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 scripts 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.
When to get Coverage?
Don’t send your first draft in for analysis. Send in the most polished version you can possibly write. The one you’d send to industry professionals. And yes, get as much free coverage as you can before paying anyone. That’s a given. Use friends and family if you can, but be aware they probably won’t be reading your script with an eye for structure or formatting, and may not be as forward in telling you exactly what they think, which won’t help you in the long run. Fellow writers can be useful for picking out layout issues, but asking them to take hours out of their day to help you for free comes with drawbacks too.
Also look to enter your finished script into any writing contests that offer up feedback as part of the submission process, or part of the prize, as we do at Shore.
How to compare Coverage services?
This all depends on what you need. If cost is a factor, bare in mind, you often get what you pay for. Using a company, rather than a single professional, is one way to cut down on the price as there will be a larger roster of readers available, and if time is a factor, you’re more likely to find that a company can do a report quicker than a single individual. A fast turnover time doesn’t necessarily mean a better service of course. There’s potential to get a rushed job if your report comes back to you quicker than 24 hrs.
Read customer reviews. Don’t just look at the trusted reviews listed on a company’s site. They’ll all be glowing, so do an internet search or ask peers for recommendations in order to gauge a service. If a coverage service is bad, writers won’t hold back in telling you.
Read the reader bios. Are they working in the industry? How long have they been working as a reader with that company? Remember that you don’t need to be a writer or have a produced movie to be qualified as a great story analyst, just like how every great sportsperson doesn’t automatically make a great coach, so look at credentials with due consideration.
Shop around. Get multiple pieces of coverage on the same piece of work to find which company best fulfilled your needs and expectations. Which readers were most in tune with your vision and which offered up big generalizations rather than pinpoint issues, etc?
Who to choose?
Before we delve into which coverage services we personally recommend we’d better tell you a little about ourselves and what we at Shore Scripts have to offer!
Our ultimate goal is, and always has been, to help emerging writers break into the industry, and that’s exactly what our dedicated team of readers and consultants do. We have many years of experience behind us, and we like to think that we deliver detailed and comprehensive feedback at extremely reasonable rates ranging from $70 – $300 in price and a 3-10 day turnover is standard.
We all take part in judging scripts for our annual Feature, TV Pilot, and Short Film Fund contests and our growing alumni of success stories shows that we’ve got a great eye for talent. If one of our readers recommends a script via coverage, it gets assessed by our internal team and with the readers permission, we’re able to send the script out to relevant members on our roster of industry professionals and directors, meaning that there’s also a great opportunity to gain exposure, as well as get helpful feedback, and at no extra cost to the writer!
Want more? We have examples of our coverage reports online. Click on the links to view our Short Script Coverage, our Standard 5 Page Report, or our 10-page Development Report. Writers can request a specific reader if they wish to continue a working relationship. You can check out our reader bios here.
While we have a large number of return customers, as mentioned, using one or more coverage services is a great way to evaluate both your script and the company providing you with the feedback. Again, it’s all about what service best suits your needs, so we’ve looked at the market, read the reviews, and even had our own screenplays assessed by other companies in order to give you a list of Coverage Services you can trust to deliver quality reports and hopefully help you become a better writer in the process.
The 5 top screenplay coverage services we recommend
Bulletproof Script Coverage – Part of Indie Film Hustle, this coverage service has the unique approach of reading your script while primarily keeping the specific goal of your movie in mind. There are three coverage categories; Micro-Budget, Indie Film Market, and Studio Film. Prices range from $99-£199 and there’s a 5 day turnover time. Your script is aligned with a reader with industry experience in that specific market and there’s the option to request the same reader for an additional fee.
SpecScout – This coverage service has the added benefit of not only giving you feedback from three separate readers who score your script. If you score 75+, you get to submit a writer profile for free, which is actively promoted to their industry pro subscribers. The service comes in at $297 and there’s a 30-day turnover period, but if your script is good enough, there’s also the chance of getting discovered.
Industrial Scripts – Solely focusing on script development, Industrial Scripts offers up to 12 different services to suit your needs ranging from Film Forensic Notes, Industry Reports, Skype Script Editing, and Standard analysis. Prices start from $125 and recommended scripts are marketed for free on their Talent Connector. With over 1000 verified customer reviews, this place comes highly recommended.
WeScreenplay – If you need feedback in a hurry, WeScreenplay could be for you. Offering a 72-hour turnaround time, their basic package also starts at a very reasonable $69.99. They also offer bundle packages, meaning you can get coverage on 7 screenplays, which can be used all at one or over the course of a year, saving you even more money.
Screencraft – With an impressive list of screenplay competitions run each year, Screencraft is as dedicated to helping writers hone their craft as they are to helping them get a foot in the door. They have 4 packages on offer, ranging from $40 – $1,095.