Welcome to Part 2 of my 3 Part Series on Agents for Voiceover: How to Get One. If you missed Part 1, click here.
Once you’ve determined that you’re ready to look for an agent, the obvious question becomes, how do I do that? There are a bunch of different ways and they all require acumen on your part, as well as good luck and good timing. The important thing to remember is that it is a process. Try to make peace with and enjoy the process, rather than despairing or despising it! Believe in yourself and stick to it; graceful persistence is key. Know that it will happen eventually.
Get a referral: Like anything else in life, having a personal contact refer you is usually the most effective way to get someone’s attention. The very best way to get an agent is through a referral. A referral from a well-respected casting director, director or producer (rather than another actor) is a wonderful thing because it carries a lot of weight. Having that person offer to refer you, rather than having to ask, would be best, of course, but that rarely happens. We can’t sit around hoping people are mind readers. Sometimes you have ask for what you want; you just have to make sure you approach the topic with sensitivity and class.
Let’s say you have a great relationship with someone in the business; you’ve worked with them (or have been studying with them) consistently and they respect your work. You might consider letting them know you’re looking for an agent. Ask them in a professional, no pressure way, if there is anyone they think might be a good fit. If they take the initiative and offer to contact the agent on your behalf, you’ve struck gold. However if they don’t offer, or if they don’t feel comfortable doing that, perhaps they would be willing to allow you to use their name when contacting the agent yourself. “So and so recommended I contact you…” If they say yes to this, be sure to put the referral’s name in the subject line of the email to grab the recipient’s attention!
Note: DO NOT USE SOMEONE’S NAME IF THEY DID NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO DO SO. That would be the height of bad form and totally uncool. Likewise, please be prudent with whom you ask and how you ask. Be sure the person is very familiar with and likes your work. Be polite and sympathetic to the fact that they might get asked to do this ALL THE TIME. Some folks have a policy of “absolutely no referrals, no matter what” because if they were to refer everyone that asked, they’d be doing it every day and exhaust their contacts. And by all means, if you ask and they decline, please don’t make it personal. You have a right to ask and they have a right to refuse. If they say no, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you or believe in you. Don’t hold it against them. Be graceful and move on.
Take a workshop: In Los Angeles (and possibly other cities), there are opportunities to take workshops in person, directly with agents or agent assistants. This is an excellent way to get in front of someone you normally wouldn’t have access to and show them what you can do. Be ready and definitely bring your A game. It takes a lot to truly blow an agent away, but it does happen; I got my first big agent this way! Mary Lynn Wissner runs an excellent “Meet the Agents” program (as well as lots of other cool casting director/producer/director workshops). If you’re outside of Los Angeles, you can also sign up for Voice Registry workouts; they host many great agents from all over the country as guest directors. Even if you don’t get signed, it’s a wonderful chance to get feedback from these professionals and begin an on-going relationship. Keep in touch and let them in on the progression of your career. Remember, “no” rarely means “never“, it means “not right now“.
“Cold” Submit: Ahhh, the cold submission…not the optimal choice, but probably the most common. Although the scales are tipped in favor of luck and timing with this approach, it does work sometimes and there are some ways to make it more effective. Firstly, you’ll need to find a list of exactly whom to submit to. DO YOUR RESEARCH and be careful to follow submission guidelines, otherwise you will be spinning your wheels and wasting time & energy. The VoiceOver Resource Guide lists agents in New York and LA. You can also do a Google search for regional agents/agents in your area, check out Voicebank.net, visit successful voice actors’ websites and see who they’re with, or contact your local SAG-AFTRA office.
When reaching out, KEEP it BRIEF, professional and courteous; don’t tell them your life story; agents are busy people and anything too long will almost certainly be disregarded. Be sure to send a link to your website (directly to the demo page – don’t make them click around!) and let them know you have a home studio (you do have a home studio, right??). Also be sure to mention what work you have booked - the best (and arguably the only!) way to get an agent’s attention. Keep a spreadsheet or some kind of record of who you submitted to and when. This will be crucial when following up.
About following up…I’d give them at least a week, probably two weeks before following up. Keep it light and polite, and try to add something new – “Since writing to you I’ve booked X“. Just a sidebar: it’s been my experience that if an agent is interested, they will contact you right away. If you don’t hear back from them initially, give it the two weeks, then follow up. If you still don’t hear, I’d wait another few months and again, add in what you’ve been doing since the last time you wrote. Keep it friendly, personalized and positive! You might end up pursuing them for a while, so make sure your emails are ones you wouldn’t mind receiving. It’s ok to be persistent, but not needy, demanding or annoying.
A few words about strategy: A lot of people wonder if they should submit to all agents at once or if they should hold out for their top choice (s) first. I say, go ahead and cover a lot of ground all at once. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen: you have multiple offers? That’s a good problem to have. Getting an agent can be tricky; to me it’s a waste of time to hold out for your number one pick. There are so many factors that go into whether or not someone wants to represent you. They might love your work but already have enough people in your category. Blanket submit and keep excellent records about who and when you sent out and what response you got, if any. If you’re lucky enough to get an offer, even from someone you see as a “lower level” agent, I’d probably go for it – assuming you’ve checked them out and they are REPUTABLE. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes. If necessary, you can always “trade up” as you become more experienced and outgrow that agency. That’s not mean, it’s business. Folks rarely stay with their first agent. Here’s a quick preview of next week’s post: The best agent for you is the one that’s working for you. What works for you may change over time, during the course of your career.
A final piece of advice: Stay committed to your goal of getting an agent, but know that you don’t really need them to survive and make it as a VO. They actually need you! Keep the focus on your work and develop as an artist. Getting an agent (or multiple agents) will be a natural outgrowth of that, if you stick to your path.
This is a big topic. If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them. Join me next week for Part 3 on Voiceover Agents: What to do once you have one!
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