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How to Sell a Stage Play Script
How to Sell Your Stage Play Script: An Introductory Guide
Creative writing in stage theatre (playwriting) and film (screenwriting) share a common goal - to entertain the audience and move them emotionally. However, how the story is told on stage is entirely different from how the story depicted on the big screen. The business of playwriting and screenwriting also differs in how the work is ultimately sold and produced.
So, if you've already written a stage play script that you're proud of, kudos to you! You've completed one of the hardest steps along the journey to become a successful playwright. Now you're ready to find out how to sell your stage play script, and this is understandably the most unfamiliar and daunting process for most writers.
The bottom line: Publishing online is an easy way to get your work out there and in front of the right people - all you need is some motivation and tenacity. This guide presents an introductory overview on how to sell your stage play script through both conventional and online means.
How Do I Sell a Play to a Theatre?
Local theatres are always looking for new stage productions to add to their lineup. If you're interested in having your play produced at a small-town theatre, the best way to submit is through their open call process. Check the website or contact the box office to find out how to submit.
But before you do, follow these basic steps:
Gain a General Understanding About How the Theatre Industry Works
Get to Know the Industry - Before you start submitting your stage play script to theatres, it's important that you familiarize yourself with how the industry works. Sure this kind of research is not exciting work, but necessary if you want to have any chance of success. In fact, this kind of research is a felt pain point and a challenge for most new writers.
Start by doing some research on how many professional theatres there are in the country, how they're funded, what types of plays they typically produce, how often they stage new productions, and so on.
Next, most writers should already be in the know so being reading up on theatre publications (both national, international and local), how theatre productions are typically financed, and what the different roles in a production are. This will help you understand the market you're selling to and how best to pitch your work. The reality is that playwrights need to adapt to market changes since it is a business.
Get to Know a Specific Theatre Company
When you're ready to start submitting your stage play script, take some time to research each theatre company or producer you plan on submitting to. Find out what type of work they typically produce, their mission statement, and what their artistic sensibilities are. This will help you determine if your stage play script is a good fit for the company, and how best to tailor your submission.
Submit Your Script to a Theatre Company
Communication is vital when submitting your stage play script. Make sure to include a cover letter and synopsis of your work. In your cover letter, introduce yourself, explain why you're submitting your script to the company, and how you think it would be a good fit for their stage. It's also important to mention any previous writing experience or awards you may have.
Wait at least four to six weeks before following up on your submission - most theatre companies are very busy and it can take time for them to get back to you. If you haven't heard anything back after this time period, you can follow up with a polite email or phone call.
This is of course a general conventional way to sell a stage play script.
Try Selling Through Less Traditional Means
While submitting your stage play script to theatre companies is the most common way to get it produced, there are other avenues you can explore as well. For example, you can try entering your work into playwriting contests or festivals, or even self-produce your play to help jumpstart promotion for your work.
Submit Your Stage Play Script Online
Online play submissions are becoming more popular and there are a few avenues you can explore when selling your stage play script online. The benefit of online submissions is making sure your work is accessible to industry professionals, so they can easily contact you about acquiring the rights to produce your play.
You can submit a stage play script to an online theatrical publisher or other online marketplaces for scripts. This is the perfect step to take to when you want your work to get discovered when someone might do an online search for a particular style, title or genre pertaining to your work.
What About Getting an Agent to Help Sell a Script?
The film industry buys scripts to own copyrights, whereas the theatre industry allows individuals and organizations to purchase a license and use copyrighted scripts from playwrights. While agents aren't necessary to start or help boost your career, getting one may become useful once you have a solid body of work. At that point an agent can help promote your work.
However, you are ultimately your best advocate even if you hire an agent. Theater, just like virtually every industry, is a business that thrives on relationships. So if you're relatively early in your career and trying to sell theatre play scripts, you can do so much to promote your own work and be persistent at it.
How Much Can You Sell a Play Script For?
Payment for stage play scripts can vary depending on the type of production, how well-known the playwright is, how successful the script has been in the past, and a number of other factors.
Typically, a theatre company will pay a flat fee for the rights to produce a play, as well as give the playwright a percentage of the ticket sales. For example, a playwright may receive $5 per ticket sold, or 5% of the total box office receipts. The percentage you receive is negotiable, so it's important to be aware of what's common in the industry before entering into any agreements.
Indeed, learning how to sell a stage play script can be a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and effort, it is possible to get your work discovered and eventually produced. Whether you submit your script to theatre companies or sell it online, make sure you do your research and understand the market you're selling to. And most importantly, don't give up - the more you try and inevitably fail, the closer you'll get to that all-important success.