Well, "they" were wrong: Four out of five agents and/or managers I have signed with over the years were a direct result of these mailings—and they were good agents, too. Additionally, I've had countless meetings, phone calls, or email responses from representation submissions via mail. I realize that this is not the norm. So why has my experience been different? Well, I'm not prettier than the average actor, I don't have a long list of credits, and I'm not particularly well-connected. I believe that my cover letter did the trick. Just call me the cover-letter guru!
An actor colleague was working on an agent submission a few weeks ago, and I offered to help with his cover letter. I sent him the link to my previous blog and then proofed his letter. He told me he felt the letter was too formulaic and dry. He wasn't sure it had enough pizzazz. I told him his personality was sprinkled throughout the letter and that it was professional and succinct. He sent the letter with his headshot and got a call from the agent two days later. I experienced the same success with this cover letter formula last week when I received a call from the intended party two days after I mailed my submission.
I think we all have tricks we've developed over the years that can help our fellow actors along their journey. I'm not charging for my services (yet), because no matter how much good information is out there about the business, only the smart actors will process the information anyway. And of those smart actors, only a handful will follow through and use the information to tailor their own unique marketing plans.
What do you do to set yourself apart? Besides a good cover letter, submitting more than one picture (they must be contrasting) has been helpful. It's not the cheapest way to go, but what is these days? I've even used design programs to set up my own three- or four-picture 8-by-10 setup and produced 25 or so copies of that to send along with my favorite 8x10. And if you have a referral, by all means write "Referred by _________" in large [capital] letters with a Sharpie on the front of your envelope.
I don't mean to suggest that if you do a large mailing, you'll get a million phone calls. But if you hear the same blanket statements that I heard—that it will never work, that agents don't open their mail, blah blah—I encourage you to analyze why those blanket statement may be true for some people but not for you. In short, I believe professionalism, creativity, opportunity, and a little hope go a long way in dispelling myths.
Stacey Jackson is a working actor who blogs on BackStage.com's Unscripted.