Are you a playwright who asks “How do I get published?”

book-67049_1920

It’s not an illogical question. It’s not a wrong question. It’s what writers do. Writers get published. That’s how you become a professional. That’s how you make money.

But that question is not going to help you make a living as a playwright.

Why? Because plays are not meant to be read. They are meant to be performed. That means productions matter over publication. And further unless you’ve been on Broadway, or unless you have an amazing track record in regional theatre, why would a company go looking for your play in a catalgoue? And lastly the doors to publishers are getting harder and harder to open. Samuel French stopped taking unsolicited submissions.  

Stop banging your head on a door that won’t open.

Put your focus on productions. That’s how you make your play the best it can be. That’s where you can get social proof for your play: reviews, testimonials, interviews.  That’s how you give your work credibility.

And if your question then becomes – “How do I get productions?” my primary piece of advice is write to a niche. If you want to make a living as a playwright it’s more effective to be a specialist in one small area than to try to write plays for everybody. That’s what a thousand other playwrights are doing. 

For example I write plays for schools and student performers. Period. That’s all I do. It makes looking for productions pretty straightforward. I know who my audience is, I know who I’m writing for, I know who’s going to buy my work and more importantly who’s not.

In my niche (and I think my niche alone) the publication model is different than traditional theatre. Publication is not the end of the line because many teachers are willing to take a chance on unknown work. They’ll produce plays they’ve never heard of. Many teacher compete with their programs and they want the edge that a lesser known work can bring. But you have to be careful of language and you have to treat touchy subjects theatrically instead of realistically. That’s what of the rules of my niche.

Another rule is that this adventuresome attitude is only for straight plays, and one acts at that. It is not the case at all for musicals – there it’s MTI all the way.

  1. What niche can your work fit into?

  2. Examine that niche. What are the rules?

  3. Can you write to those rules without compromising your own artistic rules?