Why sending unsolicited reality show ideas is a bad idea (and not just because the idea sucks)

Frequently, I receive e.mail messages that say something like, “I have an idea for the best reality show ever!” Sometimes they include their usually terrible idea in the message. They either want to pitch me, because their 20 seconds of Googling after 45 seconds of concept creation has led them to reality blurred and they confuse writing about reality TV with producing reality TV, or because they want advice about how to sell their show, even though I’m pretty clear on the fact that they should not do that.

Why? I’ll defer to reality TV producer Troy DeVolld, who wrote a recent blog post about why this is a bad idea, and it involves more than just annoying people like us who receive these submissions. He writes, “why on Earth do they submit them blindly to anyone in reality tv without so much as a preceding query? Do they have any idea what kid of peril that puts someone in, should they submit, wholly unsolicited, a one-sentence concept that’s broadly similar to something the recipient might have in the hopper already?”

The post is worth a read (as is his forthcoming book about the reality TV industry) because DeVolld details the problems this kind of stupidity creates, and explains how to do it the right way.

The short version: Create a well-developed proposal, register it, and then get an agent. And stop sending e.mail messages to producers, networks, and journalists.

He concludes, “Don’t send unsolicited material unless you know for a fact that someone accepts such things. It’s too competitive out there to act like an amateur.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.