I’ve mentioned that most of my productions come from my mailing list but what if you don’t have one yet? This question come from a comment on one of the other posts in this series, but I’m popping it out to give it better visibility.
Great info, Hillary. How do you get those email addresses? I’ve gotten about 300 productions through my publisher over the last five years, mostly from schools and community theatres, but when I visit their websites, I can only rarely figure out who directed the production or what their email address is.
All my published plays are with Playscripts who gives us the emails for every production so I cannot speak to the others. But if your publisher isn’t offering that info, in the age of Twitter, Facebook, et al, my recommendation would be to reach out to groups as soon as they book the production as many ways as you can and offer something. (Also, sometimes you’ll have better luck asking excited actors you see chatting about your show online to put you in touch with a director or making the offer to them to pass on rather than tracking down the director yourself.) See, if you contact them just to contact them, they probably won’t reply because there’s nothing in it for them. But if you contact them and offer them something nifty and free, you’re more likely to get a reply back and make a connection with the right person. Examples would depend on your play but some general ideas would be a free video chat with their class (for a TYA play), a pack of graphics for the play to make their social media marketing easier (I actually have these for some of my plays) or a special production or teaching guide to share with their group.
It won’t always work but it certainly can’t hurt. The advantage of framing it as you offering them something free is that they’ll usually at least reply to say “No, thank you” and the connection has been made either way.
As for past productions, I would try to email the groups and ask them to put you in touch with anyone who did your play back then because, say, “you wanted to offer him/her the first chance to premiere your latest!” or something else that sounds equally cool, timely and urgent. Again, it won’t always work but it will give you something to start with and build on. A list has to start somewhere.
And, of course, throw a sign-up for your mailing list on your website and point your blog readers to it. I’m using the free MailChimp plan which is fine for my needs now but gives me room to upgrade later if needed. You can see my sign-up form for an example here.
Also? Join the mailing lists of other playwrights, particularly ones who are where you want to be and take cues off what they are doing. I could talk to you all day about what I do in my mailing list but you’d probably learn a heck of a lot more by just joining my list and reading my emails for yourself.
You don’t have to be sneaky about it, just be upfront about wanting to contact them with your new stuff. If people liked your plays in the past, chances are they are already interested in your next thing so they’re not going to object to you contacting them about it. And if they are? Well, that’s why you make sure your mailing list has a simple opt out and all the major ones do.
For my self-published plays, over the years I had luckily tagged every email related to a production within my email program (Gmail) and found a simple script that stripped all the emails from that tag into a CSV file so I could easily import them into my list as needed which was a huge time saver.
Photo by Gideon Tsang