Anyone can write a story, but not everyone can sell one. Enter Heather Hale, an accomplished director, screenwriter and producer. If anyone knows how to get a story sold, it’s her. Luckily for late night writers and budding screenwriters Hale is giving you her golden compass to success in the form of her new book Story Selling. She made her authorial debut in 2017 with How to Work The Film and TV Markets: A Guide for Content Creators, which gives much needed industry advice to those looking to get into the world of film and TV. Her illustrious career includes two successful feature films The Courage to Love (2000) and Absolute Killers (2011) and when she isn’t producing industry successes she is uploading to her blog, offering a wealth of advice to people starting out in the industry.
A Story Worth Selling
Starting from the ground up, the book reiterates how important it is to have a good screenplay, in order to be able to sell it. Encouraging writers to build a backbone to their work and create something solid enough to be able to withstand the cut throat environment of Hollywood. One of the best ways that Hale does this is including activities to complete as you move through the book, such as encouraging writers to create a comp list, build a convincing log line and writing characters that have substance. One of the best pieces of advice is her catchphrase “Kill Your Darling Cliches”. Although originally used to encourage writers to create an original log line, the phrase is a good way to encompass how Hale encourages the reader to move away from what has been done before and create something that will stand out. Though this is not a “how to write a good screenplay” book, Hale goes in depth about what your screenplay needs to be proficient – and most importantly why. So that in that nerve wracking or life changing pitch you won’t be caught out – instead you’ll have something solid, worth selling. Much of the book is dedicated to marketing a screenplay, teaching you common practises of the industry and how to use everyday tools such as IMDb to your own savvy advantage.
From Industry Jargon to Pitch Perfect
The advice in this book is relevant for writers in any stage of their career, whether you’re starting off and going it alone, have secured an agent or are already affiliated with a production company. This doesn’t mean however that Hale scrimps on teaching the reader all the relevant industry jargon. Important terms are organised and made prominent in highlighted boxes, along with a handy definition and how they’re relevant to every chapter in the book. If you didn’t already know what a spec, high concept, macguffin or tagline is, then you will when you’ve finished reading. Alongside these are handy do’s and don’ts, as someone who is well versed in the film industry, Hale offloads buckets of advice on what to do in every situation you might find yourself in when selling your screenplay. She even includes guidance for emails, so you can put your best foot forward when communicating with companies and high profile people. It’s also worth noting that Story Selling doesn’t pen itself into screenplays for narrative feature films, or even shorts for that matter. The book goes in depth with writing for TV, detailing formats for game shows, reality TV and even children’s programming so the advice can suit any kind of writer. If all this wasn’t enough, the book directs you to Hale’s online resources in certain chapters to provide more information and guidance where you might need it.
Story Selling is the ultimate how to guide to not only creating great screenplays, but making a pretty penny from them too. Heather Hale’s writing style is conversational and witty, which makes the sheer amount of information on offer easy to swallow. Bitesize paragraphs break up chapters and the use of online screenshots and highlighted text boxes make it easy to locate figures and definitions. It’s also a book that asks as much from you as you do from it, encouraging budding screenwriters to create practical documents such as great pitches to practising how to communicate with industry professionals. This is one of the reasons why Hale’s book begins as screenwriting for dummies, but quickly graduates to getting down to business. Lending you all the industry know how so you can arrive at the conclusion of this book fully prepared to take on the scary (but exciting!) world of Story Selling. You can get the book here from Amazon!