The decision to use a coverage service doesn’t come lightly for many writers. There’s the opinion that coverage is a rip-off. Readers are simply failed writers or inexperienced interns trying to climb the ladder. Plus it can also be very expensive. And while yes, there are very likely readers out there who fit that description, the majority of professional coverage services don’t operate like that. We certainly don’t.
So, what is coverage? Why should you use it? And who should you be seeking it from? This short guide is here to help you navigate through the myths surrounding coverage and help you get the best out of your buck.
What is Coverage?
There are several different types of services available that all have different levels of analysis ranging from a thorough proofread to line-by-line story development. Know which service you need before using it.
A Script Doctor is often hired by a studio to fix a script when the original writer isn’t available or has taken the script as far as they can.
A Script Consultant will give an in-depth analysis, line-by-line notes, and offer up suggestions, but won’t take any credit for the ones you choose to implement.
And a Story Analyst (reader) will provide you with coverage, write a synopsis, highlight strengths and weaknesses, and often use a scoring system to rate a script’s potential.
What to expect?
Wonder why coverage costs a lot? Reading a screenplay alone can take a few hours, add to that you’re getting written analysis, which is a specialized skill, so standard coverage on a feature script can take a reader anywhere between 4-8 hours. Readers who work for a company will receive a cut of the payment price, so stand-alone readers who run their own business can be seen to be cheaper, as they reap all of the profit.
A key thing to remember is that coverage isn’t consultancy. A professional reader will give you an unbiased critique; tell you what’s working, what isn’t, and more importantly why. They won’t rewrite your script or help you brainstorm new ideas, but they’ll help guide you to achieve these things by yourself.
Coverage gives you constructive criticism on your screenplay, not unwarranted praise or validation; so don’t get coverage if you can’t handle criticism. A report usually breaks down your screenplay into various categories, such as premise, character, dialogue, market potential, structure, pace, and more depending on the depth of the analysis. This is a great way to identify problem areas. You may have a brilliantly engaging protagonist, but aren’t upping the stakes enough or have a secondary character save the day, etc.
Why get Coverage?
It’s hard to step back and look at your own work objectively when you’ve been so close to it for a long time, but feedback is essential. Coverage offers up an objective look at your script by someone who not only knows story inside and out, they know the industry. If you send your script to a studio, agent, or producer, and if your screenplay actually gets read, you’ll never be privy to the notes that were written by the reader, meaning you’ll never get the chance to address the issues raised in their report. With coverage, you can, meaning it’s a great tool to help make your script industry-ready.