Olya writes: I'm currently writing my own show. I wonder if I must absolutely do a spec. Can I ever hope to get a query letter answered with a request to see my original idea WITHOUT a ready spec on hand? I'm not looking to become a staff writer on any show. I want to see my own show produced.
No, you must not absolutely do a spec. You need a spec to apply for any of the workshops and fellowships listed on the right, but original pilots are very much welcomed by agents, managers and execs. Always remember that good writing is good writing. People get too caught up in the strategy of it all some time. Work hard on your script and let your writing speak for itself. Then get an agent and let him or her do the strategizing.
However, your question brings up a few more points:
1. Query letters should be your last resort. Yes, they work for some people in some cases, and I've even had a couple readers write in to tell of it - but most people get read through personal relationships. That's why I work at agency and network like crazy - to get to know people on a personal level. (Plus I like people.) If you do choose to query, I'm not aware of any general statistics about whether specs fare better than pilots (or vice versa).
2. Have more than one sample. Maybe you don't need to have a ready spec on hand, but usually one script isn't enough. So write another pilot before you expect great things to happen.
3. Would being a staff writer be so bad? I have heard of people getting pilots made, or working on pilots with producers in the hopes of getting them made, without having been staff writers. But I feel like it doesn't happen a ton. And even if you do get that far (which would make you really lucky), you're not going to have all the creative control. They'll probably hire someone more experienced because I don't think a network would let a writer who has never worked on a show call all the shots. So is that why you're so against being staffed? Because you don't want to work with other people's ideas? Because that's TV in general. Collaborating. You will always have to deal with notes from execs, producers, actors, you name it.
So I guess my advice is, go ahead and write your pilot(s). Just know that not a lot of pilots get bought, and fewer get made, and fewer get picked up, and fewer stay on the air. You should absolutely pursue your dream of producing you own show (I happen to share the same dream), but remember that it's gonna be tough. You'd be lucky to get a staff writer gig, and maybe it would even lead to you getting your own show on the air. A perfect example is MAD MEN; Matthew Weiner wrote it years ago, and then after writing on THE SOPRANOS and gaining a lot of notoriety, he was able to get it made.