Self-Publishing Plays — A Helpful Idea or Publishing Suicide?

Focus is supposed to be the key to success, in art, business, hockey, anything. If you lose focus, you are bound to make mistakes. Lately I have been reading too many blogs, tweets and self-appointed online experts. They all say, follow the John Locke method. Publish an ebook. I even spent a couple of days reformatting one of my plays to publish on SmashWords. Is this procrastination? I should be polishing my manuscript, “Marmalade, Cat Detective.”

Self-publishing is tempting, but not for the novel. I have a backlog of school plays which I know work because I have produced them. It’s fairly easy to see what works with multiple audiences of 250 or so kids when you can observe directly. The problem is, children’s’ plays are notoriously difficult to get published, especially for someone like me who has not produced my plays in a professional venue.

The rational solution would seem to be self-publishing. It seems low-risk. My plays are written and collecting dust. I’m more interested in writing new plays than remounting my old ones in bigger venues. I direct my plays for the love of working with kids. If I self-publish my plays, it will be to share them with other teachers and get their feedback. I doubt they will make money.

There is just one problem. I have a novel almost ready to send to agents. It’s a YA novel which might also suit imaginative adults. This is where the warnings begin. I’ve heard that once you publish anything with an ISBN number, publishers and agents look you up every time you submit a project. When I try to interest them in my novel manuscript, will they will look up my sales figures, see my plays aren’t selling and take a pass?

Does it have to be a catch-22? I’m pessimistic about publishing my plays through the usual channels because the demand for kids’ comedy scripts is small. I’m optimistic about my novel because I’ve read many children’s novels and I haven’t seen one quite like mine. I think it might attract readers of Sherlock Holmes novels, and of Shane Peacock‘s excellent boy Holmes mysteries. My story is also a spoof on gothic elements in mysteries, like James Howe but for older readers. Obviously, I’m not comparing the quality of my writing to these authors. I’m trying to give an idea of my story’s flavour.

Like any artistic hopeful, I believe in my ‘thing’ and hope other people will too. I just wish I knew what to do about it.

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2 responses to “Self-Publishing Plays — A Helpful Idea or Publishing Suicide?

  1. I am in the same boat that I have a short stack of plays I know work onstage, each has been produced. I have begun lending out copies to school for a small fee, and want to go large scale with a self publishing website, but I have no novel holding me back. Any suggestions of further steps in your journey?

    • Hi Joe. I wish I were an expert on this. I am a very dedicated teacher-librarian and I keep writing new stories so I have not been concentrating all my efforts on getting my plays for kids published. If you have produced your plays for a paying audience, you should be able to publish them through an agency such as http://www.samuelfrench.com/. Otherwise, I would also consider submitting them to contests that include publication. My one self-publishing experiment has produced a lot of free reads but no sales. It make sense. To sell something self-published, you either need to be famous or offer something for which there is a large market. I don’t think a short comic SF screenplay written by a school teacher falls into either category. Perhaps you will have better luck with your plays.

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