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Screenwriting vs Publishing Surprise
Hans Ness, Apr 13, 2024
Obviously screenplays and novels have important differences. But I found another surprising difference.

First I tried writing a screenplay, then later I wrote a novel. As I sought editorial feedback on both, I noticed the novel editors gave much higher quality feedback than the screenplay analysts. I don’t mean they liked my novel more than my screenplay (it was actually the same story, suitably adapted for each medium). What I mean is, regardless of whether the feedback was positive or negative, the quality of the editorial analysis was very different.

First, let me cover the facts: For my screenplay, I paid for critical feedback (which they call “coverage” in the industry) from The Blacklist and another service, and I entered several screenplay contests in which I paid for summary feedback — a total of 16 analysts. For my novel, I paid for developmental editors and copy editors — a total of 5 editors (more than usual due to special circumstances).

For the novel, 4 of my 5 editors gave me very insightful analysis and actionable feedback. They were scholarly and very professional, and their feedback mostly aligned with each other. They all felt to me like allies on my side to help me improve my novel.

For the screenplay, however, only 2 of the 16 analysts demonstrated a scholarly analysis. I did get some actionable feedback from maybe 7 of them, but it was mixed with a lot of questionable feedback as well, and much of their feedback contradicted each other. (For example, one analyst said my script was just humor and lacked drama, while another said the exact opposite. And they both worked for the same service!) They mostly came across to me as gatekeepers to keep me out, rather than allies to help me in.

Of course, this is just my personal experience. Perhaps others have had different experiences.

Why is there so much difference? Here are some possible clues and hypotheses:
Sorry to be so harsh on screenwriting coverage, but this was my personal experience. And although erratic, it was overall still helpful and interesting. Have you had a similar or different experience? Or are you an industry insider who can share some insight?


There’s another important difference between these industries. Debut authors do actually get published sometimes, plus you can self-publish. But screenplays from new screenwriters almost never get produced (maybe a low-budget indie film if you’re very lucky). The screenwriting contests are merely to get discovered for your talent to get job offers to write other people’s stories, not your own. So perhaps it’s moot whether anyone likes your specific screenplay; that’s not what they’re really seeking.


While it’s very difficult to succeed as either, you have a relatively higher chance of publishing a book than getting a screenplay produced. But be prepared to invest more money.