifically. Why would you request representation or work from anybody when you don’t know anything about them. Spend your time doing this and if time is of the essence, at least we can help you with the labels.

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Best wishes & Happy Monday,

Adam – Already Labelled

Posted in: Writing to Agents & Casting Directors

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