(Warning: This post's title is misleading. It should actually read, "How NOT to write an email when you're self-submitting.")
If you're interested in getting work as a performer, chances are you're familiar with the sites Playbill.com, Backstage.com, and actorsaccess.com. In a stormy sea of online sketchiness (think Craigslist ads and the like), the aforementioned websites act as beacons of (sometimes-)legitimacy, providing opportunities for actors to submit their headshots and resumes to casting directors and everyday chums looking for free labor.
But, Felicia, asketh you, don't you have an agent? Isn't the agent's job to submit for you? Right you are. They are indeed submitting me for roles, which is an ongoing process. But for actors who are not represented (i.e. me when I first got to NYC) or who are looking to dabble in non-paid projects (i.e. me right now with respect to on-screen acting, something outside my comfort zone, that my agents might not yet be looking to foist on me) there's no harm in self-submitting.
Personally, I am at war with myself when it comes to submitting casting "cover letters" (i.e. emails). At first, I did my best to be all legitimate-like, what with my respectful salutation, my succinct and self-promoting description of prior experience, and my general sense of professionalism. I even bolded the most salient details, like a typographically conscious super nerd! Lately, however, out of acute boredom, I have tried to make my emails more interesting.
Why, here is one example. This is an email I sent out, just today. (Reminder: Do not do this.)
"Please, against many odds, consider me for your film.
I am hardworking but easygoing. I've dabbled in film, but most of my time has been eaten up by musical theater. I know that this is often a red flag for filmmakers, but I promise you I'm not your typical, bug-eyed, gape-at-the-camera kind of chick. Plus I can sing and stuff, which is fun. Resume and headshot attached. My hair is longer now! At the very least, I hope this email has amused you in some small way.
And here's another:
"Please consider me for the role of Ms. Edythe Herbert -- not least of all because I can spell the character's name correctly.
Okay, and here is my last tip for you: forget everything you just read and never speak of it again.