Market-Ready: How To Assess When A Script Is Ready To Send Out
What does “market-ready” mean? A truism that floats around in screenwriting is to “never send a script out before it’s ready.” It’s safe to assume that most writers have no desire to send out a bad script to the market. The logical question that comes next is, how do you know when it’s market-ready?
This can be deceptively difficult to gauge. Trusting your own instincts in this regard has value, but to work solely off your own gut feeling about your material is risky. Once you’ve spent months or years working on a script, you know it inside and out, and it takes a big mental leap to approximate an audience member who doesn’t have the same foreknowledge.
Once you as the writer feel the script is good, it might be time to get some outside opinions on its quality. Off the top, the opinion of anyone working outside the industry should be taken with a grain of salt, because that person is not who is going to decide if your script moves forward.
Pro readers are helpful, especially if you can vet their backgrounds, because they likely approximate the average reader at a production company who will probably read your script first. They are an objective third party. And if anything, they’re hoping to find a market-ready script.
Accomplished industry peers are a great asset here, too. A produced screenwriter, an accomplished director, a prolific producer, these people are ones whose opinions hold serious value because they’ve done it, and understand the challenge any script faces in gaining traction in the market.
Okay, so let’s say you go through this. Your script got a nice review from a pro reader, and your peers in the business say it’s good, too. You’re all set, right? Maybe. The other danger of getting outside opinions is it can be comparable to RottenTomatoes review aggregator, meaning binary (good or bad reviews).
A binary scale can’t necessarily measure relative quality (if a movie is just good enough to get a positive review, but not great, it still will have a high score when aggregated off a binary good/bad scale).
In other words, if everyone agrees the script is GOOD, they will tell you it’s good, and you as the writer will be pleased to hear it’s good and want to release the script, believing it’s market-ready. But the hard reality of screenwriting is “good” is usually not enough.
It must be GREAT. How do we measure great? Enthusiasm. If someone says, “this is a well-written script, the plot is sound, its smartly structured, etc.” that’s a huge win and worth cherishing. But if someone says, “This is a compelling, surprising, brilliant piece of writing that demands attention, and needs to be made.” That’s enthusiasm.
Having this internal conversation, as a writer, is one of the most maddening aspects of screenwriting. Is the script GREAT, or just good? Once you start receiving enthusiastic responses, as opposed to just upbeat ones, you may have your answer and your script is market-ready.
What strategies do you use to vet your material before showing it professionally?