Monday, June 10, 2013

Does submitting to Contests Actually Help my Play?

So you've seen me talk on more than one occasion about my opinions on playwrights mailing their scripts out to contests or requests from open submissions. Let me revise that.  I never cared about people mailing out their scripts. Submitting to contests and fellowships and theaters and the like is a great way to get your name out there. Here's the problem that I have with the idea. That playwrights take it too literally. I have so many colleagues out there googling submissions and festivals online and just mailing their plays away hoping that someone will write back. That's not a good business plan for you if you want to make any money or get any recognition in the business.

Personally I think submitting plays is a great part of your business plan. But it should never be your only business plan. And here's the worst part about only mailing out scripts...people don't know who you are yet. You have no name or history with these people. All you know is their address and that they were looking for plays and all they know is that you're one play among the millions of other plays that they have.

So how do you combat this? How do you do this smarter than the other playwrights out there. One of the greatest things that I learned in grad school is what I call the Trick or Treat rule. Only submit to people that you know and have an established relationship with. If you don't have an established relationship with them find an environment like a convention or a networking event to get to know them. That way you're just not another face or name when they get a script from you. Here are some other pointers.

  • Have business cards and lots of them.  Make sure that your picture and accurate info is on them.
  • Go see productions at a theatre that you want to submit to. Meet and greet people at the reception and hand your business card out.
  • Go to the conventions. Hand out your business cards to anyone you talk to at the mixer. 
  • Volunteer at regional theaters or other organizations. It's always good to have a few references.
  • When you're at an event never eat lunch on your own. Be bold and offer your booth to someone else. 
  • If you give a business card take a business card. Write some small notes about them on the back. You should have a file of important info of every meaningful connection that you've made.
  • Before you pitch to anyone just focus on having a good conversation with them. If you've had a good talking to them they'll probably ask for your card before you offer it. 
You may have notice I said the world "business card a lot". They're a worthwhile investment. On top of that remember that your business is about making good connections. It's quality over quantity.


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