I make a lot of submissions. More than a few hundred a year, as anybody who knows me can attest. And submitting that much–no surprise–yields results in the form of readings, workshops, and productions, as I’ll recap at the end of next month. But before I do that, i.e. before I subject myself to comments about how I must have no life and that most people don’t have that kind of time, I’m going to preemptively tell you that making steady submissions doesn’t have to be a time suck . In fact, on average, submitting takes me fewer than fifteen minutes day. (And it’s only that high because of those full-length opps that ask for artistic statements.) That’s it. In the time it takes to play a couple rounds of your favorite Facebook game, or sit in the drive-through line at Starbucks, several submissions can be made. Do that every day, even several times a week, and they add up quickly. More importantly, if you’re a playwright, it’s part of the job you can’t ignore.
Here’s how to be ready for every submission:
**For every play you’re submitting—whether it’s production ready or for development opps—make a PDF of 1) a regular copy titled nameofplay 2) a copy with no identifying information called nameofplayblind 3) the cover page only with contact information 4) the cover page only with no contact information 5) a one-paragraph synopsis 6) a synopsis with cast breakdown 7) a two-to-three paragraph synopsis.
I usually start thinking about the synopsis for a play as I’m finishing it, at least the short one (the long one is asked for less frequently), so that as soon as a development opp comes around, I can hit the ground running. Most opps call for some combination of these things, particularly short play opps.
**Have a cover letter on file for each play as well. You can cut and paste the standard information about the play, and personalize where necessary; on email, it’s as easy as forwarding the letter, changing the TO: and Subject fields, and personalizing. For short opps, I use a very short and sweet letter akin to “here are my plays.” I haven’t found that to be a hindrance, and it keeps things simple for both me and the person on the receiving end.
**What about those opps that want a synopsis ON the cover page, or a bio included on the cast page? These are plentiful enough to be annoying, but easy enough to handle. Just go to your original Final Draft document (the “regular” mentioned above), paste your bio or synopsis or whatever onto the cover page, then save the document as a PDF called nameofplaynameofopp. Close out the Final Draft file and hit “don’t save,” so that the mutated copy isn’t retained in Final Draft, but is ready to attach once you’ve cut and pasted your cover letter. (After that, I usually delete it so that I don’t have a million PDF versions with different specifications cluttering up my files; if you really want it, it’s still attached to your email in the cloud.)
**For full-length snail mail opps, I order copies from my local printer; yes, it costs more but it saves so much time and paper flying all around my office. I choose these opps judiciously, so I don’t find it cost prohibitive. I order the copies online, then prepare the letter (which I’ve tweaked and printed from my existing file) and whatever application form or other paperwork required, and address the envelopes. That way, when I pick up the scripts, all I have to do is attach the paperwork, and pop the whole package in the envelope. For short play snail mail, I will print at home, but never more than one copy,
**I don’t wait until the end of the month to make submissions, because then it gets grind-like and overwhelming. Plus, you’re more apt to make mistakes if you’re submitting to one opp after another. If I have some to make, I do them first thing in the morning, a “pay yourself first” mentality that I learned in a high school finance class. Some days it might be 20 minutes, other days none at all, but I find thinking about a big stack more intimidating than doing a couple every day or so.
I didn’t write this post to sound condescending, and I hope it doesn’t. I’ve just had so many people say to me, “I don’t know how you submit as much as you do. I couldn’t possibly.” I think anybody can, but it helps so much to be organized so that for each opp, you’re not scrambling to collect the things you need and feeling like you’re starting over each time. Interestingly, while I was writing this, a short play opp arrived in my inbox, and I went to read the guidelines and submit. It took two and a half minutes to write a brand new (short!) cover letter, and attach my blind file. They don’t all go that fast but, as with anything, the more you do it, the more it becomes routine, and the quicker it goes. It’s just a hump to get over, but we all know how to do that.
If you’ve got any tips to ease the submission process, please share.
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