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Page ONE Interview with Rob Gallagher
Q:What are the major qualities that help you decide to sign a writer?

As a manager, I represent far few clients than I did as an agent. Agents represent hundreds of clients, spend little time with them, and have little invested with wether their writing sells or not. With a hundred clients, it's a fair bet that a number of them will find work that you can commission, wether you helped or they found the work on their own and you just negotiated the deal. I hated that aspect of agenting which left me little to feel proud about. Once you book a deal, you have to move on to the next deal, because the agency is constantly pushing you to bring in more and more commissions. That's not very gratifying. Now as a manager I represent less than twenty writers, and to make enough money they have to be extremely prolific creators -- not just someone who wrote one great script. I look for the kind of writer who writes for the love of it and can't stop writing -- not a one shot dreamer who just wants to cash in on a big spec sale. I look for writers who will constantly be creating new projects and who I can partner myself with over the next twenty years and eventually produce with. When I was an agent it was OK for each of the hundred clients to have only one script, but as a manager, mathematically they now need to have five each if I represent only twenty writers. These are just general guidelines to give you an idea of what I look for. Again, I'm looking for real writers, not one shot wonders. Now I do represent single scripts on a case by case basis and the way that works is that writers are invited to pitch their completed specs to me online via my email address at DealmakerX@AOL.COM. If I love their pitch I'll ask for the script via the mail and if the writing is there, I'll send it out in the spec market. Most of the time I go through at least three drafts with the writer to help get their spec in the best shape, and I have a team of development people to assist me with this. It's very important for writers to be willing to take notes and make the appropriate changes. Occasionally you'll meet a writer who thinks he's smarter than everyone else and won't make changes, and word will quickly spread about him -- his potential career will immediately become a thing of the past. Keep in mind that this is a business, not an art gallery, and until you've sold enough scripts that you can insist on your way, you'd better show that you want to be a friendly contributor to getting the movie made.

Q: Who are a few of your successful clients and what is it that you feel has contributed to their success?

Most of my clients are successful either in screenwriting or television and to name them individually in an interview wouldn't be kosher, but I can tell you what makes them successful. Professionalism and originality. Consider yourself a professional writer and discipline yourself to writing undisturbed everyday. Next, make sure you are bringing originality to your work. Write stories the audience has never seen before, and stories that are high-concept.

Q:How long does it usually take you to respond to a query, proposal, or manuscript?

I'll get to an online pitch within a week. If I request the script, I'll have it read by one of my team within a couple weeks. If the coverage comes back great, I'll read it myself within a week. If I love the script, I'll call the writer and tell him/her my thoughts. We can start working on the script together to get it in the best possible shape and I'll plan on going out with it to the spec market within a month once it's ready. Nothing happens overnight in this business and with millions of dollars at stake, it's surprising it moves as quickly as it does. Be patient and get your writing in shape before you ruin your first impression.

Q:Is there any surefire way to catch the attention of a literary agent without having connections? Do agents pay attention to any of the major contests and their winners? Would winning such a contest (like Story or Glimmer Train) widen the door for the writer?

Call the agent and tell them you have a deal ready to be negotiated! This sounds funny, but several times I've "placed" a client with an agent once I already had a deal on the table. Agents are so busy, you'll never really understand just how busy someone can be until you work in an agency. It's unbelievable. Start with a manager or attorney and have them find you an agent. Submission letters directly to agents via the writer are almost always thrown out by the assistant. Winning or placing well with contests always helps -- it separates you from the pack and shows that someone liked your writing more than the rest. Now you don't need an agent and you don't need a manager -- you can just have an attorney negotiate your deals. I believe in having a full team on your side though, especially to launch your career properly amongst the thousands of writers out there. The agent covers the marketplace better than anyone else -- only an agency has this manpower. The attorney negotiates your deals better than anyone else and occasionally can also make some nice connections for you. The manager is the only one who will really spend time with you and your writing, and the manager brings your whole team together to work for you strategically. The manager also works with multiple agencies and is consequently going to know everything that is going on in the marketplace, and best of all, will share this information with you.

Q: Is there a listing of agents for specific types of writing, e.g.,nonfiction, fantasy, literary, etc.?

Not that I know of. But I do know what each agent's taste for writing is. It takes a long time to figure this out though and no one would create such a list. Personally I keep this information in my computer under each contacts rolodex file and it's very valuable to me.

Q: What is the attitude of agents and publishers toward work that appears on the Internet? Also is it "fatal" for an author's work to have been published on an Internet page or e-zines?

There really is no attitude or even AWARENESS of the Internet among agents or the industry. Everyone is so busy that they would have no reason to find out with is going on online. This will change someday, but currently when an agent or producer asks me where I find all my great material and I tell them the Internet, their eyes glaze over and they grunt about how they hear it's an amazing thing. These people are on the phone constantly -- in the office, in the car, at the studios, and even over meals. Don't expect them to log onto the Internet unless it's an assistant who isn't quite that busy yet. They just have more material than they can handle, so there isn't a need. Again, this will change -- someday.

Q: From "How do I know it's true when an agent tells me he/she has represented "so-and-so's" book?

Call the publisher/producer/buyer. But always look for more than one success story -- you want someone who knows what they are doing, not someone who got lucky.
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