Someone wants to perform your self-published play, woohoo! But, uh, how do you know what to charge? How do you go about licensing productions? How do you craft a good performance agreement? That’s what we’re covering in today’s question from the Mailbag about self-publishing a stage play.
I would be interested to know more about your licensing and bulk orders biz. How do you handle licensing and stuff? Do you have standard contracts, prices, etc?
When I first started out, and had literally no clue what I was doing, I looked up plays similar to mine in length and content that were published with the big play publishers, discounted that price a little and charged that. The discount was because I wanted to make the play more attractive than something that was already established but I realized in time that I didn’t really need to do that. Enough people were like “Wow! That’s cheap!” when I told them the licensing rate that I started increasing as I went.
I really do it case by case, giving a discount to groups ordering scripts from me, granting a free production for every so many shows if they’re doing a long run, offering one more production than they asked for half price to up-sell them, stuff like that. I charge more when demand is high and I’m swamped with work or if the director is really annoying (Joke!… Or is it?). If someone balks at the price, I’ll likely barter down but no one has yet. Even when I am giving a discount or something free, I usually raise the costs elsewhere (such as on the scripts) so I’m always making about the same per show no matter how it looks.
I did have some standard licensing discounts, such as a discount for ordering scripts from me instead of a store like Amazon. This was a good deal for everyone because I would offer the scripts for SUPER cheap compared to retail (for TLOTO, for example, retail was $13 ish and my bulk order price was around $5 a script, adjusted as circumstances warranted) so the production got a big price break and, because I was getting a discount from my printer on these bulk orders, I actually made more on these discounted bulk orders than I did on single copies purchased from the retail stores. But the real reason I offered this discount was that it encouraged groups to contact me to get permission to do the show and cut way back on groups trying to do the show without paying for it.
Honestly, not being able to adjust the pricing on the fly like that is one of the things I miss the most about having a traditional publisher because it let me increase goodwill with the productions I worked with by giving them breaks and extras and increase the number of productions (and thus the income in some cases) just by playing with the numbers.
I have a standard performance agreement I use. It was originally based off something I found on the internet that I customized as I went to fit my needs. I believe the Dramatists Guild has a template like this for members to get you started.
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