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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Question: Getting published

I got this in my inbox, from a friend and writer. I'll leave her name off the e-mail, and leave the question for the other readers.

"I don't know if you ever take suggestions about what to write about on your blog, but if you do, I'd love to hear from you and other readers about the process (and value?) of getting your plays published. I know that the conventional wisdom is that you shouldn't even bother submitting until your play has had a "major" production, but I'm not even sure what that means anymore. Are people actually getting published based on cold submissions, or do you need an agent? What experiences have people had with different drama publishing companies? Does being published actually lead to more productions of your work?

Those are some of my questions. I haven't made much of an effort trying to get my stuff published, and I feel like I could use some mentorship in the area from other "emerging writers" or whatever we're called who are actually doing it."

Well...I can't really offer any words of wisdom. I've been published a few times, and both of the plays that were published as stand-alone editions received excellent Showcase Code productions that had very good reviews in the NY Times. I'm sure that helped. I don't see that there's any trick to it other than working hard and sending scripts out and being persistent. I DO think the reviews matter, so if you're getting produced, even in a small venue, I think it's worthwhile to invest in a press agent that shows they can bring in reviewers, or lobby your producer to do so.

I don't have an agent (still! no! agent!) so I'm not entirely sure what an agent would add to the mix. I'm sure they'd be a help, but again, no experience with that.

I don't think, though, that everything I see published over at Playscripts.com, for example, has to pass a "major production" litmus test. I'm sure (and I only have my own intuition for this) that any company that makes its living licensing productions and selling books has to think about how any particular play would be marketable. Why, for example, would Playscripts pass up an excellent play for high school students or colleges simply because it's never been produced in New York? That wouldn't be very smart, if they make a lot of their income from high schools and colleges.

Not to imply that all decisions are profit-driven: I'm sure there are editors who find a text, love it, and champion it at a publishing house.

I would also say that getting a play published is certainly valuable, it doesn't automatically mean the play will sell. It just means you're in a better position to be read by those beyond the narrow confines of your community.

Any other thoughts from other playwrights out there? Or those in the industry? Or just...you know...anyone?


Adam said...

I have had 6 productions of my 3 published plays this year. None of them would have been done (probably) had they not been published.

I'm happy that they are out there being read by people I didn't send them to. I am happy they are being done at colleges and small theaters.

Two of the three had good reviews in the times and other places. The other was just a fluke.

The only bad thing about them being in print is that over time you will see the flaws and you can't fix them once they are published. But people are doing them now or at the very least reading them. theater is nothing if it's not happening right now this very second.

TD said...

Adam, that's great about all your productions this year!

Just curious--did the theater companies that did them find your plays through the publisher and then contact you, or did you submit scripts to them and it was just extra cachet that they came in published form? Or some of each?