How to Write a Deal Memo in Under 5 Minutes

Getting the Deal Memo on Paper

power writing at work

I suppose it’s the same in every business. I know that it’s so in publishing. An important term — a term such as 1st pages — can mean something entirely different from one organization to another. Many folks make the mistake of thinking that when we use the same words that we mean the same things. Then in the middle of a project bad things happen, and great relationships sour. One way to get close to clear communication is to get down in writiting what is being agreed to.

Unfortunately, some jobs would be in serious jeopardy if we waited to start until a full-blown contract could be prepared. I can show you how to get the most important information together in one place in just a few minutes. In this case, it’s deal memo for intellectual property — a job definition that will make both the client and the contractor comfortable enough to begin working.

I’ve made a sample on the next page. Let’s look.

How to Write Deal Memo in Under 5 Minutes

In my experience, what often happens is that a client and consultant talk about a project and then say, Let’s put together something that shows how we might work together. In another scenario, two equal partners, trying to build something as Phil and I are, need to determine the details of how the relationship will work.

What happens most often in these situations is that folks try to gather too much detailed information. What’s needed is the basics so that both parties can move forward with confidence that important parts are covered. The assumption is that standard industry practice covers all else until the contract is written. As soon thereafter when the contract is ready, the information on the deal memo, easily fits into a contract as Exhibit A — add target schedule dates tied to payments, and your good to go.

A deal memo also stops conversation with other parties around that project.

Take a look at this sample deal memo and what it covers. It is typical for intellectual property, in all ways except that we were still negotiating how to split the online rights so, on this one, they are not addressed outright.

Deal Memo Sample

It’s still enough to send and sign to show that we agree on major points and preliminary work can begin. The team can talk about ideas, folks who might need to be contacted and hired, other supply and staffing issues, while we are working out the details of a project scope and proposal, and issues such as the way to address electronic rights.

It took me at least 15 times longer to write this post than it does to write the average deal memo. On Phil’s job the deal memo outlines that there will be one book worked on, that it will come from his archives, and who will own the rights.

Do you have questions or concerns at this point?

For another kind of job, you might write a 5-miute proposal. I’ll show how to do that in the next post.

Be irresistible.
–ME “Liz” Strauss


  1. Tyrek says

    May I have a convo with your expertise if available..Thank you! Im also trying to pitch a some creative ideas to major networks but I want to skip the middle man and hit them with a well-built proposal

  2. Ron says

    Once a deal memo is signed can it still be modified or added too- for example in an long form lets say management agreement. If a deal law once signed and cannot be change in a management agreement?

  3. says

    Hi Liz, would this also suffice for partnering with an entertainment attorney on securing financing for feature films? Also what happens to client confidentiality when partnering with an entertainment attorney? ie. how does one protect themselves? I would be very interested in your perspective. It is a sizeable deal with 4 features.

    • says

      Hi Nathan,
      The idea is sketch something out before you go to contract. This is agreement of the main point before you start. If you can’t this down in a few minutes the contract will only find you at loggerheads.

  4. says

    Funny, I already do something like this. Instinctually I realized that there should be some kind of communication after the meeting and before the formal proposal. It’s sort of like “taking the temperature” of the deal. If there is any pushback to the memo, you know that you have not convinced the client that you are the best choice (yet) and you have some more stage setting work to do. Saves a lot of time and I like the formal template you have created. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *