Top 10 Things NOT to say in an email to me.

I have this cool tool that measures the amount of email I send and receive called Gmail Meter.  It’s pretty fun.  It’ll tell me the top people I send emails to (My General Manager, My Assistant, and My Wife, in that order) and it charts my most active email hours of the day, as well as how quickly I respond to an incoming missive.

But I don’t need a plug-in to tell me that I get a lot of email.

That’s ok.  Truth is, I like getting email.  It reminds me of my teenage days when my phone would ring (I was an only child, so the phone broke up the conversations I was having with my imaginary friends).  “I’ll get it!  I’ll get it!!!”

And, as you can probably imagine, a lot of that email is from people pitching their shows, themselves or both.  And that’s fine.  They should.  In 2016 if you’re not marketing yourself online with your own website, email and social media presence, then you’re behind 90% of your competition.

But every so often I get one of these emails and I cringe.  Not because I’m mad.  But because the sender is just making bad marketing choices.  That’s why I thought I’d post 10 actual things that were emailed to me that you should NOT email to anyone when you’re promoting yourself.

Ready?

Here goes, in no particular order.

1.  “I’ve been working on this project for 3 years!”

Ok, first, I don’t care how long you’ve been working on your project.  This is classic “all about me” marketing.  When you’re promoting yourself or your project you’ve got to ask yourself, “What need am I filling in my target’s life/profession,” not tell them how hard it has been for you.  By the way, I’ve been working on projects a lot longer than three years, so stop your whining.  It takes time, and if you’re not ready to put it in, then I’m going to go with someone else.  And side note, the longer you tell me you’ve been working on a show, the more I wonder, “What’s wrong with it?”

2.  “Please sign this NDA.”

You send me a cold email asking me to consider your script or idea and then want me to jump through hoops by signing an NDA?  Oy.  These emails usually don’t get a response.  I only sign NDAs for consulting clients, and even then they are rarely necessary.  It’s hard enough getting the attention of a Producer or Agent or any decision maker in this business.  Any hurdle is going to cost you contacts.  I’m not saying post your ideas and intellectual property all over for the world to see, but be realistic about what you can expect from your target, especially when approaching them cold.

3.  “Dear Colleague,”

This was funny because I had no idea who the person was . . . so how could they be a colleague?  And mass emails with general greetings are not going to sit well with me.  It tells me you don’t really care who picks up your script, you just want someone to. I want to know that you thought about me and why I’d be right for you.  Use first names.  It’ll take more time (unless you get fancy software to do it for you), but it’ll be worth it.

4.  Anything More Than 200 Words.

I’m not the only one who gets a lot of email.  You do too, right?  If you open up an email and see pages of text, what do you do?  Exactly.  Just because it’s an email pitch, doesn’t mean it should be longer than an elevator pitch.

5.  “Congrats on the opening of your NEW SHOW.  I hope to see it soon.  Will you come see mine?”

This person would have be been better off not saying anything at all, rather than saying, “You have a new show opening and it’s not important enough for me to see . . . but I want you to see mine.”  Reciprocity works wonders.  If someone emails me and tells me that they just went to see a show of mine or bought my game or recommended my blog, I’m more likely to want to help them.  Quid Pro You Know What.

6.  “Please contact my agent.”

This person was so close to a terrific pitch.  They reached out to me personally.  Their synopsis for their play was enticing.  They had quotes and awards.  And then, they said, “If you’re interested, don’t tell me, tell this person.”  I understand the need to want agents to handle business, but they could have passed it off to the agent after I expressed interest.  This business (and all businesses) is based on relationships.  Don’t be afraid to start one.

7.  “Is it OK if I email you the script/treatment/etc.?”

You just emailed me and said hello.  Just email me the script.  Saves us all time.  I know you’re trying to get a “buy in” by having me say “yes” to a small request in the hopes I say yes again to a bigger request (classic negotiating strategy), but it doesn’t work here.  Because if I say no?  You lost out.  Just send it.

8. “It’s a dramedy.”

You know what a dramedy is?  It’s a play where even the author doesn’t know what it is.

9.  “Would you like to invest in my show?”

Asking me for money when we’ve never met before is like asking someone to sleep with you on the first date.  No, actually, that’s not true.  It’s like walking up to a random person in the street and asking them to sleep with you.  I get it.  You need money.  You need it soon.  But rushing is not the way to get it.  Raising money is a much slower, methodical game that requires planning, strategy, and skill in order to pull it off, as I wrote about here.

10.  “I’m a friend of so-and-sos.”

This one is a tricky one.  The right referral can be the key to getting me or anyone to do exactly what you want them to do.  But make sure you know for a fact that the person you’re emailing does really know the person you’re mentioning.  I get so many emails from people saying, “SO-AND-SO thought I should get in touch,” and I think . . . “I’ve never met that person in my entire life.”  Sometimes I even google the name to make sure I’m not forgetting someone . . . nope, not a clue.

 

The great thing about the interwebs is that it’s easier to find people to pitch to than ever before.  But that doesn’t mean that actually pitching is any easier.  Craft your emails with care and precision.  Don’t just dash them off like you’re writing to a Facebook Friend about getting together for a movie later on.

And try different approaches with different people.  Email is advertising, and advertising always needs to be tested.

 

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Comments
  • Ken Offricht says:

    Dear Colleague,

    I’ve been working on this email for several minutes. I love the headline of your new post, and I hope to get to read it soon. My agent wants you to sign a NDA before you finish reading this dramedy email that our mutual friend Hans Schmittingheimer recommended I write. Really, I don’t care about your blog, but do you want to invest in my new show? It’s a classic dramedy with only small issues with the opening number, the act break, and the finale. Good news, though. There is no problem with the “I Want” song. To be fair, this is largely because there is no “I Want” song in my amazing new show. I find “I Want” songs to be superfluous and overdone. I would compare it to one of your shows, but who has time to go to theatre when they are so busy writing an Emmy-award winning Broadway musical, right? I mean, I know you are lead producer of “Hamiltown” which I would totally go see, but have you ever tried getting a house seat for that show? I mean I don’t think even someone popular, like, um, Lin-Manuel Transmission Miranda has enough clout to get tickets. Anyway, we both know you want to read my script. So, if you could externally validate me by telling me you want to read my script, then I will send you my script for you to read. We will make more money than Stephen Schwartz, who, quite frankly, is a bit overrated, and a one-hit wonder. How anyone can make a hit show about a candle is beyond me. Did he wakeup one day and make a rhyme list? Sicked, dicked, hicked, licked, licked, licked…I could on, but my dear colleague, I am pretty sure you get the point. You will probably want to print out this email and frame it in your office, because I humbly submit you will never get another email query quite like this one. While we are on the subject, we should trademark “quermailery.” Send me the money, and I will do the paperwork. It’ll be win-win, colleague!!!!!

  • Ken Offricht says:

    P.S. I’ve attached the title page to pique your interest.

  • Glenn Heath says:

    This translates so well into not only other areas of theater and acting, but in the general business world as well.

    Any examples you could share on successful pitches? Curious to see what got your attention. Of course it’s understood if you can’t because of NDA. Cheers.

  • Tom says:

    One you have mentioned before is ‘don’t send me a request like this on an AOL account if your serious’.

  • Vynnie Meli says:

    Hi Ken (et al),

    I am confused about #7. I know, this isn’t like cluttering an already overcrowded office with stacks of unsolicited manuscripts, but I’m surprised you say to just send the script in the initial cold email. I would think that would irritate someone, or seem presumptuous. Please tell me I’m wrong. (And look for my next 6 attachments in your inbox.)

    Thanks,
    Vynnie

  • Bob Canning says:

    Whew! I haven’t done any of these things, although the dramedy comment stuck out for me. I also write screenplays and most often in script competitions dramedy is often given in the genre checklist.

    But what intrigues me the most — Colleague — is your upcoming March 3 news announcing something that you worked on for two years. Hmmmm, what do they say about what’s good for the goose is good for the Broadway producer?

    BC

  • Eve Austin says:

    Ken
    Excellent and on point, your “What not to send me in an e mail ” was very helpful.
    Many were basic but some were newfound gems. Usable in all areas of our industry. Thanks. Eve Austin

  • Shira says:

    Really great stuff here, thanks!! When I eventually email you with a killer project, I’ll know the best way to do so 🙂

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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