Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You don’t know me but you should totally book me!

--> The general quality of cold-email booking requests doesn't seem to have improved a hell of a lot over the past decade … although the volume of them sure has increased exponentially. I should know: years ago I wrote some of the most truly unforgivable ones myself and since then, in various production capacities, I’ve been receiving them almost daily.

Contemporary primary education barely teaches Look Where You’re Walking, You Idiot; so it’s little wonder that How To Correspond In A Professional Capacity With Strangers has gone almost completely by the wayside. In an effort, then, towards remedy:

How To Write A Cold Email Requesting A Performance Booking That Won’t Make The Recipient Want To Stab You In The Neck

Some Dos & Don’ts and a couple of Do Nots for variety:

• DO include a salutation, preferably one addressed to the specific person who will open the email.

If a complete stranger walked up to you with absolutely no preamble or introduction whatsoever and said “I’m a nurse and I want to work in your hospital,” your reaction might be a blank stare, or maybe some sort of spit-take depending on your proximity to beverages.* And yet about half of the booking emails I have ever received began just like that: “I’m a performer and I want to perform in your show.”

Not “Hi there.” Not “Hello” or “Howdy” or even “Hey.” Just “I want to be booked in your show.”

Take a moment to consider your cold email as that actual, in-person conversation-with-a-stranger. If your very first words make you sound like a self-centered nine-year-old, you’re not starting off on a spectacular note. This is a business email: so sixteen opening paragraphs of Glitterfabulousunicornssparkleglamourkisskisskiss! is a waste of everyone’s time; but taking the zero-point-no-seconds necessary to type “Hello” first goes a long way towards indicating that you’re an actual human being with an interest in other people and an ability to interact in society.

Now consider how spectacularly professional, prepared and totally together you’ll seem if you take only-slightly-more-time, attempt to find out the name of the person booking the show, and address the email to her. This not only implies that you know how to use Google, but demonstrates that you’ve actually researched the show and you understand what it is you’re asking to be hired for, rather than blanket-emailing every show within a 20-mile radius.

• Even though this is a copy-and-paste email that you’re blanket-emailing to every show within a 20-mile radius – and we all know it is, so don’t let’s pretend otherwise – DO obsessively check a dozen times that you’ve changed all necessary names and titles.

Even if the email opens with the immaculately-researched “Dear Ms. Canasta,  I’m writing to ask about a possible booking for Sweet & Nasty,” ** if three paragraphs later it says “Thanks so much, Emil, for considering me for the Whoops-A-Doggie Revue***,” it’s going right in the trash folder.

• DO mention personal connections; DO NOT imply recommendations without permission.

If Sarah Stripper explicitly says to you “Oh, sure, tell Petunia Producer that I recommended you for her show,” then by all means write to Petunia Producer, “I worked with Sarah Stripper recently and she suggested I drop you a line to ask about performing in the Petunia Producer Follies.”*** In contrast, “I worked with Sarah Stripper recently, she’s awesome. I’d like to be booked for your show” is disingenuous at best, transparent at worst.

• DO be friendly. DON’T be juvenile.

The Dickensian days of “Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing to enquire as to the opportunities for ecdysiastical employment within the framework of your productionary endeavours” are dead and gone. But if you’re old enough to strip you’re old enough to know that OMGPON1EZ!!! is not an acceptable closing to a business letter.

• DO be specific in your request - and DO remember that it’s a request, NOT a demand.

Are you looking for a booking in a particular production, or do you just want to work with that producer any time she might have a spot open? Are you only going to be in her town on certain days? Do you have a ‘special skill’ (fire, aerial) that her venue is perfect for? Then say that. “I’m a new performer and I’d like to introduce myself to you” is fine in person but what the hell is a producer supposed to do with that email beyond “Um, okay … nice to meet you”?

Let’s talk for a minute here about language and tone of voice. It is important in life to know what you want … but perhaps “want” is not always the word to use when trying to achieve it. Simpering and saccharine airheadedness are completely unnecessary and equally offputting, but consider: 
“I’d like to work with you” VS “I want to be in your show” 
“I’m writing about potential bookings” VS “I’m writing because I want to be booked” 
“I have an act that might fit in well with your theme” VS “My act will be great in your show”

Read it out loud before you hit send. Does this sound like a polite, friendly, professional and reasonable conversation, or a crystal-smashing, tantrum-throwing, me-me-me screaming diva fit? I’ve gotten a few doozies that sounded positively psychotic … which definitely affected how quickly I didn’t rush to never reply.

• DO your research. Know the show you’re asking to be booked for.

Currently, I cast one production. It is a reading series. Granted, the degree of nudity that is an integral part of this ongoing production**** means that many of the performers have some striptease experience as well; but the show itself is, simply, a reading series. We read, naked, out loud. That is all.

About half of the booking emails I receive – even the ones that get the name of the show right – do not say a single word about “reading.” They say “strip” or they say “dance;” they include extensive and detailed descriptions of burlesque routines and striptease numbers – many with video links – but nowhere do they say “and I’d also love to read naked out loud in your show.”

I assume when I receive these emails that the senders either lack the ability to use Google, or do not in fact know how to read.

• DO send links; DO NOT send attachments.

Seriously. It’s 2014. How does everyone not know this by now?

• DO briefly describe your style, aesthetic, or special skills; DO NOT send a cutesy fake character bio, a fourteen-page-long history of every non-performance job you’ve ever had, or a string of meaningless hyperbole.

Yes: “I perform classic striptease to a wide variety of contemporary music, often incorporating into my acts my 15 years of en pointe training.”

No no no dear god no: “Found in a box under a pool table in Las Vegas, I was raised by rock n’ roll werewolves who taught me my love of the open road and the secrets of magical transformation that make my performances a mind-blowing spectacle of dark beauty that have transfixed the world - and beyond! After a thousand and one nights dancing my tales before the desert courts of the foreign sands, I strapped my surfboard to my rocketship and made my way here to Springfield, where my unique blend of Dita Von Teese and Bettie Page is taking the burlesque scene by storm.”

• DO NOT include a page-long description of every act you do. Don’t include a one sentence description of every act you do.  Don’t describe all the acts you do.

If you’re looking to get a specific act booked in a specific show a brief description is in order. (“I have a John Hancock-lap-dancing-the-Constitution act that I think would be a great fit in your Founding Fathers show.”)  Otherwise, a concise explanation of your unique style (see above) and a link to your videos page is enough. If a producer wants more information about specific acts, she’ll ask for it.

• DO be honest about your experience - or lack of it.

Any producer with ten minutes’ experience of her own knows instantly when a new or less-seasoned strippeur is stretching the limits of credulity with a padded-out performance resumé: presenting every single performance with a particular show as a separate item, for example, or listing workshops or class recitals as ‘bookings.’ The honesty of “I’ve performed here in Springfield in the Stripper University Graduate Showcase at Café Fabulous, with Bras Be Damned! at The Music Box, and several times with Petunia Producer’s Follies” is perfectly legitimate; “I have many performance credits throughout Springfield and beyond, including: Café Fabulous (November 2013); Petunia Producer’s Follies (November 2013), The Music Box (December 2013), Petunia Producer’s Follies (December 2013), Bras Be Damned! (December 2013) and Petunia Producer’s Follies (January 2014)” is frankly insulting.

Two more things:

“Interstate” is not the same as “international.”

And if you lie about your performance experience, you will be found out. I once got a booking email from a complete and total stranger who had my own show listed on her resumé.

• DO be reasonable, professional and polite.

Polite, reasonable professionals do not write in cold emails things like:
  • “I want to be booked for a weekly spot in your show.”
  • “Our fifteen-person troupe will be in town, can you book our group number and also have us all do solos?”
  • “So what’s the deal to be in your show?”
  • “Can you teach me an act I can do in your next show?”
  • “I guess we haven’t met but it’s still weird that you haven’t booked me yet.”
  • “I’ve never been to your show but I really like the vibe of your photos! I want to perform with you!”
  • “I’m going be taking a class soon so I’d like to arrange now to be in your show after that.”
And yet I’ve actually gotten all of these, and many many more.

Not to harsh your fabulous showgirl mellow, but you’re writing to a stranger, asking for a job. Just because that job involves boobs and feathers doesn’t mean you can’t be professional and fabulous at the same time.

(This, by the way, is quite fantastic and well worth a quick read.)

* If, for instance, it were me, said proximity would likely be close; said beverages would be whiskey, neat; and – because I think they’re really funny - the probability of spit-takes would be damn near 100%.

** Defunct. Dead. Buried. (Seriously. We had a funeral and everything.) Please do not ask to be booked for Sweet & Nasty, as I actually will book you but you will be the only one in the show and I will be the only one in the audience and that’s gonna get creepy but quick.

*** Hands off the name, bitches, I thought of it first.

**** i.e., High.

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